How 2022 Qatar World Cup affects the January transfer market

As the years have passed and technology has improved, the likelihood of unknown players appearing out of nowhere to play at a World Cup has drastically decreased. The routine use of analytics, “digital scouting” (where video takes precedence over the need to see the player in person) and meticulous data available around the world means that any national team player who is around the age of 15 Points out, no matter where they come from, are usually reported immediately.

As a result, major tournaments on the transfer market have become just a framework for clubs to carry out final checks to confirm that a player has the quality required to join them. It’s still useful to exercise dominance over a player at a World Cup – when the pressure of chasing the most prestigious trophy of all is unparalleled – and observing how a player behaves while representing their country in such a scenario offers scouts and club representatives further insights into their character. But for the most part, clubs are already fully aware of what they are dealing with.

However, this year’s World Cup offers a few more challenges than usual. Qatar 2022 begins on November 20 (a week after the European season was paused) and ends on December 18 (a week before the Premier League returns on December 26). With the month-long January transfer window opening on the 1st of the month, time is running out for clubs to capitalize on what they’ve learned from the players on the pitch. But with international football taking center stage next month and no domestic games standing in the way, clubs may also have more leeway to figure out what they want.

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Facing a World Cup in the middle of the European season will have already had an impact on the overall planning of the season – particularly in terms of how to gauge and accurately pinpoint players’ fitness levels. It’s almost like facing a second preseason – although the same could be said of the hiatus suffered at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most clubs will use the upcoming break as an opportunity to take stock and tweak or follow up on their priorities ahead of the January window.

The “exploratory talks” with agents about players not involved in the World Cup are expected to take place a few weeks earlier than normal. With the usual busy November and pre-Christmas fixture schedule out of the way, clubs will have to base their judgment on previously gathered evidence, paving the way for concrete negotiations to begin. As a result, you may see some more principally agreed deals ahead of January 1st.

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Financially, the current economic crisis and the global pandemic of recent years have already required top European clubs to become more flexible and show a higher level of diligence when it comes to signings. But any potential acquisition on the back of an impressive performance at the World Cup will likely come with a huge bounty, as a player’s transfer fee increases with every goal, assist, tackle or save (unless his contract expires in 2023). ).

January is not traditionally a time of big spending, but clubs can certainly be pushed to take out insurance for injuries, fatigue or simply to capitalize on an opportunity that might otherwise not have arisen.

For players, the timing of the tournament offers a novel element not typically associated with the normal annual scouting cycle, giving these headliners a unique opportunity to take center stage, to be noticed by club owners, presidents and bankrollers, who will all have their eyes on the action in Qatar.

It’s happened before, but history warns us that things don’t always go well when you make a transfer based on World Cup performance. Here are some examples of past breakout stars, as well as some of the names clubs are likely to be watching closely at this tournament.


World Cup miracles of the past

James Rodriguez, AM, AS Monaco to Real Madrid, €75m, 2014

Although the Colombian midfielder is a rising star thanks to promising seasons at FC Porto and AS Monaco, he made his name with some impressive appearances at the 2014 World Cup. Not only did Rodriguez win the Golden Boot with six goals – a rare feat for an attacking midfielder, let alone a side that didn’t make it to the semi-finals – but his spectacular volley on the spin against Uruguay also earned him the Puskas Prize for goal of the year. Real Madrid are no stranger to signing the hottest young players in the world. Real Madrid quickly pounced and practically sealed a €75m move before the tournament was over. While Rodriguez can hardly be described as an absolute flop at the Bernabeu – he scored 13 league goals in his debut season and won two La Liga titles and two Champions League titles – his six-year stint was a shadow of what could have been. After a loan spell at Bayern Munich, an inconspicuous spell at Everton and a brief stint at Qatari club Al-Rayyan, the 31-year-old is now starting in Greece at Olympiakos.

El Hadji Diouf, FW, Lens to Liverpool, €15m, 2002

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier wasted no time in recruiting the Senegalese striker after the Africans surprisingly defeated France 1-0 in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup. With his signature dyed hair, Diouf never let the French defense rest with his powerful run and skill, and at just 21 he seemed to have all the makings of becoming the next big thing. Despite not scoring during the tournament, he did assist three and seemed more than comfortable in the eyes of the world as Senegal lost to Turkey in the quarter-finals. However, Liverpool and Diouf never proved to be the perfect pair and the controversial striker left Anfield after three seasons for Bolton (first on loan, then for a third of the €15m Liverpool paid Lens). Scoring 28 goals in 243 games for clubs including Sunderland, Leeds and Blackburn, he enjoyed a respectable Premier League career before retiring to Malaysia’s Sabah FC in 2015.

Gilberto Silva, DM, Atlético-MG to Arsenal, 9 million euros, 2002

Virtually unknown outside of South America at the time, the fierce midfield No6 was instrumental in Brazil’s successful 2002 season – not missing a minute of the action – and was signed by Arsenal before the celebrations were over. Known as the invisible wall for his tackles and endurance, Silva quickly became as indispensable to his new club as he had proved to his country, bringing poise and courage to one of the best sides of the Premier League era. After six seasons under Arsene Wenger – with more than 250 appearances, a Premier League title and two FA Cups – Silva joined Panathinaikos in the summer of 2008.

Enner Valencia, FW, Pachuca to West Ham, €15m, 2014

Relatively unknown at the time, Valencia scored three goals in his first two games for Ecuador at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, catching the world’s attention. As if his goals weren’t enough, Valencia also impressed with his amazing pace, direct run, fancy corners and zesty unpredictability. Despite only signing for Liga MX club Pachuca from Ecuadorian club Emelec a year earlier, West Ham quickly paid €15m to bring Valencia to Upton Park this summer. Although his Premier League stint never delivered what his performances at the World Cup promised, he did score 10 goals in 68 games for West Ham and three of 23 on a season’s loan at Everton. He joined Tigres from Liga MX in 2017 and scored 34 goals in 118 games in three years before moving to Turkey, where he is currently the league’s top scorer at Fenerbahce this season with 12 goals in 11 games. Valencia is a safe starter for his country in this edition as well.


World Cup miracle of the future 2022?

Cody Gakpo, 23, FW, PSV/Netherlands

With a dozen elite European clubs including Manchester United, the next few weeks could prove crucial for the PSV winger’s future. Gakpo has already proved himself in the Dutch Eredivisie – he has 36 goals and 39 assists from 105 games – and he seems ready for a step up. The Dutch forward is wonderfully gifted on the ball and has an end product and defensive contribution to match. He has the fundamentals to make a difference at the highest level. Although his chances of scoring may have dried up in recent weeks, the assists and key passes have kept coming. If he shines in Qatar, a transfer fee of €60m could seem cheap.

Ikoma “Lois” Openda, 22, FW, Lens/Belgium

With just four senior caps, Openda could be something of a wild card for Belgium. While there’s stiff competition for a spot on the line of scrimmage, the Lens forward brings an advantage. His hat-trick from the substitutes’ bench against Toulouse in Ligue 1 two weeks ago was not only a sign of his fine form but also suggests he can be used as a ‘super sub’ and he scored within seven minutes against his Senior national team debut against Poland in June. Openda loves to play on the shoulder of defenders, always threatening the offside line and he’s excellent at finding space in the box. The 22-year-old failed to make an impact after joining Club Brugge but his development at Vitesse and Lens last year has been remarkable and he has scored seven goals from 14 games this season.

Moises Caicedo, 21, DM, Brighton/Ecuador

It’s usually the attacking players who draw the most attention at major tournaments, but can the Ecuadorian midfielder prove himself to be this year’s Gilberto Silva? As almost inexhaustible as the demand for differentiators in the last third is, the appetite for an efficient, powerful presence in central midfield should not be underestimated. Caicedo, who was under the radar from Brighton for £4.5million in January 2021, was loaned out to Beerschot but returned in January 2022 and has been cleverly incorporated into the Premier League rhythm. His progress from week to week has not gone unnoticed by the powerhouses of European football. As well as being tactically disciplined, the hard-working Ecuadorian attacks without fuss, closes, intercepts and moves the ball on (although he can also spot a deep run). Good play from a young Ecuadorian side could attract interest from outside the Premier League too, but Brighton are already said to be charging £85m for his services.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/soccer-transfers/story/4796981/how-the-2022-world-cup-impacts-the-january-transfer-market How 2022 Qatar World Cup affects the January transfer market

Emma Bowman

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