The World Cup is a great chance for clubs to take a look at players they may not normally think to scout. They can also see how players may handle the intense pressures of the biggest tournament in the sport, carrying the weight of a nation on their shoulders.
Plenty of players have managed to make a name for themselves during a World Cup campaign, although some have gone on to have unbelievable careers, where others have struggled. Individual success at these tournaments can really make or break of a player.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a team of the worst players signed off the back of impressive World Cup campaigns, stretching back to the 1978 tournament and including those that have disappointed since successes in Russia in 2018.
It seems like a completely different world when players would leave Manchester City for the likes of Portsmouth, but David James did just that in 2006. He left City needing a new number one, so with a World Cup in Germany, they had the perfect marketplace.
Sweden’s Andreas Isaksson was the new man in Manchester, signing for £2 million, but Stuart Pearce didn’t get chance to utilise him until December due to injuries, making just 14 appearances in total during his opening season.
He ended up warming the bench the following season, despite being a regular in international football. His time in Manchester was summed up when his last appearance saw him pick the ball out of the net eight times in an 8-1 humiliation against Middlesbrough.
Andreas Isaksson in goal for City.jpg
Roque Junior joined Leeds United on loan in 2003 and was greeted with huge anticipation in Yorkshire, after he was part of the World Cup winning Brazil squad in 2002.
He was part of AC Milan’s Champions League winning side and is one of the four players on the exclusive list to have won the Copa Libertadores, World Cup and Champions League.
His time with Leeds was a disaster, conceding 25 times in his seven appearances, which included a red card on his Elland Road debut against Birmingham City. The Whites were relegated at the end of the campaign, with the former World Cup winner a major flop for Leeds.
Roque Junior for Leeds United.jpg
Salif Diao endured a miserable time on Merseyside, with the midfielder used in a number of positions including centre-back for The Reds.
After his £5 million move to Anfield, he was played out of position, which is obviously on the manager, however, his general level of football was just simply not good enough for the Premier League. When Rafael Benitez arrived in the dugout on Merseyside, he was quick to loan him out following a further string of mistakes.
He eventually found stability at Stoke City, making 106 appearances for the side, following a couple of loan spells which didn’t see him revive his career.
Manchester United’s recruitment in recent years has been incredibly questionable, but it’s been the case for a while, with the signing of Marcos Rojo following his 2014 World Cup campaign with Argentina.
Although not one of the worst performing players in this squad, his string of work permit and passport issues didn’t help him at Old Trafford. Louis van Gaal was angered so much, that he fined Rojo for not joining the pre-season tour, despite it being down to circumstances beyond his control.
He managed a seven year stay in Manchester, although he only managed 122 games across all competitions in that time, which is less than 20 games on average per season.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 16: United player Marcos Rojo reacts during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 second leg match between Manchester United and FK Rostov at Old Trafford on March 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LB: Alberto Tarantini (Birmingham City)
Younger readers can be forgiven for asking ‘WHO’? when seeing Alberto Tarantini popping up on this list, but the 1978 World Cup winner’s switch to Birmingham City was disappointing all round.
He was known for his chaotic behaviour back in Argentina, but that didn’t stop the Midlands club from picking him up.
After feisty encounters on the pitch, the writing was on the wall for Tarantini, with his time in England cut short after going into the crowd and punching one of his own fans. I think a certain Eric Cantona must have had posters of the Argentine on his wall as a child.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 16: Birmingham City player Alberto Tarantini in action during an FA Cup 5th Round tie at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur on February 16, 1980 in London, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
The Portuguese defensive midfielder was tipped to be the next big thing for many years, with top clubs such as Arsenal after his signature. It was his 2018 World Cup campaign which earned him a major move across Europe.
He signed for Real Betis, where he still is today, but he was tipped for so much more success than he has enjoyed, entering the final part of his career now at 30-years-old.
Again, not necessarily a failure, but his time in Spain has seen him fail to hit the heights that were predicted for him for such a long time.
Alaksandr Golovin is another player that is still at the club that signed him after a World Cup, but just like Carvalho, has failed to hit the heights he was predicted to. The 2018 World Cup was meant to be his major breakthrough.
After impressing for host nation Russia, the youngster made the switch across Europe to French side Monaco, he was expected to drive the team on to major honours once again.
He’s made an impressive amount of appearances for Monaco, but is another player who just hasn’t lived up to expectations, with the 2018 World Cup getting the world excited about the Russian midfielder.
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 27: Aleksandr Golovin of Monaco in action during the Pre-Season Friendly between Southampton and AS Monaco at St Mary’s Stadium on July 27, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
CM: Kleberson (Manchester United)
A World Cup winner in 2002, Kleberson impressed and was eventually picked up by Manchester United in 2003, however it was one of Alex Ferguson’s major errors at the club, with him having his fair share of dodgy signings, just look at Bebe!
Luiz Felipe Scolari deemed the midfielder as a ‘driving force’ for the side that won the World Cup, but that’s where his career peaked, with his dismal spell in the north of England being the start of his downfall.
He made 20 appearances over his two seasons at the club, with injuries hampering his progress. I wonder if Fergie regrets selling Juan Sebastian Veron to replace him with Kleberson now?!
Ferguson, Ronaldo, Kleberson
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil saw the Colombian really make a name for himself, James Rodriguez was now the hottest property in world football following his Golden Boot winning campaign, bagging six goals in the tournament.
Understandably, all the elite clubs wanted to poach him from Monaco, with Real Madrid the side lucky enough to land his signature, although eight years on, they probably wish they lost the race to sign him.
After a promising first season, as has been the case earlier in the team, injuries once again ruined a career. Since failing at the Bernabeu he has had stints with Bayern Munich and Everton, however, they have not helped him revive his career. The midfielder finds himself playing for Olympiakos after a spell in Qatar.
ST: El Hadji Diouf (Liverpool)
Any Liverpool fan old enough to remember the 2002 World Cup is probably still seething that The Reds opted to sign El Hadji Diouf over Nicolas Anelka who was impressive during his loan at Anfield.
Although already scouted by Liverpool, his performances in the 2002 World Cup meant the Anfield outfit were excited to make the Senegalese forward a permanent member of the squad, but his attitude was woeful. He didn’t do the iconic number nine shirt justice on Merseyside. His time with the club can be summed up by his disgusting spitting incident, where he spat at a Celtic fan during a European game.
His former teammates have slammed him numerous times in the past, with Jamie Carragher recalling his time with the forward that ‘disgusted’ him with his attitude: “He has one of the worst strike rates of any forward in Liverpool history. He’s the only number nine ever to go through a whole season without scoring, in fact, he’s probably the only number nine of any club to do that. He was always the last one to get picked in training.”
Football – FA Barclaycard Premiership – Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers – Anfield – 4/4/04
Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard has a word with team mate El Hadji Diouf after his cross leads to Blackburn’s Andrew Todd scoring an own goal
Mandatory Credit : Action Images / John Sibley
El Hadji Diouf
And finally securing a place on the team sheet is Asamoah Gyan, joining Sunderland in 2010 after lighting up the World Cup in South Africa, despite the heartbreaking exit he suffered with Ghana where he missed a penalty which cost them in the quarter-final clash.
It didn’t stop Steve Bruce splashing £13 million on the forward but he couldn’t find the form that made him one of the success stories of the World Cup. Eventually he was shipped out of the north east after a brief loan spell away.
He made his move to the UAE in January 2012 permanent following a successful loan spell. His season in the Premier League didn’t give fans what they wanted after his three goal campaign in South Africa.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 09: Asamoah Gyan of Sunderland celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on November 9, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Let me know if you disagree with my team? I’m sure there’s plenty of names that could have made the list, but there’s no doubting that this XI failed after making major impressions at the World Cup.
Full starting XI of the worst signings after impressive World Cup campaigns:
GK: Andreas Isaksson
RB: Roque Junior
CB: Salif Diao
CB: Marcos Rojo
LB: Alberto Tarantini
CDM: William Carvalho
CM: Aleksandr Golovin
RW: James Rodriguez
ST: El Hadji Diouf
LW: Asamoah Gyan
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