The upside of scouting at the World Cup

World Cups are amazing tournaments. Unlike continental competitions or even club battles, they demand the attention of the entire footballing world. Everyone on the planet is paying attention to the same players doing the same things and marvelling together at the incredible moments they produce. With the rise of reactive social media, the world has never felt smaller for global fans of the game. It’s also easier for players to become worldwide sensations in a matter of minutes with their performances.

Tim Cahill’s volley, Guillermo Ochoa’s heroics in goal and Joel Campbell’s roaring work as a lone frontman have been beamed around the planet almost instantously, and they have gained legions of new fans in the process.

In turn, fans have clamoured for their clubs to be linked with the stars of the World Cup. If the player can light up the biggest competition in the planet then surely they can do a job in the league. It seems like reasonably sound logic but the practicalities are all wrong. Assessing players entirely on their performances in the fast-paced tournament environment ignores anything they have may achieved or failed to achieve for their club sides.

Guillermo Ochoa conceded over 70 goals in Ligue 1 during 2013/14 with an AC Ajaccio side that were lucky to avoid relegation. It’s been reasoned that the Mexican goalkeeper was one of the big reasons that a team that started the season with Fabrizio Ravanelli as their manager managed to avoid the drop. However given that Ochoa is on the verge of his 29th birthday, would he not be a regular for a much bigger club if he was able to repeat his performances against Brazil and Netherlands on a more regular basis. He’s simply a goalkeeper in exceptional form, and probably not the answer for any title chasing club in desperate need of a long-term solution between the sticks.

Arsenal fans will vouch for the theory of ignoring players who enjoy sublime tournaments. Andrei Arshavin was signed following a string of bright performances at Euro 2008 for Russia but failed to consistently deliver when he pulled on the red shirt of the Gunners.

The upside to scouting at the World Cup may just be in watching a potential targets ability to adapt to their surroundings. Every team plays football is a different way. Every coach has different methods for training and different systems. At times, there can be little evidence to suggest a player will settle at a new club, unless every effort is made to build the team and the system to suit their strengths. Marouane Fellaini looked like a struggling amateur at times in the Manchester United line-up, even though he was working with the same coaching team that had guided his time at Everton.

The World Cup offers a glimpse into seeing how any new signing will cope in new surroundings, with new coaches to work with on a daily basis and how they’ll deal with being away from their home comforts. It’s a small upside admittedly but could be crucial in the success of a player moving to one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Adam Lallana has been a star for Southampton in the last two seasons but how much of his struggles to retain the supposed starting England spot he had earned himself in April was down to the England coaches and how much was Lallana was failing to adapt his high-pressing games with the Saints to suit the wishes of Roy Hodgson. Lallana flattered to deceive in the warm-up matches and was replaced in the starting line-up for the opening match against Italy by Raheem Sterling.

At 26, having spent his entire career living close to his hometown and with his mind so used to Southampton’s tactics, could he end up a big money flop at Liverpool should his mooted £25 million deal come off? Time, the one thing he’ll need to settle, may not be available to him in a Liverpool side will the top four and the Champions League to aim for. Is it enough to cancel the deal? Absolutely not; but something to bear in mind for Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers prepares for a season full of expectation after getting close to the league title in 2013/14.

Comments are closed.