Players whose stock is up (and down)
With the 2010 World Cup in the books, the soccer world now has a clear verdict on the participating teams. Spain is the champion, North Korea finished last and the rest have a place somewhere in between.
While the players aren't given an overall ranking based on their performances, we still have a good sense of who played well -- and who didn't. We know, for instance, that many stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Fernando Torres and even Lionel Messi, didn't rate quite as highly as expected. Others, like Diego Forlan and Mesut Ozil, had breakout performances.
How a player performed in South Africa can drastically effect his transfer value -- that is, the amount a team might be willing to play his current club for his services while the transfer market is open through August. A change in a player's transfer value can shed some light on who exceeded expectations, and who flopped, in South Africa.
In those terms, many players stood out. After a month, some relative unknowns have popped onto the radar screens of Europe's biggest clubs. And some who were once hot property have cooled considerably. Others did plenty to consolidate their value on the transfer market, even if they won't be worth much more, or less, than at the beginning of June.
Here are a few of the more notable winners and losers from South Africa.
Transfer Value Winners
Mesut Ozil, midfielder, Germany -- The 21-year old was identified as a rising star before the tournament, but he outperformed all but the most optimistic expectations in Germany's run to the semifinals. Ozil is now at the top of the must-have list for many of Europe's biggest clubs. Born to Turkish parents, he has said he's eager to stay in Germany, where he plays for Werder Bremen, but that probably won't stop some clubs from lining up bids.
Fábio Coentrão, defense/midfielder, Portugal -- Few players did as much in South Africa to establish themselves on the world stage. Coentrão has struggled at times as a winger with his club team, Benfica, but his play coming forward from the back for Portugal was a revelation. He's now rumored for a high-priced summer move, despite being under contract through 2015 in Lisbon.
Wesley Sneijder, midfield, Netherlands -- One of the few superstars who made out well at the World Cup, the Dutchman will see a significant increase in demand for his services in the coming weeks after he continued the form that helped him lead Inter Milan to the Champions League title.
Asamoah Gyan, forward, Ghana -- It was a good bet some African stars would rise this year, but few would have wagered on almost all of them coming from the same team. Among the crowd of promising Ghanaians, Gyan spearheaded the Black Stars' attack to the quarterfinals. He was one of 10 nominees for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball. The 24-year-old, who plays in the French league for Stade Rennes, proved to be a tough and mature front-runner who could be a nice fit in the Premier League.
Michael Bradley, midfielder, U.S. -- Though Landon Donovan scored most of the goals and soaked in much of the glory, the coach's son may have been the Americans' best player in South Africa. FIFA's stats noted that Bradley covered more distance than anyone else who played four games, and he outdistanced many of those who played five or more. Generally considered solid if not world class coming in, Bradley's workmanlike performances may have large clubs considering an attempt to pry him away from his German club team, Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Diego Forlan, forward, Uruguay -- Everyone knew what the Golden Ball winner was capable of coming in, as his talents have been on show in Europe for years. But to see his character and portfolio of goal-scoring tricks on display at the World Cup had us asking: Why is the Atletico Madrid striker not at a bigger club?
Value Holding Firm
Ángel di María, midfielder, Argentina -- The young Argentine winger's value was off the charts before the tournament began, and a deal with Real Madrid was finished just after Argentina exited the tournament. A better performance could have driven his transfer fee even higher and made Madrid's work in signing him much tougher. Despite Diego Maradona's confidence in him, Di María never found his place in Argentina's unorthodox formation. That Real Madrid was still willing to ante up for him hints at Jose Mourinho's view of Maradona's tactics.
Landon Donovan, midfielder, U.S. -- Donovan had already impressed the soccer world with his successful stint at Everton last season. He certainly didn't do anything in South Africa to hurt his value. Even after leading the Americans to the second round, and with a four-year deal with MLS just starting, Donovan is probably not worth much more than he was going in, though.
Giovani Dos Santos, midfielder/forward, Mexico -- He's in the same boat as Donovan. Dos Santos impressed in South Africa -- enough to make the short list for best young player. But the talented Mexican is still a bit of an enigma for clubs that may not be sure how to best use him. Few seem to be lining up right now, though Dos Santos has certainly earned another chance at his current club, Tottenham Hotspur.
Robinho, forward, Brazil -- The value of the Brazilian playmaker is one of the more highly debated topics of this summer's transfer market. Robinho did well enough to suggest he deserves a place at one of Europe's larger clubs, but that hasn't enticed anyone to break out their checkbook yet. His current club, Manchester City, doesn't seem to want him either, but no one has stepped up to meet its price, suggesting that Robinho's World Cup performance left something to be desired. A swap with Barcelona for similarly damaged goods, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is rumored to be in the works.
Fernando Torres, forward, Spain -- Liverpool's prize possession was the subject of intense transfer rumors before the World Cup, some valuing him at more than $70 million. While the Spanish striker is still wanted at Manchester City and Chelsea, those numbers have come back into orbit after a toothless performance in the World Cup. Clearly, Torres wasn't fit in South Africa, and he ended the tournament hurt yet again, with an injured left thigh. It's probably foolish to judge such a prolific striker's value on such a small sample as the World Cup, but Torres' South African disappointment may turn out to be a huge break for Liverpool if it can now find a way to keep him.
Steven Pienaar, midfielder/forward, South Africa -- Linked with Arsenal and Bayern Munich before the World Cup, Pienaar was outshone by a host of his lesser-known Bafana Bafana teammates. Now interest has cooled, and he may simply end up back at his current club, Everton.
Hugo Lloris, goalkeeper, France -- The French team alone could fill out a list of players who've seen their transfer value plummet. Let's start with Lloris, who was pegged to be a top performer in goal, but instead failed to keep much of anything out. When teams approach his club, Lyon, you can bet the offers for him will be much lower than they would have been just a month ago.
Yoann Gourcuff, midfielder, France -- Picking among the French wreck for a player to accompany Lloris, Gourcuff earns a spot because he was so highly coveted coming into the World Cup. The midfielder was horrible in France's first match, sat out its second and earned a red card after 25 minutes in the final group game. Of his previous high profile group of suitors, only Lyon remains openly interested in the Bordeaux midfielder.
Felipe Melo, midfielder, Brazil -- Melo's high profile quarterfinal meltdown, helping a Wesley Sneijder cross find the back of the net before getting himself sent off for stomping on Arjen Robben, won't have done anything to help the Brazilian's value. His club, Juventus, is reportedly willing to consider all bids. Despite a rumored swap deal to Arsenal, Melo may have seen the biggest hit to his transfer value after the World Cup.
Brent Latham covers soccer for ESPN.com. He previously covered sports throughout Africa for Voice of America radio and now works as a soccer commentator for a national television station in Guatemala. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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