Many players have impressed at this World Cup, but any manager looking to sign one of them might want to take heed of these players, signed after catching the eye at previous tournaments:
10) Robert Jarni
After the 1998 World Cup in which Croatia finished third and gave a number of teams a terrific fright, a number of their players were in demand. Juventus bought Igor Tudor, Newcastle paid 3.3 million pounds (a reasonable sum even then) for Silvio Maric, and then there was the curious tale of Robert Jarni.
After an impressive tournament down the Croatian left flank Jarni attracted plenty of interest, with Coventry the first to move, paying Real Betis 2.6 million pounds for his services, but before he could even play a game for the Sky Blues (he did manage to watch one preseason friendly though, so that's something), he was moved on to Real Madrid for 3.5 million. Why and how? Well it all sounds quite simple, when you read Jarni's explanation. "Gordon Strachan wanted me to sign with Coventry," he said last year.
"He liked the way I played, he liked my performances in the Spanish league and with the national team, but after I received an offer from Real Madrid, I decided to sign for them instead." As you would. This was a bad move in the sense that presumably Strachan's plans were scuppered by Jarni's almost immediate flight, but given Coventry made just under one million pounds for a man they signed a week earlier, it doesn't look quite so bad.
9) Salif Diao
In truth, Salif Diao wasn't the most catastrophic signing by Liverpool. He was a limited but game central midfielder who was lumped in with a collection of genuinely dreadful buys by Gerard Houllier in 2002, a class that also featured Bruno Cheyrou, Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle. Of course, he wasn't really any good either, and at five million pounds he was certainly a tad over-priced to say the least. Diao managed to stick around for a couple of years before Rafa Benitez took over from Houllier and brought with him Xabi Alonso, at which point the Senegal midfielder's days were numbered. And when Xabi Alonso is recruited in your position, it's difficult to do much more than shrug and say "fair enough."
8) Cobi Jones
Perhaps when Coventry signed Cobi Jones, a boost in shirt sales was in mind, with the player fresh from a USA-hosted 1994 World Cup that had seen the highest attendances in tournament history. "I think he will do well over here," Coventry chairman Bryan Richardson said at the time.
"He is certainly box office material and we hope he will bring a spark to the place. He is quick and can operate on either wing." Quick he may have been, but that's more or less all he showed while in England and lasted just a season, leaving for an even more brief spell in Brazil before settling at LA Galaxy.
7) Milenko Acimovic
The list of Tottenham transfers in the past 15 years or so reads like a roll call of disappointment, a case study in throwing good money after bad, a group of names to make chairman Daniel Levy weep. Kazuyuki Toda, Goran Bunjevcevic, Sergei Rebrov, Timothee Atouba -- we could go on. Milenko Acimovic very much belongs in this particular hall of shame, recruited by Glenn Hoddle after some impressive performances in midfield for Slovenia at the 2002 World Cup. ''I've spoken with Glenn Hoddle several times in the past few months," he said upon signing,
"And we both know we would establish a fine relationship because we think the same way.'' Alas, Acimovic was little short of dreadful for Spurs, starting just four games before leaving for Lille where he rediscovered some form and helped them qualify for the Champions League. "Maybe I made a mistake by signing so early in England," he said that year. "Perhaps I should have come to France before to learn."
6) Milan Jovanovic
Liverpool fans, to put things mildly, do not remember Roy Hodgson's spell in charge at Anfield with huge fondness. The dreadful results didn't help but perhaps worse than those were the signings -- which featured Joe Cole on an enormous free contract, Paul Konchesky of whom the less said the better -- and of course Milan Jovanovic. The Serbian had just performed well for his country at the World Cup in South Africa, scoring the winning goal against Germany, and was in demand with the recently departed Benitez apparently keen on taking him to Internazionale.
However, after arriving at Anfield on a free, Jovanovic made just 10 appearances, and was quietly ushered out of the door after Kenny Dalglish replaced Hodgson that season. But still, he did at least make an impression on the Australian soap "Neighbours," in which he was described as "one of the greatest soccer players in the world" by a Pavel Nedved lookalike. At least they got his nationality right.
5) Javier Margas
Signed by West Ham after a good World Cup for Chile in 1998, Margas continued his penchant for dying his hair a variety of elaborate colours by opting for the claret and blue option shortly after arriving in England. Sadly, that didn't seem to be an expression of his commitment, leaving England and going AWOL, as then-Hammers boss Harry Redknapp explained in The Sun newspaper a couple of years ago: "His wife was from a wealthy family and missed home badly.
"The club stuck them in a house in Essex and let them get on with it. She cracked eventually and bolted for home. Javier moved into a hotel in Waltham Abbey. One day the chief executive Peter Storrie and I went to his room and knocked. No answer. We went down to reception and were told he was definitely in because he had ordered coffee 10 minutes previously. Now worried, we all went back to his room and the receptionist opened the door, which was on the first floor. Poor Javier had opened the window, grabbed his passport, jumped out and legged it. He went straight to the airport, flew home to Chile and never played for West Ham again."
Margas now runs a chain of motels in his native Chile, and West Ham fans are apparently welcome to stay in these establishments for free as guests of their erstwhile defender.
4) Stephane Guivarc'h
Sometimes, people should just trust their instincts instead of being influenced by outside factors. Anyone who watched the French World Cup-winning side of 1998 would have immediately said "Wow, great team. Apart from that centre-forward." And yet, much like the excitement when a British team signs a former Barcelona youngster (see Marc Muniesa or Marc Crosas), there is the nagging feeling that you absolutely must be missing something, the logic being that if they're good enough for that really good team, then they must be good enough for us.
One assumes that was the thought going through Dalglish's head when he recruited Guivarc'h, although in fairness he a) had scored a fair few goals for Rennes the previous season and b) scored on his debut for Newcastle. That wouldn't last though, with Guivarc'h making just four more starts before being shipped off to Rangers three months later. Guivarc'h was named as the worst striker to ever play in the Premier League by the Daily Mail, which elicited this response from the man himself: "It is truly a crap newspaper. How can they say that? At Newcastle [in 1998] I only played four matches, two as sub. And I scored one goal -- against Liverpool.
"The article did irritate me and leave a mark on me. But it was done just to tease and mock me. What a story -- a truly pointless stunt. But let's get to the point. The English. What have they won since the World Cup in 1966?"
This is cheating very slightly, because Manchester United signed Kleberson a year after he won the World Cup with Brazil, but there is little doubt that his performances in Japan and South Korea were the primary motivating factors behind his arrival at Old Trafford. The 6.5 million-pound signing of a Brazilian World Cup-winning midfielder would usually be a cause for celebration, and initially it was for United fans, but then he started playing. In fairness to Kleberson his time at United was beset by injuries (he only started 20 league games), but it was also beset by not being very good, the Brazilian proving a shadow of the player that screened the Selecao's defence with Gilberto Silva in 2002.
As an aside, Kleberson was the subject of interest from several English clubs directly after the World Cup, but he didn't want to leave Brazil without his girlfriend, who was unable to travel with him until they were married. As she was 15 at the time, they had to wait, and United, erm, benefited. He now plays for Indy Eleven, a team based in Indiana that plays in the American second tier.
2) Gary Breen
"We all dream of a team of Gary Breens," sang the Irish fans at the 2002 World Cup, which is another reason why the masses shouldn't be put in charge of recruitment, because if so that particular team would have been injured for much of the following season. Breen was out of contract when he travelled to Japan and Korea with Ireland but some good performances led to one of the most curious transfer scrambles in recent memory, with all manner of lofty teams expressing an interest in the former Coventry man, among them Internazionale and Barcelona.
Indeed, Breen very nearly signed for Inter but the deal was called off after he failed a medical, something that perhaps should have been a red light for West Ham. Not so, as Breen signed on a free transfer at Upton Park, proceeding to make just 14 appearances and spending most of the campaign on the treatment table as the Hammers were relegated.
1) El Hadji Diouf
If we are to judge a player based on the rules of the playground, then Jamie Carragher offered perhaps the most damning judgment of El Hadji Diouf in his autobiography. "He was always the last to be picked in training," said Carragher. Ouch. Things didn't start all that badly for Diouf at Liverpool, scoring twice in an early game against Southampton, but that was all in terms of goals for a good while, his next league strike coming in March of his first season. He also managed to go the entirety of the following season without finding the net in any competition which for an attacker playing for a team like Liverpool is almost impressive. Diouf did not come without pedigree having won the African Player of the Year award in 2002, but when one considers that Houllier signed him in preference to Nicolas Anelka (who had been on loan at Anfield the previous season), the wisdom of the move looks even worse.