Stories

16 players who Premier League clubs bought off the back of great World Cups

Aliou Cisse Birmingham

The World Cup represents the ultimate shop window for any star with ambitions of playing in England's top flight. Some go on to be legends, others… not so much

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Daniel Amokachi (Everton, 1994)

Daniel Amakochi Everton

One of the standout stars of Nigeria’s debut World Cup, Amokachi bagged two goals for the Super Eagles at USA ’94, including a wonderful solo effect against Greece.

Everton shelled out a then-club record £3m to bring him to Goodison Park that summer. But despite scoring on his debut against QPR, Amokachi struggled to match his World Cup form.

The Nigerian only managed two full seasons on Merseyside but is still fondly remembered for subbing himself on in an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham while Paul Rideout was receiving treatment. Amokachi went on to score twice, with Everton manager Joe Royle calling it “the best substitution I never made”.

Kleberson (Manchester United, 2002)

Kleberson Man United

A virtual unknown outside of Brazil before the 2002 World Cup, Kleberson’s tenacious performance against England in the quarter-finals caught the attention of clubs in the Premier League; Manchester United, Leeds and Newcastle keen on landing the ball-winner.

The Red Devils won the race but were made to wait another year for their man, with Kleberson – 23 in 2002 – refusing to move until his girlfriend turned 16 and they could marry.

He was signed for £6.5m in the summer of 2003 and unveiled alongside a fellow newcomer – one Cristiano Ronaldo. Hampered by injuries and being a bit rubbish, Kleberson left for Besiktas two years later and eventually faded into obscurity. Ronaldo fared a little better.

Mustapha Hadji (Coventry, 1999)

Mutapha Hadji Coventry

The Moroccan made a name for himself at France ’98 with a splendid goal against Norway and masterful performance in the 3-0 win over Scotland. Morocco still exited at the group stage, but Hadji had done enough to scoop that year’s African Footballer of the Year award.

He also caught the attention of Gordon Strachan, who put his feelings for Scotland to one side to bring the Moroccan to Coventry in 1999 for £4m.  

Teaming up with fellow Moroccan acquisition Youssef Chippo in midfield, Hadji went on to make 62 appearances for the Sky Blues – scoring 12 goals – before relegation in 2001 led to him joining Aston Villa with limited success.

Enner Valencia (West Ham, 2014)

Enner Valencia West Ham

West Ham splashed out £12m on Valencia after he scored three goals for Ecuador at the 2014 World Cup. It turned out the striker had already done some research on his new club, though, having watched Elijah Wood's hooligan flick Green Street for a 100% authentic taste of life in east London.   

“I respected the fact that they are very passionate supporters,” Valencia explained, rather diplomatically, to the Guardian. That support wasn’t enough to help Valencia get among the goals regularly, though, despite the Ecuadorian scoring three goals in his first seven league starts – including a 25-yard screamer against Hull on his full debut.  

Valencia bagged just 10 in 68 games before moving to Everton briefly on loan. During his time with the Toffees he also made headlines for faking an injury on international duty to evade police, after a warrant was issued for his arrest over unpaid child support.

Ilie Dumitrescu (Tottenham, 1994)

Ilie Dumitrescu Tottenham

Dumitrescu reached the pinnacle of his career at USA ’94 with two goals and an assist in Romania’s 3-2 second-round win over Argentina. But it was all downhill from there.

Signed by Tottenham for £2.6m, despite favouring a move to either Italy or Spain, Dumitrescu was almost immediately engulfed in a scandal. After being accused of involvement with a sex worker by the News of the World, the Romanian was loaned out to Sevilla while the furore died down.

Despite later being acquitted of the claim, he was sold on to West Ham before work permit issues led to him becoming a free agent. After a short spell in Mexico he returned home to Steaua Bucharest.

Marcos Rojo (Manchester United, 2014)

Marcos Rojo Man United

Rojo played an instrumental role in Argentina’s march to the 2014 World Cup Final, featuring six times for the Albiceleste and even popping up with the winner in their 2-1 victory over Bosnia.

Manchester United paid Sporting £16m for the versatile defender’s services, in a deal that saw Nani go the opposite way on loan. “He has ability, physical strength and a willingness to learn,” Louis van Gaal told reporters when the Argentine first arrived. “That means he has a very bright future ahead of him.”

Despite a bright start under the Dutchman, Rojo has since fallen out of favour under Jose Mourinho. Perhaps the winning goal against Nigeria at World Cup 2018 might lead to another post-World Cup switch.