Stories

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

Aliou Cisse Birmingham
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Didier Zokora (Tottenham, 2006)

Didier Zokora Tottenham

Ivory Coast qualified for the 2006 finals ahead of Cameroon but failed to progress past the group stage after being drawn alongside Argentina, Holland and the now-split Serbia and Montenegro.  

Midfield general Zokora still did enough to earn a move away, though, joining Spurs for £8.2m and immediately endearing himself to the White Hart Lane faithful by revealing that he turned down an approach from Arsenal.

“Tottenham are an ambitious club with lots of good young players, and for me they are a club for the future,” he explained. Zokora went on to win the 2008 League Cup during his three years at Spurs – beating Arsenal in the semi-finals.  

Wim Jonk (Sheffield Wednesday, 1998)

Wim Jonk Sheffield Wednesday

In his early years at Ajax, Jonk became known as “the man behind Bergkamp” thanks to his uncanny knack for delivering a killer pass to his Dutch counterpart. Their understanding was so good that Inter purchased the pair of them in 1993.

But while Bergkamp would eventually move on to the Premier League with Arsenal in 1995, Jonk had to wait until after the 1998 World Cup for his England move.

By the time he rocked up at Sheffield Wednesday for £2.5m after playing a prominent role in Holland’s march to the semis, some of the magic had gone. Jonk retired from football after two injury-hit seasons in Yorkshire, during which time Wednesday were relegated.

Gica Popescu (Tottenham, 1994)

Popescu Tottenham

Back in 1994, Romanians were very much in vogue for Tottenham manager Ossie Ardiles. Having already brought compatriot Ilie Dumitrescu off the back of the World Cup, the Spurs manager convinced chairman Alan Sugar to splash out a further £2.9m on fellow World Cup star Gheorghe Popescu from PSV.

Though Popescu lasted longer than both Dumitrescu and Ardiles – the latter was sacked and replaced by Gerry Francis a few weeks later – he left after just a single season at Tottenham. You could hardly blame him; he left to join Barcelona, becoming captain of the Catalan giants in the process.

DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham, 2014)

DeAndre Yedlin

Yedlin was the breakout star of Jurgen Klinsmann’s experimental USMNT side of 2014, serving as an explosive impact sub in three crucial fixtures for the Americans.

The speedy right-back set up a goal for Clint Dempsey in a crucial 2-2 draw with Portugal in the group phase, and returned to man-mark Eden Hazard out of the game in the second round against Belgium. 

Tottenham beat off reported interested from Liverpool and Roma to land the athletic American, but Yedlin rarely got a chance in the first team. The full-back was loaned out to struggling Sunderland and did enough to impress Newcastle, who duly purchased the defender for a bargain £5m in summer 2016.

Asamoah Gyan (Sunderland, 2010)

Asamoah Gyan

Sunderland broke their transfer record to sign Gyan for £13m from Rennes in summer 2014, after a World Cup in which the Ghanaian scored three times but fluffed his lines at the crucial moment.

Gyan missed a late penalty for Ghana at the end of their quarter-final clash with Uruguay that would have seen the Black Stars become the first African side to reach the last four of a World Cup.  

He enjoyed better luck with the Black Cats, though, scoring 11 Premier League goals in his debut season – including one in a memorable 3-0 win over Chelsea. But he didn’t stick around for long, joining Al-Ain in the Middle East early the following campaign after being offered four times his Sunderland salary.