Previous World Cup breakthrough stars: What happened next?

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As football becomes a more global game with YouTube, Twitter and Instagram granting the modern fan with access to footage of more players than ever before, it is more and more difficult to be a genuine unknown quantity going into the World Cup.

It is always interesting to see who will emerge from – these days, relative – obscurity to announce themselves on the world stage when football’s biggest tournament rolls around.

In just a matter of games, catching the eye with a goal or two or being a key part of a team that goes deep into the tournament, a player can transform their fortunes and thrust themselves into the most intense of spotlights.

Then, the lights fade and often the transfer interest leads to a big move but what happens next? It is up to the player to sink or swim, away from the comfort of playing with their countrymen on the biggest stage, and make a success of the rest of their career.

So, Football FanCast have taken a look at how life turned out for some breakout stars from the last four World Cups…

2014: James Rodriguez

Rodriguez had been highly-rated prior to the 2014 tournament, earning a big-money move to free-spending Monaco.

However, scoring six goals in five games, including a stunner against Uruguay in the last 16 that earned him the Puskas Award ensured that Real Madrid made him their latest superstar.

Despite Angel di Maria being shunted out to Manchester United to make room for him, it has never quite happened for Rodriguez in Spain and he became increasingly marginalised under Zinedine Zidane.

That led him to be loaned out to Bayern Munich, which appears to have recaptured his confidence but it is safe to say that he is not going into the 2018 tournament as one of the megastars to watch.

2014: Guillermo Ochoa

In 2014, Ochoa shot to prominence with an outstanding performance in a 0-0 draw against Brazil, including an outstanding save from a Neymar header before he shone again in the last 16 against Holland.

The watching public could scarcely believe that the Mexican stopper was available on a free after being released for Ajaccio but after being speculatively linked with some of Europe’s superpowers, he ended up at Malaga.

That underwhelming move saw him make just 11 league appearances, and he is now with Standard Liege, after a loan spell with Granada.

2014: Memphis Depay

Depay scored two goals and one assist as Louis van Gaal’s side came within a penalty shootout of the final before joining Manchester United in 2016.

It didn’t work out under van Gaal at Old Trafford and Jose Mourinho sold him to Lyon in January 2017, where he has enjoyed something of a revival and he is now valued at £40.5m by Transfermarkt.

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2014: Divock Origi

Origi was a shock inclusion by Marc Wilmots in Brazil but rewarded his manager’s faith with an assist and a goal – making him the youngest Belgian goalscorer in World Cup history.

That prompted Liverpool to sign him from Lille, loaning him straight back for a season and it has never clicked for him at Anfield.

He has just spent the season at Wolfsburg and is now not in the 23-man squad Roberto Martinez will take to Russia this summer.

2010: Thomas Muller

Muller has been banging in the goals for years but back in 2010, he was one of the new kids on the block in a resurgent Germany side and won the Golden Boot with five goals, as well as the award for best young player.

Of all the players on this list, he has had arguably the best career, remaining at Bayern Munich throughout, winning seven Bundesligas, the 2013 Champions League and the 2014 World Cup.

2010: Asamoah Gyan

Gyan shot to prominence in 2010 with three goals as Ghana carried Africa’s hopes in a tournament held on the continent for the very first time.

They would have made the semi-finals if he had converted his penalty in extra-time of stoppage time in the quarters against Uruguay but he struck the bar.

He joined Sunderland on the back of the tournament, becoming part of a vibrant front three including Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck, before leaving after just one season to suddenly join UAE outfit Al Ain.

After a spell in China, Gyan now turns out for Turkish side Kayserispor. 

2010: Mesut Ozil

Ozil lit up South Africa 2010 and was subsequently snapped up from Werder Bremen by Real Madrid, where he went on to be a key part of Jose Mourinho’s armoury.

However, Real’s signing of Gareth Bale in 2013 brought about a speedy exit to Arsenal where he has continually gone missing in big games/provided silky assists for a number of seasons; delete as appropriate.

2006: Owen Hargreaves

Prior to the tournament in Germany in 2006, it is fair to say that Hargreaves was the least popular member of the so-called Golden Generation.

Back in the 4-4-2 era, where Jose Mourinho was able to bamboozle the Premier League with a 4-3-3 and the importance of holding midfielders was grossly underrated in England, the watching public could not understand Sven Goran Eriksson’s obsession with including Hargreaves in every squad and bringing him on to close out game after game.

Yet, as the WAGs caught the eye off the field, England were unprepared for the heat on it and struggled badly and Hargreaves as the only Three Lions player to emerge from the tournament with any credit.

He was colossal after Wayne Rooney’s red card in the quarter-final defeat against Portugal but the injury problems that plagued his career delayed his switch to Manchester United for a year.

He only made 27 league appearances in four years at Old Trafford before taking the foolish decision to shun West Brom for Manchester City, making only one appearance and failing to be included in any subsequent tournament squad.

2002: El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao

Senegal stunned holders France in 2002 before rampaging into the quarter-finals where they were only eliminated by a Golden Goal against Turkey.

Only two of the squad didn’t play in France going into the tournament but eight went on to play in England; the two highest profile being Diouf and Diao.

They both joined Liverpool in the wake of the tournament but neither were able to hit the heights again outside of the international setup.

Diouf’s controversial career took in Bolton, Sunderland, Blackburn, Rangers, Doncaster and Leeds after Anfield, while Diao played for Birmingham, Portsmouth and Stoke subsequently.

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