Nobody epitomised the belief coursing through Gareth Southgate’s England team at this World Cup more than Harry Maguire.
The Leicester City defender is the type of sturdy, solid defender that previous Three Lions bosses would have either discarded or limited to a functional, basic defensive role.
Southgate took him, improved his belief, jettisoned players from bigger clubs – Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill – to make him a regular and gave him the licence to rampage into midfield as part of a side that had the belief to impose their technical ability on the world stage.
As a result, the man nicknamed ‘Slabhead’ became something of a national icon; the burly, fearless Englishman towering over opponents, crashing in headers at both ends as the country rediscovered a national identity that married modern flexibility with vintage grit.
He has showcased a technical ability that has elevated him towards being a genuine transfer option for top six clubs and it is tough to see him sticking around at Leicester for too much longer in the wake of his summer displays.
Manchester United reportedly hold an interest and have been quoted the figure of £50m, which would have seemed faintly ludicrous before the World Cup started.
However, Maguire’s value looks set to go up and up and one unexpected factor could help; VAR. This summer’s tournament out in Russia has shown that VAR will have a major impact on penalty box grappling.
Where many players felt they could get away with it because the ref could not see everything that is going on in a crowded penalty area, now they are more cautious because VAR is always watching.
As and when the technology reaches the Champions League and Premier League, it will have a profound effect, in one of two ways.
Players will continue to hold and grapple at set pieces – it seems to be the modern way to mark – and VAR will ensure that an unusually high number of penalties are given.
The alternative is that the wrestling stops, offering up more opportunities to score from set pieces; just as Maguire netted with his free header against Sweden.
Either way, Maguire will become an asset who can win penalties and score goals as well as tower over opponents or win headers in defence.
If VAR makes set pieces an even more major part of the game – and the early signs at the World Cup are that it will – players such as Maguire will see their value increase to the extent that even £50m may not even be enough to land the English powerhouse.