With the 2018/19 Premier League season, just a couple of weeks away, here’s five players who will be desperate to carry their form from the World Cup into the new club season.
Paul Pogba – France/ Manchester United:
Pogba was an extremely influential part in France’s World Cup winning side, scoring in the final in his teams 4-2 win over Croatia. France manager Didier Deschamps gave Pogba a more free attacking role in the side, as he had the luxury to get forward by playing alongside deeper midfielder N’golo Kante. Pogba particularly impressed with his long balls over the top of defences, in which France counter attacked with the pace of their frontline. This suggests that Mourinho must give him a more expressive role in the Manchester United midfield, in order to get the best out of the Frenchman.
Many have had their doubts that Pogba’s not a big game player, but his performances in the latter stages of the tournament were incredible, proving doubters wrong and I believe he deserved Man of the Match in the Final.
At the end of the final, Pogba put his hand to his ear and hushed the audience at home watching, as if to say ‘where are all the haters now?’. However, as impressive as he was in the World Cup, we are still yet to see a great season at club level from the £89 million man.
Harry Maguire – England/ Leicester City:
Maguire was a key man in England’s run to the Semi Final (furthest England have gone since 1990), excelling throughout and playing in every game. Maguire particularly impressed in a Man of the Match display in the Quarter Final against Sweden, which England won 2-0, with Maguire scoring the opener. However, before the World Cup, many hadn’t known or knew very little about Maguire but he quickly became a household name with his dominant aerial ability and ginormous head, making him a cult hero back home.
Next season Maguire will start alongside new signing Jonny Evans at the back, in what is shaping up to be a very good Leicester side. They will be looking to Maguire and co to get them back in the hunt for European football.
Ahmed Musa – Nigeria/ Leicester City:
Teammate Musa has had a torrid time at Leicester since his arrival from CSKA Moscow in 2016, playing just 21 times and scoring just two goals. In January last year, Musa, understandably frustrated due to lack of game time was loaned back to former club CSKA Moscow where he played ten times and scored six goals.
However, while playing for Nigeria at the World Cup, Musa excelled for the Super Eagles, with his blistering pace and cool, calm composed finishing, illustrated by his Man of the Match display in the second group game against Iceland, where he scored both goals in their 2-0 win.
It’s clear Musa has immense potential and is a real talent but unfortunately his talents are wasted at Leicester, where he competes with star striker Jamie Vardy, former Man City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, record signing Islam Slimani and Japanese forward Shinji Okazaki. Reports have linked Musa with a big money move to Saudi Arabia, but surely at just 25, Musa wants to be playing at the highest level. He’d get into many Premier League clubs starting eleven, such as Watford, Southampton, Crystal Palace etc, so possibly a move to one of those clubs could help get his club career back on track because it’s clear the potential’s there.
Marouane Fellaini- Belgium/ Manchester United:
Many were surprised about Belgium’s coach Roberto Martinez’s decision to leave out Inter Milan star midfielder Radja Nainggolan and instead take the rash, out of form Marouane Fellaini to the World Cup. But Martinez’s decision was justified as the Manchester United man, provided Belgium with a key aerial outlet and made them a multi-dimensional outfit.
Fellaini was key in the crucial comeback win against Japan, scoring the equalising goal. He was brought on as a ‘plan B’ by Martinez when they were 2-0 down and the result shows Fellaini’s value to his manager.
Last season however, Fellaini could only achieve five starts in the Premier League under Jose Mourinho, as the Belgium was used as more of an impact sub, coming of the bench eleven times. It’s hard to see with the signing of Fred, where Fellaini would be able to start in their midfield. Therefore, a move away from Old Trafford looked on the cards but Fellaini has just signed a new 2 year contract with the Red Devils, which shows he is more than happy trying to be one of the most dangerous impact starters in the game, rather than a regular starter at another club. United may look to use the Belgium as a second or lone striker because of his aerial attacking threat.
Xherdan Shaqiri – Switzerland/ Liverpool:
The new Liverpool man was a key figure for Switzerland, beating Costa Rica and Serbia to that final qualification spot in Group E. The former Stoke City winger scoring a goal and setting up another.
Despite Stoke’s relegation, this season was Shaqiri’s most influential year for the Potters, scoring eight times and seven assists, despite stupidly insulting his other teammates, halfway through the season.
I personally don’t see the point in his big money move to the North-West as he won’t get first team football because he’s not good enough to get into a very good Liverpool team. However it is clear from his performances on the world stage and glimpses in the Premier League that he is a talent and at just 26, he is in the prime of his career. Only time will tell if he can do it on a consistent basis at Liverpool, but he needs a change of attitude if he’s going to fit into Jurgen Klopp’s hardworking philosophy.
Who else could have made this list? Let us know in the comments below!