Football’s biggest showpiece can change a player’s life, whether it’s by shining a light on an emerging talent or elevating a household name to new heights. We look at five star turns who have been given the treatment …
Mario Gotze (Germany)
An exquisite talent and one jealously guarded by Bayern Munich after they bought Gotze for €37million from Borussia Dortmund last summer. He had won two titles with Dortmund and the move did not go down well with their fans.
So, he was always going places. Then, on Sunday 13 July, 2014, his national manager Joachim Low said to him on the Maracana touchline: “Go and show the world that you’re better than Messi.” A late substitute against Argentina, Gotze proceeded to do what Messi has never done, scoring the winner in a World Cup final.
Now Gotze = Gold dust, simple as that. That goal, the 171st of an incredible tournament, will stand the test of time and be talked about in Bavarian beer halls and beyond forever more. The downside? Gotze can never again emerge unnoticed from a mud bath on holiday with his girlfriend Ann-Kathrin Brommel. OK, maybe not the biggest downer.
World Cup stats: 258 mins played, 2 goals.
James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Let’s be honest, he wasn’t exactly a household name before going to Brazil, despite three successive titles at Porto and some impressive form at Monaco. All the talk was about whether or not Radamel Falcao would be fit for Colombia at the finals, not the boy who started life at Envigado.
But Falcao missed out, and Colombia needed another hero. Even then James Rodriguez wasn’t the first name to roll off the tongue at the start of the tournament. He certainly was at the end, though. Six goals, including a penalty, four with that dream-like left foot, one with the right, one header, the Golden Boot, the best goal …
What happened next? He signed for Real Madrid for €80million, making him the fourth most expensive payer of all time. And he caused a stir at his unveiling even by Galacticos’ standards, although manager Carlo Ancelotti said he was buying him for the future. Within 48 hours of his purchase it is said 345,000 ‘James’ shirts had been sold worldwide. One for the future, maybe, but there’s no time like the present.
World Cup stats: 399 mins played, six goals, two assists.
Toni Kroos (Germany)
Kroos, who joined Bayern Munich at 16 after being raised by the Baltic Sea, helped Germany finish third in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2007 and was on the radar of several of Europe’s top clubs before the more important version, seven years on, in Brazil. Manchester United had long been tracking him, as he proceeded to win just about every title in the German and European game.
He was due to be out of contract next summer but his heroics in Brazil pushed him out of United’s reach and instead into the clutches of Madrid. Kroos was majestic in the semi-final demolition of the hosts, scoring twice and showing the kind of football intelligence that is shared only by a privileged few. A €30m switch to the Bernabeu was completed almost before the Germans had finished celebrating their success.
World Cup stats: 690 mins played, two goals, four assists.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Navas had asserted himself as Costa Rica’s No1 before the tournament, with more than 50 caps to his name, and he was named the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup’s best goalkeeper as they reached the semi-finals.
However, his brilliant form in Brazil took him to a new level. His acrobatic training techniques were featured in a YouTube hit, while his performances on the field didn’t disappoint, helping to carry the unfancied Costa Rica out of a group including England, Italy and Uruguay.
The Levante keeper conceded just twice in four games at the and his penalty shootout saves in the last-16 clash against Greece, as well as eight top-class blocks during the 120 minutes, took Costa Rica through to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. The result? He is now being targeted by both Madrid clubs, among other potential suitors.
World Cup stats: 510 mins played, goals conceded 2, clean sheets 2, save rate 91.3 per cent
Enner Valencia (Ecuador)
He may be nicknamed Superman in his homeland, finishing as top goalscorer in the 2013 Copa Sudamericana before moving to Pachuca in Mexico, but who really knew much about this guy?
His form in the qualifiers for Brazil was also good, but it was his three goals during the tournament, making it seven in 13 appearances, that brought him to Premier League attention – and duly earned him a move to West Ham United. It may not be the most coveted destination in world football, but it was a pretty handy stepping stone for Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano …
World Cup stats: 270 mins played, 3 goals.