With Brazil 2014 already consigned to the World Cup history books, who’s going to feature when the tomes are laid to rest following Russia 2018? We have already tipped Neymar, Lionel Messi, James Rodriguez, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling as five to watch, so here’s the rest of our top 10 players to look out for in four years’ time – and three of them could be gracing the Premier League.
Antoine Griezmann: The Frenchman (pictured) currently playing for Real Sociedad in Spain will be 27 when the tournament in Russia comes around. Tottenham Hotspur have already had an €18 million bid for the quick and skilful left winger rebuffed, and he is also reported to be interesting Chelsea and big-spending Monaco. The Spurs bid has some way to go before triggering his €30m buy-out clause.
He has made nine appearances for France, scoring three times. He was thrust into the starting line up in Brazil following the injury to Franck Ribery and was in the side that lost to Germany. He was a late-comer to the French set up after being picked up by Real Sociedad as a teenager and coming through the club ranks in Spain.
Marco Reus: The attacking midfielder from Borussia Dortmund is the first of two of our featured five being sought by Brendan Rodgers for Liverpool’s foray into the Champions League this season. He is also interesting Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.
Germany’s Footballer of the Year for 2012, Reus – who will be 29 when the tournament in Russia comes round – was a regular in Joachim Low’s team throughout World Cup qualifying and might have made a name for himself in Brazil but for injury. He was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle injury suffered in a warm up game against Armenia.
He has made 21 appearances for the national team, finding the net seven times.
Divock Origi: The 19-year-old Lille forward became the youngest goalscorer in Belgian World Cup history when he notched the winner against Russia in Brazil.
He is another Liverpool target, with the Merseysiders confident of sealing a €7.5m deal before letting him spend another season on loan in Ligue 1 with Lille – who have also nurtured the talents of Kevin Mirallas, Yohan Cabaye, Eden Hazard and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Reports suggest Brendan Rodgers sees the strapping, 6ft 1in Origi as a long-term replacement for Rickie Lambert. Sony Team Ambassador for England and former Reds’ striker Emile Heskey said: “He really impressed me at the World Cup. He wasn’t overawed and was clinical in front of goal despite his young age.”
Origi comes from footballing stock. His dad Mike was a professional in Belgium and played international football for Kenya.
Kevin Strootman: The tough-tackling Roma midfielder missed Holland’s World Cup after injuring his knee in a Serie A game against Napoli in March, having been a regular in Louis van Gaal’s team throughout the qualifying campaign.
It was his first season in Italy following a €17m move from PSV Eindhoven in July 2013. The fee could potentially rise to €19m through add-ons. He will be 28 when the next World Cup comes round and will certainly have added to his 25 appearances and three goals for the Oranje.
Koke: The Atletico Madrid midfielder has just signed a new contract, ending Barcelona’s hopes of tempting him to the Catalan club.
He will be 26 when the next World Cup arrives. He has made 10 appearances for Spain and made his World Cup finals debut as a half-time substitute for Xabi Alonso in the defeat by Chile. He went on to start the final group game, Spain’s 3-0 victory over Australia.
He is much admired by Atletico boss and Sony Coaching Ambassador Diego Simeone, who relates this anecdote about the first time he saw him play in a televised match just before he started managing Atletico.
“Atletico lost to Real Betis and the commentator did not mention his name once. I said to myself the commentator never mentions him but he actually plays well. I asked who’s the short, stocky guy with number 25 on his back and was told he is Koke, he plays in the academy and he is great. He is 19 and they want to send him to Malaga CF. Malaga, I replied, no way!”
The rest, as they say, is history! To see the Atletico boss tell his story in full, click on the video below…