Beware The World Cup One-Hit Wonder

The World Cup is a giant shop window for some of the planet’s lesser-known players, and Europe’s wealthier clubs have their faces firmly pressed against the glass.

Take, for example, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, currently a free agent having been released by French second division side Ajaccio: following an outstanding World Cup for Mexico, he’s now in the sights of Liverpool, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid.

But, as pint-sized popster Prince (and possibly Shakespeare) once wrote: “all that glitters is not gold.” Football history is littered with players who excelled on the World Cup stage only to bomb following a big-money transfer to a new club. The18 takes a look at five of the worst (best?) World Cup transfer disasters (NB: transfer fees are adjusted for inflation):

5. Kleberson: Atletico Paranaense to Manchester United ($16.5m)

Kleberson was a bust for Man U

After a successful World Cup, Kleberson signed with Man United (Photo: @ManUtd | Twitter)

The 24-year old Kleberson arrived in Manchester with his 16-year old bride (yes, one-six) a World Cup winner, having thrived alongside Gilberto Silva in the Brazilian engine room during South Korea & Japan 2002. But in two injury-blighted seasons at Old Trafford, Kelberson managed just 20 Premier League starts before departing for pastures more Turkish (Besiktas, to be precise). Why Kleberson never thrived at United is oft-debated: perhaps he was homesick, maybe he was too-often played out of position. Fergie won’t have shed too many tears, though: that same summer he signed one Cristiano Ronaldo.

4.  Salif Diao: Sedan to Liverpool ($12.1m)

Diao was a bust for Liverpool

Salif Diao was a journey man in the FA Premier League. (Photo: @ItsYourGame | Twitter) 

Salif Diao was brought to Anfield by Gerard Houllier having scored one of the goals of the tournament during Senegal’s quarterfinal run at the 2002 World Cup, but the “combative” midfielder made just 37 appearances in five seasons for Liverpool, spending the last three years of his contract on loan at Portsmouth, Birmingham and Stoke. Steven Gerrard said of Diao that: “I knew after a week of training he wasn’t going to be good enough.” Nevertheless, Diao somehow managed to stink out the Premier League for the better part of a decade before retiring no doubt a very rich man indeed.

3. Stéphane Guivarc’h: Auxerre to Newcastle United ($9.2m)

Guivarc'h was a bust for New Castle

The Frenchmen was the top-scorer twice in French Ligue 1, but that production never carried over to the Premier League. (Photo: @RouteurNews | Twitter)

Admittedly Guivarc’h was signed by Newcastle just before France ’98, but he was so awful for the Magpies that he still makes this list. Guivarc’h arrived on Tyneside a World Cup winner and twice top-scorer in the French Ligue 1, hitting 43 goals in 68 games for Rennes and Auxerre in the previous two seasons. But his stay in the Northwest lasted less than six months, and he was shipped off to Glasgow Rangers after playing only four times for Newcastle. 

2. Denilson: Sao Paulo to Real Betis ($56.4m)

Denilson was a might have been

Denilson's pay day was once the world record for soccer players (Photo: @FootyMistakes | Twitter)

Look up “might-have-been” in the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Denílson de Oliveira Araújo. 1997 Copa America winner with Brazil and Confederations Cup MVP, Denilson was acquired by Real Betis for a then world record £21.5m following Brazil’s run to the final of France ’98. But the young winger never lived up to the hype, scoring just twice in his first season and failing to keep Betis from relegation in his second. Denilson spent seven years at Betis, but was rarely more than a squad player after the first two, making only three starts in his final season in Spain at a time when, physically and mentally, he should have been in his prime. Denilson was sold to Bordeaux for £4m in 2005 and, after a lone season in France, embarked on something of a mercenary’s existence, plying his trade at various totems of global soccer including Al Nasr of Saudi Arabia and Hải Phòng Cement FC in Vietnam. He’s still got a World Cup winner’s medal, though.

1. El Hadji Diouf: Rennes to Liverpool ($24.3m)

Diouf was a bust for Liverpool

Diouf was not just a bad player, but he was a bad sport during his time with Liverpool (Photo: @twt_liverpool | Twitter)

Has there ever been a more objectionable footballer than Luis Suarez? Yes, and his name is El Hadji Diouf. As with compatriot Salif Diao, Diouf arrived at Liverpool following Senegal’s stellar run at the 2002 World Cup, but in three seasons at Anfield the forward scored just three goals. He did, however, manage to spit at an opposing fan during a UEFA Cup match and, if you believe Jamie Carragher, become the only Liverpool no. 9 to go through an entire season without scoring. Other Diouf greatest hits include shouting “F*** you and f*** your leg” at a player who was prone on the floor with a (you guessed it) broken leg, spitting a few more times at fans and opposing players, and racially abusing a ball boy. What a stand-up guy.

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