The World Cup has always been the biggest stage for all sports. According to the Athletic, about 1.1 billion people watched the 2018 World Cup.
Aleksandr Golovin. James Rodriguez. Enner Valencia. Joel Campbell. Ramires. Asamoah Gyan. Carlos Tevez. Javier Mascherano. Gilberto Silva. Cafu. These are all examples of players who shone at the World Cup and earned their moves to a team playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues:
- England’s Premier League
- Italy’s Serie A
- Spain’s La Liga
- France’s Ligue 1
- Germany’s Bundesliga
Some of these moves didn’t end up working out. But, that isn’t the point of this article. This article will examine the CANMNT players that could potentially earn a move to one of Europe’s top five leagues on the back of a strong World Cup performance.
Alistair Johnston, Full-Back
Alistair’s rise to prominence out of relative obscurity has been one of the best individual CANMNT storylines (in a team full of amazing individual stories). He’s one of the most important and versatile tactical pieces for John Herdman.
Alistair regularly features in Canada’s starting XI at RCB in their back three formation. He’s also capable of playing at both RB and RWB. He’s very assured defensively, has good makeup speed to contain wide forwards and his passing and ability on the ball have grown significantly in the past year.
#CFMtl started the season playing 4 of their first 5 games away from home. Took Djordje Mihailovic 63 seconds to put Montreal in front v #VWFC at Saputo. And what a pass from #CanMNT ⭐️ Alistair Johnstonpic.twitter.com/K4eylQ69mb— Footy Prime presented by @NorthStarBet (@footy_prime) April 16, 2022
While Alistair is still relatively unknown to most outside of North America, a strong World Cup showing will attract the attention of European scouts. He’s been linked with Serie A side Bologna, which would be the perfect place to further his technical skills and defensive nous.
Prediction: Alistair gets a move to Serie A with Bologna.
Kamal Miller, Centre-Back
Miller is at a crucial point in his development where he hasn’t reached his peak yet and would still really benefit from training and playing in Europe. A strong World Cup showing coupled with his growth in the MLS and importance with the CANMNT should be enough to catch the attention of European scouts.
Left footed CBs who are decent with the ball at their feet like Miller are not easy to find. Miller is also solid defensively and in the air, highlighting how well rounded he is as a defender. Miller has about average foot speed so Ligue 1 may be the best fit for him and where he would still get ample playing time.
Prediction: Miller gets a move to a mid to lower table Ligue 1 club like Toulouse, Montpellier or Troyes.
Sam Adekugbe, Full-Back
Adekugbe has been yet another CANMNT breakout player. His performance against Costa Rica in Edmonton in World Cup qualifying was when he started to get noticed. He became indispensable and key to Herdman’s build up and attacking play in the January 2022 window when Canada were without their star player, Alphonso Davies.
Currently playing mid-table Hatayspor in Turkey, Adekugbe’s technical ability, decision making and consistency within and across games have noticeably progressed since his days with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Sam Adekugbe’s first goal for Canada was a big one— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 30, 2022
His endurance, strength, speed and technical ability make him a fit for any of Europe’s top five leagues. Still, the best move off a strong World Cup performance would probably be to a different mid-table side in a more competitive league like the Bundesliga. Werder Bremen, Leverkusen and Koln are all sides in need of fullbacks/wingbacks.
Prediction: Adekugbe gets a move to a mid to lower table Bundesliga club like Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen or FC Koln.
Stephen Eustaquio, Midfielder
Eustaquio is already playing in the premier European cup competition, Champions League, and in Portugal’s Liga Primeira, Europe’s best league outside of the traditional top five. He’s spent most of his footballing career in Portugal, has the requisite technical ability to thrive in any league, has been steadily improving his goal contributions, and has become irreplaceable in Porto’s starting XI.
Eustaquio should already be on the radar of clubs in Europe’s top five leagues. A strong World Cup performance would only further reinforce that he’s ready for a move to a bigger club. Given that Porto will still be contending in the Champions League in the New Year, he will not be sold in the upcoming January transfer window, which makes a summer transfer more likely.
Prediction: Eustaquio stays at FC Porto and receives a big salary increase, but receives interest from Premier League club Wolves FC (if they avoid relegation) and La Liga clubs Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis.
Tajon Buchanan, Winger/Wing-Back
Similar to Eustaquio, Tajon is already playing in Europe with Club Brugge in Belgium. Having just joined the Belgian club less than a year ago, it’s unlikely he will change teams so soon. The Jupiler Pro League is great for development and Brugge are into the round of 16 in the Champions League too.
With more time, I could see Tajon eventually moving to the Bundesliga or maybe even the Premier League. His speed, tenacity and trickery on the ball would be good fits for either league. All he needs now is greater consistency, improved decision making and more exposure to tactics used at the highest level.
Prediction: In the summer, Tajon gets a move to a top Bundesliga club like Bayer Leverkusen or Borussia Monchengladbach.
You’ll notice that Jonathan David and Ismael Kone were left out of my list. David already plays in Ligue 1 at Lille OSC, so while he’s destined for a move to a bigger club, he was ineligible for this article. Kone, on the other hand, would benefit more from going to a lesser European league known for developing young players where he could also receive adequate first team minutes. I anticipate that he’ll either move to England’s EFL Championship (second tier) or Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League.
The final two omissions were TFC’s own Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea. Despite Oso being a very talented player and having his best season in the MLS in 2022, it’s unlikely he’ll get a move to Europe’s top five leagues at 30 years old. It’s still possible he gets his dream European move, but I predict that it’ll be to England’s EFL Championship, Portugal’s Liga Primeira or Greece’s Super League (debatable if Greece’s Super League is better than MLS at this point).
Laryea, on the other hand, is on loan at TFC from Nottingham Forest, and the rumour mill is that TFC are pushing hard to sign him permanently this coming January. If he has a strong World Cup, it’s possible for his parent club to recall him from loan to sell him to other interested European clubs.
Are there any other CANMNT players that you think will get a move to one of Europe’s top five leagues if they have strong World Cup performances?