It’s only been a month since the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the frenzy in the January transfer window for national team players is already underway.
While Canada didn’t make it past the group stage, for the first time since 1986 our players got the opportunity to prove their worth in front of billions of viewers. Some of these players performed well enough to catch the eyes of scouts, so I wanted to take a look at who is moving on to a new team after the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Note: these transfer fees are reported in US Dollars (USD).
Alistair Johnston (CF Montréal to Celtic FC)
Reported Transfer Fee: $4.97 million
At just 24 years old, Alistair Johnston was one of many players who moved from Montréal to make it in Europe. He signed with Scottish giants Celtic FC, who are based out of Glasgow. Celtic is currently at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, a position that they’re not unfamiliar with, given that they’ve won all but one Premiership title since the league was founded back in 2013. While Johnston may not become a starter at the Scottish giant, he has already made 3 appearances for them so far. He will presumably get more playing time soon, as starting right back Josip Juranovic recently moved to Union Berlin in the Bundesliga.
Alistair Johnston made his name both in Major League Soccer, as well as the CANMNT. While he primarily played as a right-back for club teams, CANMNT coach John Herdman preferred to play him as a right centre-back in Canada’s 3-man backline. With the Canadian national team, I appreciated his work ethic as a defender, always running back to put out fires, saving our team from threatening counter-attacks. He has so far made 33 appearances for the CANMNT, with 3 of them being in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Johnston was drafted 11th overall by Nashville SC in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, to join the club for their inaugural season. He made his name with them, playing as right-back along one of the best defences in the league, which also included Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney, and former Toronto FC player Daniel Lovitz. After 2 years at the club, he was traded to CF Montréal for $1 million in General Allocation Money, where Nashville retained a 10% sell-on clause if he was sold. This means they probably received around $500,000 for his sale to Celtic.
Derek Cornelius (Vancouver Whitecaps FC to Malmö FC)
Reported Transfer Fee: Undisclosed
Derek Cornelius is a less-known footballer in the CANMNT set-up, having played just 14 matches since he made his senior international debut back in 2018. He has largely been a backup defender under John Herdman, and as a result, he did not come off the bench during the 3 World Cup games that Canada was a part of this year. It’s safe to say that he didn’t move to Malmö for any spectacular World Cup performances, but at least he got to be part of Canada’s 2022 World Cup campaign. Something that can’t be said of most Canadian soccer players.
Back in 2019, a 21-year-old Cornelius joined Vancouver Whitecaps with high hopes, having been named the Canadian Youth International Player of the Year in 2018. He also had previous experience in Europe starting his professional career in the lower divisions of Germany, until he moved to Javor Ivanjica in the Serbian SuperLiga, where he played until he moved back home to Canada. His time didn’t pan out in MLS. As a result, he was loaned out to Greek side Panetolikos after just 35 MLS appearances. He spent two seasons in Greece until he recently made the move to Malmö, the most successful team in Sweden. Hopefully he can realize his true potential back in Europe.
Ismaël Koné (CF Montréal to Watford FC)
Reported Transfer Fee: $8.4 – 10.5 million
This transfer is probably the pick of the bunch, as 20-year-old midfielder Ismaël Koné is viewed to be one of the biggest prospects for the CANMNT. EFL Championship side Watford must’ve thought so too, as they signed him to a four-and-a-half year deal. Keep in mind there were many potential suitors, as Fabrizio Romano reported that fellow Championship sides Norwich City and Sheffield United came close to a deal with the midfielder, while there were also offers from Italian, German and Dutch sides. The transfer fee, reported to be between $8.4-10.5 million, is the highest transfer fee that CF Montréal has ever received. This surpassed Djordje Mihailovic’s transfer fee, who also left Montréal this winter. Recently, Ismaël Koné made his debut for Watford, in their FA Cup loss to Reading.
Ismaël Koné’s rise to prominence was fast and fascinating to watch. He had previously played for Saint-Laurent Soccer Club in the Quebec semi-pro league (PLSQ) until he sought out a trial in Belgium with Genk and Mouscron. He was unable to sign with Mouscron due to a lack of funds to sign a non-European player, so he returned to Canada to train with CF Montréal’s U23 team. He signed for them in August 2021. After injuries delayed his professional debut further, he started to play games in 2022, making 26 appearances while bagging 2 goals and 5 assists.
The energetic midfielder burst onto the scene with Canada in 2022, swiftly earning a place in the team. He was called up to the World Cup squad, where he came off the bench in all 3 matches. Koné played decently, but I think a lot of the value that many teams saw in him came from his appearances for Montréal, as opposed to his performances in the World Cup. Watford is currently in a playoff spot in the EFL Championship, which means they’re in contention to move up to the Premier League next season. We could see Ismaël playing at the top level of British football very soon.
Cyle Larin (Club Brugge to Real Valladolid)
Loan move with a purchase option
After a short and dreadful tenure with side Club Brugge, Cyle Larin has moved to Real Valladolid on loan. They currently sit in the relegation zone, placing 19th in the La Liga standings. Larin, who has fallen out of favour with new manager Scott Parker, signed with Club Brugge back in 2022 on a free transfer from Besiktas. He was unable to translate his previous success that he had back in America and Turkey, netting only 1 goal in 9 league appearances. Now he’s moved on to Spain, with the hopes of keeping Valladolid in the top division while also securing a transfer to the club. It looks like that might happen, given that in his first game off the bench he scored a 90th minute game winner. What a legend.
Cyle Larin scored the game winning goal in the 90th minute of his Real Valladolid debut! pic.twitter.com/NEXfmQjnJh— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 29, 2023
He made 3 appearances for the CANMNT during the World Cup, starting 2 of the games. Larin has been a consistent performer for Canada over the years, being the top goal scorer of all time for the CANMNT. Hopefully, he will rediscover the form that he had just a little while ago in club soccer.
Rumoured Club: Real Madrid
It does not appear that Alphonso Davies is currently on the move from Bayern Munich as he has signed a contract until 2025 with the club. However, according to various Spanish media reports, he is reportedly a target of Real Madrid. They plan to make him one of their top targets in the summer 2024 transfer window, which is when he only has 1 year left on his contract. Given Alphonso’s high transfer market valuation (around $75 million), Los Blancos are deploying this strategy as it would decrease the cost to sign the Canadian.
Kamal Miller and Joel Waterman
Rumoured Clubs: Not specified in much detail.
There doesn’t seem to be too many details on these two players, but I have read that they both have interest from abroad. The rumours around Kamal Miller have almost no extra details, but there have been reports from Turkey that Joel Waterman has interest from Besiktas. Besiktas is the current club of CANMNT legend Atiba Hutchison.
Rumoured Clubs: Napoli, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Premier League clubs
Only a few years ago, Tajon Buchanan signed for Club Brugge from the New England Revolution for a reported $7 million. Already, he’s been picking up interest from English Premier League and Italian Serie A clubs, who value him around $20 million each. Specifically, TSN has reported that Napoli, Inter Milan and AC Milan are all interested in the midfielder. Inter Milan appears to be the most interested of the bunch, in part due to Buchanan’s performances in the World Cup a few months ago.
Rumoured Clubs: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal
This transfer rumour is another exciting one. Manchester United is currently considering signing Jonathan David as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo in the striker position. There have also been rumours that Arsenal and Chelsea are interested in signing him as well, but it appears that United seem the most interested given their current situation. We’ll have to see if he stays after this transfer window, as I can imagine that it would be hard to resist a move to the Premier League.
Those are the transfers and transfer rumours that we know of so far, I’m sure that we’ll start to see some more action regarding some of these rumours in the coming months. It’s amazing to see how many players are rumoured to go to top-level clubs, from Inter Milan to Real Madrid. I remember just a few years back I was shaking in my boots whenever we would play Honduras, given our 8-1 loss to them in 2013. Now we’re beginning to sound like a quality team, that has some of the top talents in world football. I’ll cherish this team while we still can watch them.