The World Cup is perhaps the biggest shop window in the game, a tournament often regarded as sport’s biggest event.
There is no grander stage than the World Cup and Qatar 2022 will provide a platform for players to showcase their talent in front of the watching world. A number of names have made major moves following past tournaments and we’ve decided to look at five players whose futures have dominated the transfer gossip columns in the build-up to the World Cup.
Here are five players in the shop window in Qatar.
Cristiano Ronaldo heads into the World Cup under a cloud of controversy, following that interview with Piers Morgan that looks set to bring an end to his second spell at Manchester United.
Ronaldo’s future has dominated the headlines since last summer, after the forward pushed for an exit from the club as the Red Devils missed out on Champions League qualification. The combination of Ronaldo’s advancing age and huge wages meant suitors were minimal, with little materialising despite links to a number of leading clubs.
Cristiano Ronaldo has nothing left to prove 😤 pic.twitter.com/ljvDYzA3u4
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 21, 2022
Ronaldo’s interview has effectively forced United into a termination of sorts, though in truth it will be a separation that suits both parties. The problem for Ronaldo will be finding a team of suitable stature to match his ambitions, with there unlikely to be a long list of clubs willing to build around a forward who will turn 38 in February.
A strong tournament in Qatar will improve those chances, as international football’s all-time record goalscorer looks to become the first man to score at five different World Cups. He will lead a talented Portuguese side in an attempt to win the one international trophy that has eluded him to date.
Cody Gakpo has been linked with a long, long list of clubs. After being named as Dutch Footballer of the Year last season, the PSV Eindhoven star has had a scintillating start to the new season.
Gakpo has emerged as one of the most productive players in Europe, having provided 30 goal contributions in just 24 appearances across all competitions for PSV.
The 23-year-old’s form has seen him secure a central part in the Netherlands’ plans for Qatar and as people who like to bet on the Fifa World Cups will be aware, he celebrated his World Cup debut with the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Senegal. The Dutch are unbeaten since exiting Euro 2020 in the last 16 and Gakpo headlines an emerging generation that has increased optimism.
Cody Gakpo has scored or assisted 33 goals in all competitions this season, the most productive player in Europe.
Breakthrough. 💥 pic.twitter.com/fJ8rqqakhz
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 21, 2022
Gakpo was the bright spark for the Netherlands in an otherwise ordinary performance against Senegal, impressing in an advanced role behind the forwards with his creativity and set-piece delivery. It came as no surprise when he found the breakthrough, ghosting in to nod home Frenkie de Jong’s delivery.
Tall, skilful and technically gifted, he might just have scratched the surface of what he is really capable of. A move to one of Europe’s biggest leagues beckons for Gakpo.
Youri Tielemans appears to have found form at just the right time, with the midfielder having impressed during Leicester’s upturn in results pre-Qatar.
After a difficult start to the season, Tielemans has been closer to his best level in recent weeks, scoring outrageous Goal of the Season contenders in wins against Wolves and Everton. He will form part of Belgium’s challenge at the World Cup, with Roberto Martinez’s side ranked as FIFA’s number two nation.
An absolute ROCKET from Tielemans! SENSATIONAL 💥🤯 pic.twitter.com/wicf3xVyzY
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 5, 2022
The midfielder was expected to leave Leicester after entering the final season of his contract during the summer, but remained with the Foxes. He has so far failed to agree an extension and will be free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with foreign sides in January.
The 25-year-old has discussed his ambitions to compete at the highest level and Tielemans will be an attractive option to clubs in search of midfield control. Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona have been linked with a free transfer move.
Hakim Ziyech is in need of a move to reignite his career after struggling for opportunities at Chelsea. Ziyech has produced just flashes of his Ajax best since moving to the Premier League and has barely featured for Chelsea during the current campaign
The 29-year-old has started just one fixture in the Premier League and totalled just 148 minutes of league action.
Hakim Ziyech from his own half 😱😱😱
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 17, 2022
He will form part of Morocco’s squad for the World Cup, where he will hope to make an impact after a brief international retirement. Ziyech fell out with former manager Vahid Halilhodžić, but has returned to the fold under Walid Regragui and will be crucial to Morocco’s hopes of progressing from a tough group containing Croatia, Belgium and Canada.
He has the invention that will be needed to break down top teams and will hope to rediscover the form he showed at Ajax, where he was involved in 130 goals in 165 appearances.
Canada will compete at the World Cup for the first time since 1986 this winter and while few are expecting John Herdman’s side to upset the odds, there’s some exciting talent in the Canadian set-up.
Alphonso Davies it the best-known name in their ranks, though Jonathan David is a forward who has been on the radar of Premier League clubs. David has scored 28 goals across the past two Ligue 1 campaigns for Lille and has nine in 15 appearances so far this season.
"I think the feeling would be amazing." 👌
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) November 20, 2022
The 22-year-old scored nine goals during Canada’s successful qualification campaign and has compiled an impressive goalscoring record for the national side. Since marking his senior debut with a brace against the U.S Virgin Islands, he has netted 22 goals in 35 caps.
Direct and full of pace, he will lead the line for a Canada team that has the physical threat to trouble teams in Qatar.