Beyond The World Cup, And Why It Looks Good for Spurs

I know that all the attention should be on the world cup right now, but allow me to spend a little time pondering what might happen next season. Every summer we have the merry-go-round of transfers. Long running sagas, lightning deals and everything in between. Fans panic or exult depending on goings and comings. Big, voracious clubs flex their muscles and look hungrily at up and coming players from smaller and feeder clubs.

But every 4 years, the picture changes, the World Cup rolls around, and the equation changes quite dramatically. No longer can clubs go about their transfer business in the same set manner. The biggest sporting event on the planet, the World Cup is all consuming for the 6 weeks or so. So it effectively takes half the transfer window out. But that’s not the only consideration.

There was a time when the World Cup was a shop window for a significant amount of young talent to burst into the limelight and on to the radar of fans and clubs (remember Josimar and Careca?). South American and East European youngsters often used the World Cup to present their case for playing for a top club. But today most half decent players are tracked long before they make the world cup squads. Many of them are already playing for top European clubs. Rafael Da Silva has been a fixture last season in Man United’s right back position, but he has both Maicon and Dani Alvez ahead of him in the Brazilian team and who knows how many other aspirants!

But negotiating the transfer window is quite tricky in a world cup year. Everybody wants the top players to be at their club, but there’s a significant risk here. Look at players like Maicon, Rooney, Messi and Villa – who have all had fantastic seasons for their clubs, will play in the world cup and then be back for duty in August. Depending on how teams do, the world cup could be quite gruelling by itself. Even if England don’t make it to the last stages, it’s likely that Rooney will play at least 5 tough games. How will these players cope with the stress and fatigue? I would think that most stars of the world cup, especially those who reach the last 4, will need extra time off at the start of the season, and managers will have to resist the temptation to rush them back into the team – else injuries are more than likely.

It’s worse when you’re trying to buy players. You might do a deal for a top player and then have him injured or fatigued and get only half a season out of him. Indeed the World Cup year should always be a transfer season of circumspection. If you’re among Europe’s elite clubs, it’s likely that many of your players are at the world cup anyway, unless, like Chelsea, there seems to be an injury curse going around – Drogba, Essien, Mikel & Ballack so far.

So the best strategy this season might be to buy top players from teams that are not going to do well in the cup. Rather than flock to the Brazilian or Argentinian superstars, this might be the time to look at players from Croatia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ireland, Russia or Ukraine, as these players will all have had a long rest. Assuming of course that there are nuggets of gold in these under-performing squads. Of course you can also look for teams unlikely to make it through the first round. Australia or Slovenia, Mexico or Uruguay. Finally, for English clubs, picking top players from Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland  makes plenty of sense.

When you add all this up, I would argue that contrary to popular opinion, Spurs will have a pretty good year next year and should make a good fist of staying in the top 4. With Modric, Kranjcar, Bale, Pavlyuchenko all missing the world cup, as are Huddlestone, Bassong & Bentley. Plus plenty of players who will travel to the cup but will spend much time on the bench. While King looks set to play, Dawson, Gomes, Crouch and Defoe are all likely to be subs at best. Lennon, Palacios and King are possibly the only starters in the World Cup, from Spurs. For a club this is arguably the best combo – the players get experience and confidence but are fresh for the new season!

No doubt Wenger, Ferguson et all will be hunting high and low for a top notch player who is least likely to suffer burnout at the World Cup 2010. But Champs League pressures notwithstanding, Spurs could be in a very happy position if they can maintain their standard.

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