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Fernandez, Bellingham, Gakpo: World Cup’s breakout stars who could force clubs to break the bank

The FIFA World Cup, which concluded last Sunday with Argentina being crowned champions, witnessed the rise of the next generation of players who seem ready to take over the baton from the superstars, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric, among others, for whom this was the last appearance on the big stage.

Here, we take a look at some of the rising stars who performed well and could force clubs to bid high especially with the January transfer window in sight.

Enzo Fernandez

Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez poses with the Best Young Player award trophy. (Reuters)

Fernandez started the tournament as a substitute but was in the team to stay after scoring with his fast feet and a curling shot in Argentina’s victory over Mexico. Throughout the tournament, the 21-year-old Benfica player became a crucial crux of the midfield and ended with the Best Young Player award. In the all important final, Fernandez led all players for touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10). His 10 tackles were the most of any player in a World Cup showpiece match since Gennaro Gattuso in 2006 (15). Hence, he is widely regarded as one of the best up-and-coming midfielders in the world. Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester United are already being linked with a big money mover for the 21-year-old.

Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham 2 England’s Jude Bellingham. (Reuters)

Even before the World Cup in Qatar began, Bellingham made all the right noises with four goals in five Champions League matches for Borussia Dortmund. Bellingham, who has all the qualities of a truly generational talent, showed dominant midfield performances and took his country to the quarterfinals where it fell to defending champion France. However before the ouster, he did become England’s second youngest scorer at a World Cup, behind Michael Owen, with his headed goal in his country’s opening 6-2 rout of Iran. According to The Times Bellingham will cost £130m. Transfermarkt, however, values the England international at around £87m. Liverpool is hot in pursuit of him.

Cody Gakpo

cody gakpo Gakpo has been a target for Manchester United (Courtesy: Reuters)

Cody Gakpo caught eye-catching performances in Qatar. The PSV star netted in all three group games – one with his head, one with his left foot, and one with his right – proving himself to be one of the outstanding rising stars of European football. Had the Dutch gone deeper into the tournament, maybe Gakpo would have been in the race for the Golden Boot. Transfer Expert Fabrizio Romano has claimed that Manchester United has made Gakpo their priority and funds are already being made available. Man United head coach Erik Ten Hag and Gakpo are represented by the same agency and this might ensure a smooth path for a potential deal in the near future.

Josko Gvardiol

Gvardiol Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol playing the 2022 World Cup. (AP/Reuters)

Josko Gvardiol was phenomenal in the tournament, until that one game where he came up short against Lionel Messi, sparking memes that claimed that his stocks had just fallen down from the 100 million mark. On a serious note , Gvardiol was phenomenal in the backline for Croatia. Gvardiol already has more than 20 caps for his national side. With the goal against Morocco, Gvardiol at 20 yrs & 328 days became the youngest Croatian to score at the FIFA World Cup. Add to it are his performances for RB Leipzig this season and his price tag has surely inflated and it may take more than €100 million to prise him away from the German side. There is already interest from big clubs such as Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, and the end of this World Cup could trigger a serious bidding war.

Goncalo Ramos

Ramos 2 Goncalo Ramos in action during the World Cup for Portugal. (AP/Reuters)

Before his stunning hat-trick in Portugal’s round-of-16 clash against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos was relatively unknown outside his country. But after replacing Cristiano Ronaldo and scoring three in a game — the stocks for the 21- year-old have only gone upwards. Particularly impressive was his first goal when he scored from a tight angle. The youngster already has nine goals and one assist for Primeira Liga side Benfica this season. Unfortunately for Ramos, however, his World Cup dream did not last long after Portugal crashed out in the quarter-finals. In the transfer market, Ramos has a release clause of a staggering £103.5m

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