KAMPALA: In compiling a credible World Cup scouting report, it’s pertinent to take into consideration that with the possible exception of the world’s richest two dozen teams, most clubs are yet to fully financially recuperate from a global financial meltdown precipitated by the Covid 19 pandemic and cost of living crisis occasioned by runaway inflation, the Ukraine crisis and China’s zero Covid policy. In brief, clubs are targeting maximum value.
Before a semifinal ball has been kicked, two Croatia national team players stand out as worthwhile targets for clubs chasing value for money players in next month’s transfer window. Dinamo Zagreb keeper Dominik Livakovic and RB Leipzig centre half Josko Gvardiol are both strong contenders for my team of the tournament. Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez has been phenomenal between the Pumas sticks but he’s already at Aston Villa whereas Yassine Bounou is keeping goal like a possessed man but he’s on Sevilla’s books. Both would cost an arm and a leg.
Even without his penalty saving heroics that’s seen him pick up two Budweiser man of the match awards, Livakovic has been monumental for Zlatko Dalic’s side. Gvardiol is less of a surprise. Looked askance when news outlets reported that Chelsea was preparing to bid £80m for the left sided centre back. Gvardiol, 20, is every inch worth the money. His fabulous positional sense searing pace, game reading and uncompromising tackling make him a natural successor to Thiago Silva, 37.
Two other Croats – Bruno Petkovic, 28, and Mislav Orsic, 30, are less attractive options despite being at Dinamo Zagreb, which is, with all due respect, a second tier European club. Petkovic’s hold up play is exemplary but he can only be good enough for a team the size of Wolverhampton Wanderers. He would definitely prove to be a bigger hit than Diego Costa. Orsic’s age is an impediment.
Morocco’s Chelsea want away playmaker Hakim Ziyech has several sporting directors casting amorous glances in his direction owing to his strong World Cup displays but not many teams can afford his wages. Ziyech’s case is not dissimilar to Stamford Bridge based mate Christian Pulisic, who can’t command sufficient playing time but is too costly for most suitors. Another Moroccan, Azzedine Ounahi, who is currently based at Ligue One basement club Angers, is suitable to less physical leagues such as Serie A and Liga Santander.