Podcast: Scouting for Recruitment at the World Cup and other International Tournaments

Every four years, 736 players carry the hopes of 32 nations around the world as World Cup fever takes hold in households, towns and cities across five continents.

This year's event has attracted a global audience in excess of 3 billion and as with every World Cup, it has had its fair share of great goals, moments of individual brilliance, underdogs surpassing expectations, established nations returning home early and nail biting penalty shootouts.

Over the next 12 days we will continue to see players emerge who appear to thrive under pressure, delivering world-class performances in the midst of almost intolerable expectation, carrying the hopes of their respective nations. It is this type of talismanic performance which sees a player go from being just another established international footballer to a full-blown national hero, especially if his key contributions result in his country being crowned champions of the world come 13th July.

Whilst the competition is going on, organised domestic football in most parts of the world takes a back seat, with domestic competitions in South America and certain parts of Asia all being put on hold. But for recruitment departments at professional clubs, the world of football never stops and as the old cliché goes, the World Cup is the biggest shop window for players looking to impress potential future employers. This is especially prevalent this year given the number of free agents taking part.

It goes without saying that a good World Cup performance can do a great deal to improve a player’s profile, but what impact, if at all, do these performances actually have in a club’s decision making process ahead of recruiting a player?

Although the days of a club going into a World Cup knowing very little about players from some of the more remote parts of the world are over, thanks in part to the amount of data and video available, evidence suggests that players making an impact in the competition do stand a chance of securing a move to a new club.

Following the conclusion of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, over 150 of the players that took part ended up making a permanent transfer.

What was particularly striking was the wide variety of clubs from different parts of the world that went on to sign players following the competition. It will come as no surprise that two of the brightest stars of the young Germany side, Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, both ended up signing for Real Madrid, nor will it surprise you that Manchester City signed five players following the competition (out of 33 players who ended up joining new English clubs).

Key Transfers Following the 2010 World Cup

Name From To Fee
David Villa* Valencia Barcelona £35,000,000
Yaya Toure Barcelona Manchester City £24,000,000
David Silva Valencia Manchester City £24,000,000
James Milner Aston Villa Manchester City £24,000,000
Angel Di Maria Benfica Real Madrid £21,000,000
Javier Mascherano Liverpool Barcelona £18,000,000
Yohan Gourcuff Bordeaux Lyon £18,000,000
Ramires Benfica Chelsea £18,000,000
Bruno Alves FC Porto Zenit St. Petersburg £18,000,000
Edison Cavani Palermo Napoli £14,000,000
Mesut Özil SV Werder Bremen Real Madrid £12,000,000
Sami Khedira Vfb Stuttgart Real Madrid Undisclosed

fees based on figures quoted from online UK newspaper websites

* = transfer agreed prior to the start of the World Cup

What may be more surprising is that six players, including four under the age of 30, signed for clubs in Qatar, whilst Russian Premier League clubs spent a combined £60 million to recruit six players.

In addition, as we have seen from previous World Cups, we also saw examples of clubs signing players in pairs. South African duo Siboniso Pa Gaxa and Lance Davids signed for Lierse in Belgium, then later on in the summer two players from the unbeaten New Zealand squad, Ivan Vicelich and Chris Killen, signed for Chinese club Shenzhen Ruby.

There were also many cases of East Asian players migrating to Europe directly from their homeland following the competition. In total four Japanese players left the J-League to sign permanently for clubs in Germany, Belgium, Italy and England, in addition to Yuto Nagatomo, who joined Internazionale initially on loan. Even two North Korean players were able to make the move to Europe, as Tae-Se Jong moved from Japan to Germany with VfL Bochum, whilst Jong-Hyok Cha departed the DPR Korea League for FC Wil 1900 in Switzerland, where he has stayed for the past four seasons.

It goes without saying that a good World Cup performance can do a great deal to improve a player’s profile, but what impact, if at all, do these performances actually have on a club’s decision-making process ahead of recruiting a player? Is the tournament used simply to back-up judgements previously made by the scouting department over the course of the domestic season, or does it have a much bigger influence? Or does it depend on the size of the resources available to your club?

To try and establish answers to a number of these questions, we have assembled a panel of experts to discuss the subject in the latest episode of the Scout7 Podcast. On the show we have the former Hibernian, West Brom, Celtic and Middlesbrough Manager Tony Mowbray, Everton’s Chief European Scout Ian Atkins, and Leicester City’s Head of Technical Scouting Rob Mackenzie.

Left to right: Ian Atkins, Tony Mowbray and Rob Mackenzie

We are also joined later on by the former Liverpool Director of Football Damien Comolli, who discusses the relevance of player performance in both senior and youth international tournaments as part of the club’s wider scouting operation.

So for example, were James Rodríguez’s exploits at the Toulon Tournament three years ago of any significance when he was instrumental in helping Colombia win that tournament? Or did it mean nothing if those performances weren’t compared against what he was doing at the time week-in, week-out for FC Porto?

As the World Cup progresses to its latter stages, I hope the podcast offers you a genuine insight into how clubs are monitoring the competition.

If anything, it will at least provide you with a greater context to the inevitable big-money moves which will occur in the coming weeks and what impact the World Cup had, to a larger or lesser degree, on them.

by Andy Cooper PR & Project Manager

Published 01 July 2014