The World Cup stars who could be on the move after Qatar

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The World Cup is the biggest marketplace in soccer.

Perform well in front of a global audience and chances are that Europe’s leading clubs will soon come calling.

And with the transfer window opening in January, Qatar has been the perfect opportunity for emerging players to boost their prospects of a big move.

For instance, Manchester United suddenly has a hole to fill in attack after terminating Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract last month.

Liverpool plans to refresh its midfield and Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are always on the lookout for the next big thing.

Here are five players who could spark transfer interest after the World Cup:

JUDE BELLINGHAM, ENGLAND

Midfielder Bellingham was already expected to be one of the most sought-after players in Europe at the end of the season, with Manchester United, Man City, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain among his admirers.

His club, Borussia Dortmund, is renowned for selling its star players and Bellingham, 19, is expected to be next.

He lived up to all the hype surrounding him ahead of Qatar with standout performances in England’s run to the quarterfinals.

The only question now appears to be just how much money it will take to win the race for the teenager.

AZZ-EDDINE OUNAHI, MOROCCO

Midfielder, Ounahi, certainly made an impression on former Spain coach Luis Enrique.

“He can really play,” Enrique said after Morocco beat Spain on penalties in the round of 16. “He didn’t stop running, he must be exhausted.”

Ounahi, 22, is technically gifted on the ball and appears to have boundless energy to get around the field. He looks like a complete midfielder.

Currently playing for the bottom placed team in the French first division, Angers, he could be one of the big movers after the World Cup.

CODY GAKPO, NETHERLANDS

PSV Eindhoven forward Gakpo was already on Manchester United’s radar in the summer and that interest could be renewed in January after Ronaldo’s exit.

His three goals in the group stage highlighted his potential to be a prolific striker, which is precisely what United coach Erik ten Hag wants to add to his team.

Gakpo is a very modern forward, who can operate in wide positions or more centrally, which will appeal to a lot of clubs.

“Things can change, but Cody has everything it takes to become a star,” said Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.

GONCALO RAMOS, PORTUGAL

Arguably no player made more of a spectacular impact at the World Cup than Ramos.

As a surprise replacement for Ronaldo in Portugal’s lineup against Switzerland in the round of 16, he went on to score a hat trick.

The powerful 21-year-old Benfica forward has already earned admirers after scoring 14 goals for his club before heading off to Qatar. And after producing a performance like that on the biggest stage, his stock will have risen even higher.

JOSKO GVARDIOL, CROATIA

The addition of a protective mask, following a pre-tournament facial injury, made Gvardiol an even more daunting sight for opposition strikers.

The 20-year-old center back was a dominant figure on Croatia’s run to the semifinals, with standout performances against Belgium and Brazil.

The RB Leipzig defender has already been linked with a number of top European clubs and it feels like a matter of time before he makes a big move.

An abiding memory of his tournament might be when he was turned inside out by Lionel Messi in the buildup to Argentina’s third goal in the 3-0 win against Croatia in the semifinals. But he even saw the positive side of that.

“It’s at least something I can talk (about) with my kids one day that I guarded this great, great player,” Gvardiol said.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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