The World Cup is perceived by many to be the pinnacle of football – a competition where the best teams and players in the world come together to play the beautiful game.
Whilst the tournament in Russia will be the largest international football competition in history, with more teams participating than ever before, a number of high profile figures will be conspicuous by their absence this summer.
Here, The Boot Room highlight six star players that will not be at the World Cup.
Bale was one of the outstanding figures at Euro 2016 as Wales reached the semi-finals but the once most expensive football player in the world will not be in Russia this summer.
The 28-year-old has struggled with injuries throughout the season and has only been a bit-part figure at Real Madrid for much of the campaign. However, he remains one of the most dynamic attacking players in European football and provided everyone with a reminder of his ability with an astonishing brace in the Champions League final.
Unfortunately, Bale will have to be content with watching his Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo take centre stage this summer as Wales failed to qualify for this year’s competition.
The Belgian midfielder has been a crucial factor in Roma’s success this season, including helping the team to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Nainggolan is renowned for the quality of his passing and the consistency of his play and is widely regarded as being one of the leading central midfielders in Serie A. He also possesses an abundance of experience at international level and was part of the Belgian squad that competed at Euro 2016.
However, the 30-year-old will not be in Russia this summer having been omitted from Roberto Martinez’s squad and has subsequently announced his retirement from international football.
It is worth noting that Belgium are certainly not short of quality in midfield – Kevin de Bryne, Alex Witsel, Mousa Dembele and Marouane Fellaini were all selected ahead of Nainggolan.
Virgil Van Dijk
The Dutchman became the most expensive defender in world football after joining Liverpool in January for £75 million from Premier League rivals Southampton, yet he will not feature at the World Cup this summer following Holland’s failure to qualify.
Van Dijk has flourished since arriving at Anfield and played a key role in helping the club to reach the Champions League final. He has added steel, organisation and a new sense of resoluteness to Liverpool’s back line and, when on form, he makes the art of defending look infuriatingly easy.
However, the Dutch finished third in qualification Group A, missing out on a play-off spot to Sweden on goal difference, which means that Holland have failed to qualify for both of the previous two major international tournaments.
There is always a sense of excitement when Brazil arrive at an international tournament and in Neymar the team undoubtedly possess one of the best players in the world.
However, Chelsea defender David Luiz was omitted from Tite’s squad earlier this month meaning that the 31-year-old’s famous hair will not be on show in Russia.
Luiz has struggled for form and fitness throughout the campaign and has fallen considerably down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge following a string of injuries. However, Brazil are not blessed with an abundance of defensive talent and his omission has come as a surprise to many.
The Chelsea star would have been looking forward to redeeming himself in Russia after his horror-show in the 2014 World Cup, where he was part of the side that were beaten 7-1 by Germany on home soil, but will ultimately have to be content with watching the action from home.
Buffon has been a prominent feature of international football for the previous two decades and has been present at all of the previous nine major international tournaments. However, this year he will be absent from the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
The 40-year-old has been a constant feature for Italy since making his debut in 1997 and holds the record for the most international appearances having appeared 176 times for his country. He was part of the Italian team that won the World Cup in 2006 and has been an integral to the modern success of Juventus.
Buffon announced in May that he would retire at the end of the current campaign and Italy’s failure to qualify for Russia meant that the legendary goalkeeper was denied one last World Cup appearance.
The French forward is widely considered to have been one the leading striker’s in world football throughout the last decade, yet the 30-year-old will not be in Russia this summer as his international exile continues.
Benzema, who scored in the Champions League final last month and has been a prominent figure for Real Madrid over the last nine years, has scored 27 goals in 81 international appearances for Les Bleus and has been named as the French Player of the Year on three occasions.
However, he has not been selected for international duty since October 2015 after initially being suspended by the French Football Federation due to his alleged involvement in the extortion of Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema was expected to be recalled ahead of Euro 2016 but, despite rumours of a potential return, he was not selected as the team finished runners-up in the tournament.
Benzema has admitted that he has not received an explanation from France coach Didier Deschamps regarding his international exile and it appears unlikely that he will feature at a major competition again.
Rafa Benitez should plot Fernando Torres reunion at Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez should plot a reunion with his former superstar.
Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.
The Spaniard is calling for the club to back him in pursuit of a “10 to 15 goals a season” striker this summer, with the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) and Bas Dost (the Sun) circulating around the Newcastle rumour mill.
However, both would likely break the Magpies current club-record of £16 million – for Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2005 – and perhaps Benitez would be better served going for a former favourite.
Fernando Torres is a free-agent having left Atletico Madrid, following last month’s Europa League triumph and Newcastle should offer the 34-year-old a route back to England’s top flight this summer.
Under Benitez’s tutelage at Liverpool, Torres was widely recognised as one of the most formidable forwards in world football, and though his impact has diminished over the years, there’s no doubting the World Cup winner’s quality in front of goal.
The prospect of an elite level striker arriving at St James’ Park on a free transfer is a no brainier if the player can be convinced and the club should make it happen. He knows the league inside-out, having made 212 appearances for Chelsea – where he won the Champions League – and with Benitez at Anfield, and he could instantly propel Newcastle’s attack to higher levels.
Becoming a crucial part of a new project on Tyneside would be enticing for Torres, as his unwavering desire and tenacity on a football pitch is something that cannot be questioned. And he doesn’t seem the type to move to the States or China in pursuit of one last pay-cheque.
He has all the attributes to become a cult-hero at Newcastle, and the club should act now.
Arsenal fans call for Aleksandr Golovin signing after dazzling World Cup display
Arsenal fans are calling for an impulse signing after the World Cup opener yesterday.
Arsenal already possess any array of creative forwards, but Gooners are extremely keen on CSKA Moscow maestro Aleksandr Golovin, after seeing the midfielder dazzle in Russia’s World Cup debut againt Saudi Arabia yesterday evening.
The 22-year-old already had links to north London spanning back to January (the Sun), with Arsene Wenger revealing his admiration for the player’s talent ahead of the Europa League quarter-final clash against the Russian heavyweights in March.
And Golovin highlighted his obvious ability last night, as Russia routed Saudi Arabia 5-1 in Moscow, creating two goals for teammates, before rounding an impressive display off with a sumptuous free-kick in added time.
His vision and technical ability led the hosts to a comfortable victory, with a superbly placed cross finding Denis Cheryshev in the box to open the scoring in the 12th minute. Before he again showed his class to pick-out Artem Dzyuba with a floated cross, which the striker converted comfortably 20 minutes from time.
And Arsenal fans have taken to Twitter to demand that Unai Emery should re-ignite interest in the player this summer.
Here’s the reaction:
Golovin is such a classy AM. Sign him up @Arsenal !
— Ariel Ehsan Reynaldi (@arielehsanr) June 14, 2018
golovin is a beast. wish hed come to arsenal but looks like hes going to juventus
— Ismail Mostafa (@isher92) June 14, 2018
Inject a ‘Welcome to Arsenal, Golovin | Skills & Goals Compilation’ video directly into my veins.
— Father Figure (@Filop__) June 14, 2018
This Alesandr Golovin boy is si good on the ball, Arsenal should go for him.
— Ahmad Gozali Siahaan (@ahmad_siahaan) June 14, 2018
Arsenal have to be looking at Golovin during the world cup! Looks like a talent!
— Neil (@Neilmehta4) June 14, 2018
Been repping Golovin since he was first linked with Arsenal ?? feel like a proud dad
— ? (@Donhbankz2) June 14, 2018
Arsenal’s recent focus has been on landing Sampdoria’s industrious midfielder Lucas Torreira, as the manager looks to add balance to the team, according to the Guardian.
But it seems fans want Emery to keep a close eye on the World Cup this summer, as it has become something of a shop window in recent years. And Golovin could earn himself a high-profile move if he continues performing at such a high level.
Blow for Newcastle as Kenedy slapped with £20 million price tag
Newcastle United are unlikely to sign former loanee this summer.
Newcastle United have been hit with another blow in the transfer window, as key target Kenedy has been valued at £20 million by parent club Chelsea, according to reports from the Chronicle, which is likely to deter the Magpies from revisiting negotiations.
Rafa Benitez is preparing for a vital summer of recruitment after managing to secure a top-half finish in the Premier League table. However, fans are under no illusions that the club is likely to spend lucrative amounts like close competitors, given Mike Ashley’s recent track-record. But that doesn’t mean they’ll accept a lack of ambition from the club, progress is expected.
Sparta Prague goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has joined St James’ Park on a permanent deal this summer, but it’s unlikely fellow loanee Kenedy will follow, with Chelsea’s preference to sell the Brazilian starlet.
Newcastle’s current transfer record is £16 million, in a deal dating back to 2005, when the club landed Michael Owen from Real Madrid under the tenure of Graeme Souness. So it’s justified to be pessimistic about the chances of Kenedy returning to Tyneside this summer.
The deal becomes even more unlikely, with the news that Benitez is prioritising landing a reliable talisman capable of bagging “10 or 15 goals a season,” with the likes of £16 million rated Salomon Rondon being touted as the Spaniard’s priority target, according to the Northern Echo.
It’s not impossible for a deal to be completed between the two clubs, and Newcastle may just have to accept that it’s a sign of the times. £20 million in today’s market is considered a bargain in England’s top-flight and the upper echelons at St James’ Park will have to adapt if they have loftier ambitions next term, as the rest of the league won’t rest on their laurels.
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