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.
Three key takeaways from Crystal Palace’s transfer window
The summer transfer window drew to a close on Thursday.
Crystal Palace finished deadline day with the last-minute confirmation of the loan signing of Jordan Ayew from Swansea City. The Eagles finished the window with four total signings, but only spent a total of £9.5 million.
The south Londoners made do with a tight budget and held on to their crown jewel Wilfried Zaha, resulting in a successful summer. Here are three things we learnt from Palace’s transfer business.
Don’t believe the tabloid hype
The Wilfried Zaha saga was perhaps the most drawn out transfer rumour of the entire window, and as many Palace supporters had expected, it was completely unfounded.
Despite the numerous claims that Zaha had rejected a contract, was eager to leave to a supposedly bigger club, or was itching to play Champions League football, the Ivory Coast international remained at Selhurst Park.
The winger still has four years left on his contract, has spoken publicly about his love for the club, and will again be crucial to Crystal Palace’s success this season. Still an Eagle, Zaha’s status reveals the sensationalist nature of many tabloids that aim to create unrest when none is present.
Doing business on a budget is difficult, but not impossible
According to The Guardian, Palace’s transfer budget was restricted due to the high wages being paid to star players such as Mamadou Sahko and Christian Benteke. Yet, in the face of these barriers, the club managed to secure a number of canny deals at a low cost.
Ayew was brought in on loan, goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and midfielder Max Meyer were free transfers, and Cheikhou Kouyate was the only purchase of the summer at £9.5 million.
Four players of top quality for less than £10 million represents astute business, and Palace should be applauded for conducting decent deals on a shoestring budget.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s absence will be felt thanks to Chelsea‘s terrible transfer policy
Crystal Palace made it no secret that they were eager to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to SE25 this summer, but unfortunately for both the club and player, Chelsea refused to let him leave.
On the face of it, it was an encouraging decision for Loftus-Cheek, as he would be finally handed consistent football at his parent club. Yet the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid further pushes the England international down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, leaving many to wonder why Chelsea barred him from a return to Crystal Palace.
In the end, the Eagles will miss his presence in midfield and will undoubtedly be frustrated to watch Loftus-Cheek wasting away on the Chelsea bench.
One to watch: Derby County’s 19-year-old midfielder Mason Mount
Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…
Mason Mount has arrived on loan at Derby County as a well-known quantity.
The Englishman spent a number of successful years in Chelsea’s youth academy, featuring under the Rams’ new assistant coach Jody Morris.
As a Blue, his progress has also been closely monitored by Derby’s new manager Frank Lampard, who was keen to bring Mount on loan after his stunning season in the Eredivisie with Vitesse.
“He’s creative, plays from central midfield in an attacking sense, scores, and creates goals,” Lampard said after the announcement that Mount would be joining Derby on loan this season.
These characteristics will be important for Derby who will once again be chasing promotion this season.
Mount is a dynamic threat in an attacking midfield role.
His ability to make correct decisions in attacking transition phases should prove crucial in unlocking the potential of the array of forward-thinking talent Lampard has at his disposal.
The 19-year-old is always looking to take risks to advance the ball and play attackers in behind the defence.
Similarly, he ensures routinely accurate delivery from set-pieces and is capable of scoring from dead ball situations himself.
Depending on the formation Lampard will look to play at Derby, Mount could also be suited to play as a number eight – his ball-carrying quality is another one of his strongpoints that would be particularly useful in such a role.
The 19-year-old has already proven his capabilities at senior level, but the Championship provides him with another chance to showcase his qualities to his parent club in a league with a different dynamic.
In saying this, Mount’s game should translate well to English football as it is not overly predicated on any particular style of football, nor is he reliant on a system being shaped around him. He is dynamic.
Derby should target Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, hand him the number nine shirt
Derby County are set to embark on the dawn of a new era under the management of Frank Lampard.
Sky Bet Championship outfit Derby County recently unveiled their squad numbers for the 2018/19 campaign, on their official website, and the obvious omission from the list was the void of a number nine
The Rams have signed five new players this summer and it was thought in some people’s eyes that big-money recruit Jack Marriott, who arrived from Peterborough United, might be handed the famous shirt number
Marriott has taken number 14 and it leaves those of a Derby persuasion with a a sense of suspicion that boss Frank Lampard might not be quite finished in the transfer market just yet.
Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been heavily linked with a move to the East Midlands, but given the money that the Tractor Boys are wanting to recoup for their star attraction, the Rams might be better off looking elsewhere to bolster their attacking ranks.
Lampard has already raided his former club Chelsea this summer to sign highly-rated youngster Mason Mount and a return to Stamford Bridge to request another favour might be in the Derby boss’ best interests, when it comes to signing a new striker.
Striker Tammy Abraham is not expected to get much of a look in under new Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri and another loan move away from London could be on the agenda for the man who spent last season on loan at Swansea City.
In netting five goals from his 31 Premier League appearances at the Liberty Stadium he hardly set the league alight, but it is the form he showed during a loan spell at Bristol City that should tempt the Derby boss into a move for the talisman.
During his season-long stint at Ashton Gate he netted 23 goals from 41 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, demonstrating a devastating level of composure in front of goal at Championship level.
The Rams aren’t blessed with loads of pace when it comes to out-and-out strikers and Abraham’s youthful exuberance would make him a shrewd addition to Lampard’s new-look Rams squad, whilst a player of his ability would be more than worthy of wearing the number nine shirt.
Exclusive: George Williams on his Fulham spell, Euro 2016 and two year ambition
We caught up with the former MK Dons and Fulham prospect, now plying his trade for Forest Green.
Exclusive: Christian Doidge discusses new season, career highlights and transfer speculation
The Forest Green Rovers striker spoke to The Boot Room ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
Exclusive: Cardiff City’s Joe Bennett discusses his new contract; promotion and new signings
The full-back spoke exclusively to The Boot Room as he looks ahead to the Bluebird's top flight return.
Fulham24 hours ago
Three things learnt from Tottenham’s win over Fulham: Moura proves his point
Everton8 hours ago
Mason Holgate display shows Yerry Mina he has a fight on his hands
Player Analysis20 hours ago
Analysing how Toby Alderweireld performed in promising Tottenham return against Fulham
Aston Villa7 hours ago
Aston Villa’s Jed Steer treatment now looks even more baffling
Player Analysis19 hours ago
Lucas Moura proved his point for Tottenham against Fulham with dazzling display
Tottenham Hotspur8 hours ago
Early signs from James Maddison suggest Tottenham targeted the wrong man
Leeds United24 hours ago
Three things learnt from Leeds’ win over Rotherham: Roofe justifying his place
Leeds United8 hours ago
Leeds United misfit Pierre-Michel Lasogga scores twice in two minutes