Wind back the clocks to 10 months ago and players like Paul Pogba and Luka Modric were on top of the world. Granted, Modric’s World Cup ended in tears as Croatia lost the final to Pogba’s France, but the summer served to provide some long-overdue recognition for the midfielder’s talents – a feeling Pogba could relate to, as well.
But a year later, both players have come crashing down to Earth after tough seasons for their respective clubs – and they aren’t the only ones to go from starring in Russia to struggling at home.
Here’s a look at five World Cup stars who have flopped since going back to their clubs.
Modric was the star of the World Cup. Croatia’s miracle run to the final was built on the work ethic of the entire team, but their star midfielder was the man who elevated them from industrious to brilliant by sprinkling his genius.
His play last summer duly earned him the Golden Ball award at the tournament, and recognition as the world’s best midfielder at the time.
After the high of the summer, Modric has experienced a dramatic comedown. Though he won the Ballon d’Or in the middle of the season to break the stranglehold of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on football’s top individual accolade, his form dipped sharply.
One season after he was helping deliver a third straight Champions League title to Ronaldo and the rest of his Real Madrid team-mates, the abiding memory of Modric’s season is when he was outplayed by Ajax’s 21-year-old rising star Frenkie de Jong in the middle of the park as Madrid crashed out of the competition to the Dutch side.
There was speculation last summer of a potential move to Inter Milan, but recent reports have suggested that Modric is set to sign a contract extension at Madrid.
At 33, perhaps it is time for the Croat to take a step back and become a reliable veteran presence in the Los Blancos squad rather than one who is expected to play week in, week out at a world-beating level. Perhaps an extended summer break and full preseason will help him rediscover that form, but Madrid need fresh legs in midfield and there’s nothing better than having the reigning Ballon d’Or winner to guide younger stars.
What does a Ballon d’Or really change?— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) May 23, 2019
Luka Modric will unilaterally activate a contract extension with Real Madrid of 1 more year for 10.5m€ wages thanks to a contract clause saying that in case of Ballon d’Or his contract could automatically be extended for 1 more year
Pogba bought into the team ethic in France colours and reaped the rewards, lifting the World Cup trophy after a tournament in which he didn’t quite set the world on fire, but instead showed he had the maturity to play a defined role to help lead a team to success.
After scoring in the final, his reputation had never been better, especially after footage emerged that Pogba was the player who delivered the team talk ahead of the clash against Modric’s Croatia.
Fast forward a year later and Pogba seems to be at a crossroads. Despite having statistically the best club season of his career, his inconsistency and perceived lack of effort in a Manchester United shirt have seen a section of the fan base turn on him, and though a falling out with Jose Mourinho was mitigated by the Portuguese manager being sacked and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there has been talk that he could be on his way out of the club this summer.
Real Madrid? Barcelona? Manchester United as captain? Pogba’s future is up in the air. United don’t want to lose a player they know is one of the best in the world and, under the right circumstances, can be even better. Watching him fulfill his potential elsewhere will be hard to take.
Equally, he can be a frustrating player to watch when he’s not on song. Whether he wants to be part of a rebuild, let alone the central figure of one, is the million dollar question.
Paul Pogba 2018/19. The starter of attacks, our most creative player, the life in our midfield and our top goalscorer - all from centre mid. Put some respect on him. pic.twitter.com/tho6aTyB12— The Man Utd Way (@TheManUtdWay) May 25, 2019
Courtois won the Golden Glove in Russia last summer and had seemingly reclaimed his status as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, after an up-and-down season at Chelsea had seen the doubts creep in about his status. He was instrumental in Belgium’s run to the semi-final, pulling off several outstanding and crucial saves.
His form at the World Cup earned him a dream move to Real Madrid, and after some controversy over which of Courtois and Keylor Navas would be the first-choice goalkeeper, Courtois seemed to get that status seemingly by default.
But over the season, his reputation was once again eroded as he kept letting goals past him – though in fairness to him, Madrid’s defence should bear a large share of the culpability for that. There’s no doubt that the Belgian himself was at fault for several of those goals, however, even if he was still capable of pulling off great saves.
Navas is likely to leave Madrid this summer, which means Courtois will be the unquestioned No1. He’ll also have had a year of playing for the club under his belt and thus will hopefully be more settled in his new surroundings, with the pressures of playing for Madrid perhaps having affected his form in his debut season.
There’s no talk of an exit or of Los Blancos looking for an alternative to Courtois after just one season, but if his form doesn’t improve the club may decide they can’t afford to keep waiting on him to hit his peak again.
Keylor Navas at least gets to say goodbye the right way. I feel he’s never really gotten the respect he deserves - not easy behind Madrid’s defence - but he took over from Casillas, was outstanding after the De Gea fiasco and has been much, much better than Courtois this season.— Andrew Gaffney (@GaffneyVLC) May 19, 2019
Brazil had another disappointing tournament, losing to Courtois’ Belgium in the quarter-finals after entering the World Cup as one of the favourites to win it all. But amidst the gloom Coutinho was getting praise for his displays in the famous yellow shirt, as some even wondered if he was the more reliable, and thus more important, player for the Selecao compared to Brazil star Neymar.
Given that at that point, he had already been a Barcelona player for nearly six months, it seemed he was ready to become a star at the La Liga giants.
The reality has been different. Coutinho has been unable to justify being in the starting XI, let alone establish himself as a Barca star. His status as the club’s record signing doesn’t help, as 21 goals and 11 assists – and just 11 and five in 54 appearances in 2018/19 – is an abysmal return for a fee that could rise as high as £142million.
Though manager Ernesto Valverde has tried to keep his faith in the Brazilian – some would say he’s placed too much trust in Coutinho – the fans have turned on him and the club are ready to move on from him after just one full season.
Almost certainly away from Barcelona. It’s likely that Antoine Griezmann arrives this summer, paving the way for Coutinho to leave – perhaps to make a return to England, where Chelsea and Manchester United, rivals of former club Liverpool, have both been linked with a move. There’s no questioning his talent but his sojourn in Spain has seen Coutinho lose his way.
The transfer budget of some football clubs is lower than #Coutinho’s salary! 😮 pic.twitter.com/dtsQ7EeKMV— Sport360° (@Sport360) May 23, 2019
At the end of last year’s World Cup, Trippier was being talked up as one of the best right-backs in Europe. His attacking play had been a key feature of England’s success, and scoring a free-kick to put the Three Lions ahead against Croatia in the semi-final, giving them a glimpse of reaching the final, only added to his reputation.
After a summer which had seen Trippier seemingly emerge as the perfect replacement for Kyle Walker, who had left Tottenham in 2017, the season that followed saw the Spurs man fall back down to earth.
The 28-year-old has managed just one goal and five assists for the Lilywhites all season, though he could yet redeem his campaign this weekend when Tottenham face Liverpool in the Champions League final. In the meantime, though, his stock has fallen so far that he was dropped from the England squad which will play in next month’s UEFA Nations League finals.
Despite the renewed questions over Trippier’s ability, there are still leading clubs reportedly chasing the right-back’s signature in case he leaves Spurs this summer. Manchester United and Napoli have both been linked with the Englishman.
Tottenham have Serge Aurier in their squad and Kyle Walker-Peters as a potential homegrown replacement at the position, though the 22-year-old’s readiness to be a starting XI player for Spurs is still in doubt. But given Spurs’ penchant for developing players but knowing when to sell, the opportunity to make a profit on Trippier may be too good to turn down.
🗣️Southgate on Trippier: "Of course, he's had such a big impact, he had such a brilliant World Cup. He has been a really valuable member of our squad and has a great attitude with us, real passion in playing for England but Trent and Kyle have finished the season so strongly." pic.twitter.com/ZvjMIxhRTA— Standard Sport (@standardsport) May 27, 2019