FourFourTwo have looked at five players heading to Russia who could potentially spark a move to the richest league in the world.
Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
Mexico’s squad contains plenty of experience – the 39-year-old Rafael Marquez is one of 12 players over the age of 29. PSV’s Lozano is the second-youngest member of their travelling party at 22, but he could be one of El Tri’s most important players as they attempt to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
An inverted winger who loves to cut inside from the left flank onto his stronger right foot, Lozano registered 17 goals and eight assists last term – his debut season in European football.
Everton are thought to be leading the race for the forward’s signature after the installation of former PSV director of football Marcel Brands at Goodison Park.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
Milinkovic-Savic enjoyed a breakout campaign in Serie A last time out, scoring 12 goals and providing three assists as Lazio came within a whisker of qualifying for the Champions League.
The 6ft 3in midfielder didn’t make a single appearance for Serbia in qualifying – something which allegedly led to former manager Slavoljub Muslin’s sacking – but now looks set to start alongside Premier League duo Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic at the tournament itself.
He could soon be sharing a pitch with his two aforementioned compatriots at club level, with a host of English outfits – including Manchester United and Arsenal – having been linked with a move for the 23-year-old. Milinkovic-Savic is a towering presence who’s also a tremendous technician, and provides guile and goals from the engine room.
Alvaro Odriozola (Spain)
Premier League followers were surprised by the omission of Hector Bellerin from Spain’s World Cup squad, with Odriozola getting the nod ahead of the Arsenal man at right-back. The Real Sociedad defender impressed in a warm-up friendly with Switzerland and could keep his place in the starting XI even if Dani Carvajal recovers from injury in time for the group stage.
Odriozola boasts superb delivery from wide areas, which is part of the reason why he’s occasionally been deployed higher upfield by his club. He’s also energetic and strong in the tackle, qualities which have reportedly led to Real Madrid and Manchester United sniffing around the 22-year-old.
Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)
Senegal were among the surprise packages of a shock-filled 2002 World Cup, beating holders France in the opening game and going on to reach the last eight. This summer’s edition will be only their second appearance at the finals, but their 23-man squad features its fair share of talent and the Lions of Teranga could again upset the odds.
Sarr will be central to their efforts in the coming weeks. The 20-year-old winger, who can play on either flank or even through the middle, was directly involved in eight Rennes goals after joining from Metz last summer – having allegedly rejected Barcelona before that.
Some strong showings in Russia could earn him a move to the Premier League, as several mid-table sides are likely to find his speed and dribbling ability appealing.
Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)
Many talented Eredivisie prospects flee the division while they’re still in their teens, but Ziyech remains in the Netherlands at the age of 25. And while Ajax are one of Europe’s most iconic clubs, a positive World Cup could lead to the Moroccan playmaker making a step up to one of the continent’s major leagues.
Ziyech contributed nine goals and 15 assists to his club side’s cause in 2017/18, and will be tasked with making similarly decisive final-third contributions this summer.
The ex-Twente man is a set-piece expert and dangerous dribbler who’s adept at sliding through-balls in behind opposition defences, and has reportedly been on Liverpool, Everton and West Ham’s shopping lists in the past. This time it’s likely to be for real.