With the chances of Manchester United making a big name signing this summer receding faster than England’s chances of ever winning another World Cup, attention should turn to some of the outstanding young talent on display in South Africa. A handful of good performances in the tournament will obviously not guarantee long term success at Old Trafford but just like new signing Javier Hernandez made a huge impression for Mexico, there are others who have shown the sort of potential that Sir Alex Ferguson may be searching for. These are just three of them.
Pablo Barrera (Mexico) is a 22 year old wide midfielder from Pumas in Mexico. He caught the eye in the 2-0 defeat of France when he went forward beating Patrice Evra for pace Barrera then burst into the penalty area forcing Eric Abidal into a foul which won Mexico a penalty to secure a second goal.
The Mexican showed good composure and ball control, beat defenders with ease and has the confidence to take players on with explosive speed. He could be perfect for United on the left wing and a possible long term replacement for Ryan Giggs. Pumas is a fairly low level club in Mexico so there should not be some ridiculous transfer fee required. Playing alongside his Mexico team mate Hernandez will be an additional bonus.
Eljero Elia (Holland) from Bundesliga club Hamburger SV shows plenty of potential at 23 and is at home anywhere in midfield or up front. He came on late in the game against Denmark immediately adding much needed spark. His explosive acceleration got him past two Danish defenders before cleverly pulling the ball back for one of his attacking team mates.
Elia then saw his goal bound attempt bounce back off the upright for Dirk Kuyt to finish off and give Holland a two goal lead. He’s a tricky player in the mould of Cristiano Ronaldo and is highly adaptable with the technical ability to succeed in the Premier League. There have been reports that both Arsenal and Liverpool were showing interest in the Dutchman before the World Cup which may force Ferguson to hand over a sizable cheque if he’s to get his signature.
Fábio Coentrao (Portugal) will be an ideal replacement for Evra if the rumors of Real Madrid interest in the Frenchman have any substance. At 22 years of age Coentrao was a tower of strength for Portugal in the 7-0 demolition of North Korea showing plenty of discipline and strong running going forward. His penetrating run and delightful cross resulted in striker Hugo Almeida finding the net.
The Benfica defender has great balance between his defensive and attacking duties. Just like Evra, Coentrao can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye. He is versatile enough to play further upfield as a winger if required with an ability to put over some delightful crosses. His performances in South Africa will ensure that Benfica will demand a hefty fee but could prove to be good value.
Another outstanding performance was that of Portugal’s 27 year old goalkeeper Eduardo in the 1-0 defeat by Spain. It was the only goal conceded during his four matches in the tournament and with Sir Alex searching to replace the soon to be retired Edwin van der Sar, he could do much worse than to consider the Braga keeper. While the anticipated dazzling performances from the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres never materialised, there have been enough exciting talent on display to give Ferguson plenty to think about.
Who has been the best performer at the World Cup so far?