Belfast Telegraph

Checking out the next batch of world stars who will be on radar of Premier League clubs

By Adrian Rutherford

It is the ultimate shop window. With the global spotlight on Russia, the World Cup is a showcase for players seeking a dream move.

In previous summers, a host of big-money deals were signed on the back of impressive tournaments.

Remember how El-Hadji Diouf was plucked from French football obscurity after starring in Senegal's run to the quarter-finals in 2002?

He cost Liverpool £10million from RC Lens but never delivered.

Salif Diao and Kleberson (also 2002 vintage), and more recently Divock Origi (2014) are further examples of why clubs are now more wary about shelling out inflated fees on the basis of a good World Cup.

Yet the opening days of Russia 2018 have seen a series of players catch the eye of cash-rich Premier League clubs.

Here are five who have stood out so far.

Hakim Ziyech

The Moroccan playmaker impressed in Wednesday's 1-0 defeat against Portugal.

Currently with Ajax in the Eredivisie, the 25-year-old is rated at £22million and has been linked with Liverpool.

He arrived in Russia on the back of another fine club season, which saw him named Dutch Player of the Year.

Ziyech can play anywhere across the front line, and has scored nine times in 20 appearances for the national side.

He has an eye for a pass, is comfortable on the ball and provides creativity - with 66 assists in 179 club appearances.

Ziyech's scoring record of one goal every three games from midfield is impressive.

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Mexico’s match-winner Hirving Lozano in action (Tim Goode/EMPICS)

Hirving Lozano

The star of Mexico's win over Germany, Hirving Lozano is another prospect from the Eredivisie.

The 22-year-old winger, who plays for PSV Eindhoven, continually exploited the space left by Joshua Kimmich in Sunday's 1-0 victory.

It follows a debut season with PSV which brought 17 goals and eight assists in 29 games.

His pace and technique are his biggest threats. As he showed against the Germans, Lozano is capable of making runs off the shoulder and also receiving the ball on the wing.

Lozano has already signed up with super agent Mino Raiola and has been linked with Barcelona and Juventus, plus Arsenal and Liverpool.

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Russia’s Aleksandr Golovin scored in the side’s World Cup opener (Adam Davy/PA)

Aleksandr Golovin

A series of Russian players have stood out so far, but Aleksandr Golovin is the one most likely to make a big move this summer.

The 22-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder set up two goals and scored from a free-kick in the 5-0 opening win over Saudi Arabia.

Against the Saudis, Golovin drifted into pockets of space, setting the tempo and direction of play.

He made his CSKA debut three years ago and has gone on to make more than 100 appearances.

Golovin has been heavily linked with Juventus in recent weeks.

However, his performances for Russia will surely catch other managers' eyes, with Arsenal reported to be interested.

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Serbia midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Linked with an £80million move to Manchester United, Milinkovic-Savic stood out for Serbia in their 1-0 win over Costa Rica.

The 23-year-old scored 14 goals and made six assists for Lazio last season.

His creativity repeatedly unlocked a resilient Costa Rican defence, and he also set up two chances for Aleksandar Mitrovic.

In the closing minutes, he adapted his game to a more disciplined role, winning tackles and holding his position.

Some see similarities between Milinkovic-Savic and Paul Pogba. Both occupy the same role on the pitch and mix raw physicality with eye-catching technical skills.

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored his fourth goal of the World Cup in the victory against Morocco (Francisco Seco/AP/PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Okay, so little surprise with this one. But Ronaldo has been the leading light for Portugal so far.

His early header secured victory against Morocco in a game where they were outplayed for long periods.

It came after his hat-trick against Spain, capped by that stunning late free-kick to rescue a 3-3 draw.

At 33, and probably past his world-beating prime, Ronaldo has shown he is still capable of taking his country deep into the tournament, just as he did at Euro 2016.

He hinted at a move away from Real after their Champions League final win over Liverpool last month, and there will be no shortage of interest.

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