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Top 5 World Cup Latino stars from 2014: What happened next?

Top 5 World Cup Latino stars from 2014: What happened next?

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 30, 2014

Keylor Navas, Costa Rica

Costa Rica were the surprise package of the World Cup, topping a group including Italy, Uruguay and England, before eliminating Greece and falling to Holland in the quarter-finals after a penalty shootout. That improbable run would not have been possible without a series of exceptional performances by their goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. The then 27-year-old won four man-of-the-match awards during the tournament – the same number as Lionel Messi – and afterwards joined Real Madrid, who triggered a release clause in his Levante contract by forking out around £7.9m. But Navas has yet to become first choice at his new club, making only four appearances this season as Madrid keep faith with Iker Casillas, who endured a hellish time at the World Cup and was thought to have left his best days behind him. But it seems Casillas remains Saint Iker at the Bernabéu. It is to be hoped Navas’s best is not behind him already.

Guillerma Ochoa, Mexico

Another goalkeeping World Cup star currently on bench duty. The charismatic Mexican announced at the end of the last season that he would not renew his contract at Ajaccio, where he enjoyed three successful years. That prompted an outpouring of affection and good wishes from the French side and his performances in Brazil led to him being linked to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, notably Barcelona and Liverpool. He eventually signed for Málaga, where he has failed to dislodge Cameroon’s Carlos Kameni from the No1 spot. He has not made a single appearance this season and is reported to be unhappy on the sidelines. Rumours of another transfer are already circulating, with Liverpool again featuring prominently in such stories. Simon Mignolet has been warned.

Enner Valencia, Ecuador

The striker hit three goals for Ecuador in Brazil (and one against England in a pre-tournament friendly), helping to persuade West Ham to splash out £12m to sign him from the Mexican side Pachuca, for whom he was the top scorer last season despite only joining in January. The now 25-year-old has adapted immediately to English football and thanks to his speed, trickery and exceptional aerial ability, helped to transform Sam Allardyce’s side into an uncharacteristically exciting combination, his partnership with the fellow new recruit Diafra Sakho being one of the success stories of the Premier League season. The last year, then, has brought huge progress in the career of a player who 14 months ago was still playing semi-professional football in Ecuador.

James Rodríguez, Colombia

The Colombian returned from Brazil with the Golden Boot award and legions of new admirers, many of whom had been puzzled just a year previously when Monaco spent around £38m to lure him from Porto, where he helped them to three titles in a row. He scored nine goals in 38 appearances for Monaco and finished as the leading assist-provider in Ligue 1 before heading to the World Cup, where his performances inspired the belief that Colombia could win the tournament for the first time. His long-range goal against Uruguay was voted the best of tournament and his five others made him the top scorer. Real Madrid had seen enough to snap him up for nearly double the fee that Monaco paid. Rodríguez has looked at home alongside Cristiano Ronaldo et al, scoring and creating plenty of goals and, er, launching a personalised range of underpants.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

The Argentinian, below, started the World Cup as if ready to finally live up to his international billing and put Diego Maradona in the shade. But he faded as the tournament progressed so his Golden Ball award must go down as just another nonsensical Fifa decision. But there can be no arguing with the records that the new all-time leading Champions League and La Liga scorer has set since. His feats may never be matched. Or, on the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo could surpass them any day now. It is the privilege of modern football fans to be living in an era when two of the best players in history seem to drive each other to ever higher peaks.

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