Every other summer, media attention shifts away from club football and transfer rumours for a couple of months as England’s finest compete in a major international tournament; at least when they manage to qualify.
The players that command high transfer fees and feature week in, week out for their clubs don’t automatically become stars for their country though. Here we take a look at the players who will most likely be watching the World Cup from the substitutes’ bench, or even their own sofa, despite enjoying a high profile at club level.
Premier League stars who have been left at home
Leroy Sane grabbed plenty of headlines when he was left out of Germany’s final 23-man squad, but even though he commanded a whopping £45.5 million transfer fee, he is not the most expensive Premier League player to be left at home.
We have assembled an XI that cost their respective clubs an eye-watering £458m combined – according to transfermarkt.co.uk – with the most expensive spectators this summer being Chelsea’s misfiring £59.4m striker Alvaro Morata, Manchester United’s £54m Anthony Martial and £47.7m Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal.
Joe Hart’s exclusion from the England squad caused plenty of fuss this summer, but let’s not forget that Southampton once forked out nearly £12m for another England shot stopper, Fraser Forster, who will also be staying at home after a poor season.
The most recent mover in the list is Liverpool’s newest acquisition, Fabinho: the Reds were clearly not put off by the former Monaco man’s exclusion from the Brazil squad and parted with in excess of £40m to further bolster their midfield. Juan Mata and Ander Herrera complete a trio of Manchester United players who will not be in Russia this summer and big-money defenders Aymeric Laporte, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz round out an impressive team of World Cup rejects.
European league stars who have been left at home
Premier League clubs’ willingness to part with large sums of money for players who have failed to make the grade at international level looks even more frivolous when considering the other major leagues in Europe. Even when rolling together the most expensive signings made by clubs in Germany, Spain, France and Italy combined, the combined fees are still £168m cheaper than the equivalent Premier League team!
Boasting Champions League heavyweights such as Alex Sandro and Karim Benzema, the European squad is not without its stars but even their most expensive acquisition – Javier Pastore of PSG – would barely raise any eyebrows in the Premier League midfield.
Players who star for their club but not their country
Building on this, we have also taken a look at Premier League regulars who have struggled the most to break in to their country’s starting line-up despite being selected for the national squad.
The player with the biggest discrepancy between their share of playing minutes at international level and in domestic matches is Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, who played every minute of Huddersfield’s maiden Premier League campaign but has struggled to make the move from the bench to the pitch for Denmark.
The Dane is joined in the top 10 by high-profile names from the ‘big six’ such as Roberto Firmino, Fernandinho and Cesar Azpilicueta. Azpilicueta became just the fourth outfield player to play every minute of a Premier League title-winning campaign in 2016/17, and followed that up by featuring for 97.4% of minutes when in the matchday squad for Chelsea last term, but has been on the pitch for less than a third of the time when included on Spain’s team sheet.
Players who star for their country but not their club
At the other end of the spectrum are the players who might be feeling rusty going into the World Cup, having featured far less often for their clubs than they have at international level.
Top of the list is Mohamed Elneny, who has played every minute for Egypt when included in their squad, but has accumulated less than half of his possible playing time for Arsenal this season.
His Egyptian team-mate Ramadan Sobhi featured even less frequently for Stoke as they were relegated from the top flight, but managed to play almost three quarters of possible minutes for the Pharoahs.
Perhaps the most striking name on the list is Gabriel Jesus, who regularly leads the line for a highly-fancied Brazil team but has been in and out of the side at title-winning Manchester City.
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