‘Parasite’ players may be viewed as a burden by a club, but they may be a solution in the upcoming World Cup.
During the UEFA’s World Cup playoff in March 2022, the term ‘parasite’ player was all over the news. It was mentioned by the Spanish media Marca to criticize Gareth Bale, a Real Madrid ace who was in-form while scoring a brace against Austria. It was a contrast to his performance for Los Blancos throughout the season.
The ‘Welsh Wizard’ might have deserved such nickname due to his lack of spirit, fitness and contribution for his club this season while he was still enjoying his big salary. Despite his poor form at the Bernabeu during the 2021/22 season, Bale never missed a Wales game and has always been motivated while playing for his country. The former Tottenham Hotspur player is the captain and a key figure in The Dragon’s success in the major tournaments, EURO 2016 and 2020, plus recently securing a spot in Qatar 2022.
Bale might no longer be a ‘parasite’ as he is heading for the exit. However, his contribution to his country’s return to the World Cup after 64 years may inspire other teams to do the same. The fact that the World Cup 2022 will be held in November-December will undoubtedly interfere with the clubs’ campaign in the 2022/23 season. The congested fixtures are inevitable. The fear of players’ burnout could impact the national teams’ world cup campaign in Qatar later down the road.
England manager, Gareth Southgate has expressed his concern on such issue. The fatigued players could end their World Cup dream. They only have a three-week break after this week’s Nations League matches, followed by pre-season. Then, on August 6 and 7, four European top tiers, including the Premier League, kick off their new seasons. Not to mention that the UEFA Champions League and other continental club competitions will complete their group stages before the World Cup begins. No wonder that the players’ health could be at stake once Qatar 2022 kicks off.
Parasite players have appeared in the world cup from time to time. Some even managed to flourish. Their presence in Qatar 2022 may be even more crucial than before.
‘Parasite’ Players Could Provide a Solution in the Next World Cup
Those Who Shone in the Past
South Korean forward, Ahn Jung Hwan was a perfect example of such in World Cup 2002. He was instrumental in bringing his country to the semifinals, the best performance for South Korea in world cup history. Ahn registered two goals and an assist in the tournament, including a winning goal in the round of 16 against Italy. Yet, he was only a back up in Perugia, one of the teams in Italian Serie A back then. During his two-year stint there, he only featured in 29 games. Unfortunately, Ahn was sacked by his club due to eliminating Italy in the World Cup.
Ronaldo Luiz, the top scorer in Japan-Korea 2002, was also in that category. After missing the entire season in 2000/01 due to a serious injury, the prolific Brazilian forward only made 16 appearances and scored seven goals for Inter Milan in 2001/02. However, he was able to net eight times in the final round, including a brace in the final.
The most recent was Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the 2014 World Cup. The current Venezia man was a key figure in Albiceleste’s success in reaching the final. He kept clean sheets in four fixtures, and made a number of clinical saves during the tournament. He was even named the man of the match in the semifinal against Netherlands despite making only nine appearances in all competitions in a one-season loan with Monaco throughout the 2013/14 season.
Those who Could Thrive in Qatar
For the upcoming World Cup, some ‘parasite’ players have the potential to shine. Liverpool man Roberto Firmino might be one of them. He has been losing his position as the main front three since the arrival of Diogo Jota. Yet, he still prefers to stay in Anfield for the 2022/23 season despite The Reds signing Uruguayan Darwin Nuñez from Benfica. Thus, with no warranty in the line up, the 30-year old versatile forward could be fit for Qatar, should he make the cut in the final squad.
The next ones are the Hazard brothers, Eden and Thorgan. Both have been struggling with their fitness and injury recovery lately, which costed them minutes in Madrid and Dortmund. Eden only made 18 appearance in La Liga, contributing only one. Thorgan was slightly better, featuring in 23 games of Bundesliga, nine of which were from the bench, and registered four goals and one assist. Qatar 2022 will be their last time to steal the spotlight as they are still regularly called up for Belgium squad.
Last but not least, two Manchester United wingers, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, could make the difference too. The duo, who failed to convert their penalties in the EURO 2020 Final still have a chance to prove their worth for The Three Lions, despite not being the main men in Old Trafford. Their new boss, Erik Ten Hag has yet to guarantee their place in the squad next season. Nevertheless, Rashford and Sancho have what it takes to thrive despite being warned over their future in the World Cup by Southgate.
Naming players who barely feature for his team’s campaign can be risky for the World Cup. Nonetheless, should they stay fit and motivated just like Bale, they could be the team’s secret weapon for the world cup campaign.