There are plenty of clubless players that made their marks in the World Cup history, but only a few were notable, with one also winning the competition.
Being without a club is unquestionably devastating for professional players. They are at risk of being overlooked before a major tournament. Australian international Tom Rogic almost became clubless for the upcoming World Cup. Luckily, he managed to join the EFL Championship side, West Bromwich Albion.
Distinguished Clubless Players in World Cups
In the past, there were several clubless players in World Cups, particularly in editions before World War II. Many players were still semi-pros at the time. As a result, it was not an anomaly. However, it has been unusual since the professional era.
Some players made the cut for the World Cup final squad despite being unattached. They were without a club for various reasons, ranging from an expired contract to still being a University student.
Here are a few of those notable clubless players in world cups. Not only did they serve as unused substitutes, but they appeared in games and even helped their teams to reach further stages.
Simon Elliot ( 2010)
The New Zealander defensive midfielder was unattached after being released from San Jose Earthquakes in 2009. Yet, he played in World Cup 2010. It was the All Whites’ second appearance in the competition. 36-year-old at the time, Elliot was a significant figure in the team due to his experience playing for Fulham and LA Galaxy. At the group stage, he featured in all three games. Elliot helped Ricki Herbert’s men stay unbeaten against Slovakia, the reigning champions of Italy and Paraguay.
Tony Cascarino (1994)
He was one of the experienced strikers in the Republic of Ireland and a regular member of the squad in EURO 1988 and World Cup 1990. However, Cascarino was in-between clubs before USA 1994 since Chelsea did not extend his contract. Unfortunately, the forward only played 16 minutes in the tournament. He came off the bench in The Green Boys’ last game against the Netherlands in the round of 16. The former Aston Villa and the Celtic man eventually ended his spells in England and moved to France till he hung his boots.
Alexi Lalas & Tony Meola (1994)
Both participated in the United States Men’s National Soccer team (USMNT) in 1994. Both were part of a few that were clubless in the squad. It was a rare case since the USA had not launched the Major Soccer League (MLS) only came into existence afterward. The 12 players were under the contract of the US Soccer Federation full-time throughout the 1993/94 season to prepare for the competition.
Lalas and Meola featured in four matches. The latter even wore the armband. They brought USMNT to the round of 16 before losing to Brasil. Lalas eventually joined Italian Serie A side Padova after the world cup. Meanwhile, the goalie Meola, who once played for Brighton and Watford, decided to switch his career to American football. Sadly, he failed to succeed and returned to the pitch by signing with New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 1996.
Andre Ooijer (2010)
The Dutch defender was already 36 years old when he was included in the squad by Bert Van Marwijk for the 2010 edition. He left PSV Eindhoven before the tournament and became a free agent. Ooijer was in the lineup and played well when De Oranje snatched a 2-1 win over Selecao in the quarterfinal. It was the only game he featured in the competition.
Cha Du-Ri ( 2002)
Cha was a versatile player in Guus Hiddink’s squad in 2002. He was still 21 years old and registered as a student at Korea University back then. However, that did not stop him from being included in South Korea‘s world cup squad. Cha was named once in the lineup against Die Mannschaft in the semifinal and came off the bench three times in the world cup. The forward who could turn into a right-back moved to Germany after the tournament. He spent most of his career playing for seven Bundesliga outfits, including Eintracht Frankfurt, Freiburg, and Mainz, under Jurgen Klopp.
Alberto Tarantini (1978)
He is one of the best clubless players in world cup history. The Argentine left-back was the mainstay in Cesar Menotti’s side as he played in all seven games of World Cup 1978, including the final. He even scored one in a 6-0 rout versus Peru. Tarantini became clubless due to a contract dispute with Boca Juniors just a few months before the kick-off. After lifting the world cup trophy, he flew to England to take the offer from Birmingham City.