Some of these guys pan out, while others fail.
Here are the candidates this year.
James Rodriguez (Colombia)
James was already on the map after getting sold to AS Monaco along with Joao Moutinho for a combined $102 million last summer. At the World Cup, though, he looked like one of the best players on earth. He outplayed Ronaldo and Messi, scoring six goals in five games for a Colombia team that was the most exciting squad in the entire tournament.
According to the Spanish newspaper AS, he will be sold to Real Madrid for $107 million.
Toni Kroos (Germany)
The 24-year-old finished the World Cup with two goals and four assists. In a team filled with star players — where the likes of Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, and Sami Kheidra came off the bench at times — Kroos stood out.
Three days after the final Bayern Munich sold him to Real Madrid for $34 million.
DeAndre Yedlin (U.S.)
Yedlin makes $92,000 for the Seattle Sounders, 72-times less than teammate Clint Dempsey. He might be the most underpaid player in the world. At age 21, he came into three World Cup games and was one of the USMNT’s most threatening players. He still has to learn to defend, but he looked like he belonged against Belgium.
The Sounders have reportedly set their price for Yedlin at $6.5 million. Italian giants AS Roma are interested.
Matt Besler (U.S.)
The Sporting Kansas City player was the best defender on a U.S. team that did a ton of defending in Brazil. At 27-years old it might be now-or-never for him making a move to Europe.
Besler told a radio station this week that he has two offers on the table from English teams, believed to be Fulham and Sunderland. If he stayed with Sporting Kansas City, they’d have to use a designated player slot to give him a raise from his current $200,000 salary.
Enner Valencia (Ecuador)
There was a strange lack of standout strikers at the World Cup. Of the top-five goalscorers in Brazil (James, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller, Robin Van Persie), only Van Persie is a true center forward. Enner Valencia was one of the only No. 9′s to break out. He scored three goals in three games.
He’s moving to West Ham in the Premier League from the Mexican club Pachuca for $20 million.
Divock Origi (Belgium)
Origi played so well that he took Romelu Lukaku’s starting spot after just two games. He scored a game-winning goal against Russia, and could have had multiple goals against the U.S. if it wasn’t for the heroics of Tim Howard.
The 19-year-old played for Lille in France last year. Now there are rumors that Liverpool wants him to replace Luis Saurez.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
It was truly the World Cup of CONCACAF Goalkeepers. Mexico’s Memo Ochoa, the U.S.’s Tim Howard, and Costa Rica’s Navas all played great. Navas may have been the best of the bunch. He helped the Ticos to their best World Cup ever, letting up just two goals in the process.
Like some other World Cup standouts, he’s now heading to Real Madrid from Levante for a $13-million fee.
Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
The Netherlands wasn’t supposed to do anything in Brazil. Most people had them going out in the group stage. Yet they made it all the way to the semifinals, mostly because unproven players like Depay turned out to be better than expected.
A handful of Premier League teams are now interested in snatching him away from PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie.
Paul Pogba (France)
The 21-year-old looked like the best box-to-box midfielder in the world in Brazil. His game is drawing comparisons to that of Yaya Toure, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s being linked to Manchester City should Toure leave.
He won’t come cheap, though. Reports in the English media put his price at $102 million.