Big-earning players devalued at World Cup
The big teams came, saw, but failed to conquer the hearts of fans and South Africa with their footballing flair.
Some of them managed to stay on but couldn't keep the momentum going, while some played exceptional football to help their teams book a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Whatever fate the teams have met with, the hopes of millions of supporters the world over rested fully on the shoulders of the big players that wear the national colours. Those like Kaka, Ronaldo, Rooney and Henry may have shone in club colours, but somehow failed to work up that same magic in this World Cup. Is it fatigue or were they weighed down by too much expectations? It's difficult to tell. But excuses will never suffice.
Norma Godinho looks at the big-earners who flattered to deceive and those who barely managed to live up to the hype.
Lionel Messi (30m)
He is the World Footballer of the Year, and rightly so. This Argentine superstar has almost single-handedly helped his club, Barcelona FC, clinch numerous European and national league titles year after year. So it's only fair that his consistent performances are fairly rewarded. With a pay packet of 29.7million pounds-a-year the Ballon d'Or winner is the highest played footballer in the World Cup in South Africa.
However, Messi has been a pale reflection of himself in this competition in South Africa. The goals have dried up and in the Albiceleste jersey Messi has done everything except find the back of the net.
He has played the roving role to perfection and his assists have been razor sharp but it's the goal drought that has his fans worried.
Well, let's just hope Messi's saving his best for last.
*(Player earnings in pounds)
Image: Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo (27m)
This 'Winking Winger' won the hearts of millions of Manchester United fans with his fancy step-overs and swirling free-kicks. Ronaldo, who earns a cool 27 million pounds-a-year, won more fans when he left Spanish audiences spell-bound with his trickery in Real Madrid colours last season.
But, for Portugal, he was far from convincing. He wore the captain's armband in this edition of the World Cup but did precious little to give his fans what they expected.
Except for the match against North Korea, which Portugal won 7-0, Ronaldo was more of an invisible character on the pitch. In the first match against Ivory Coast, he made a mess of the easiest of scoring opportunities and that meant the teams had to settle for a goalless draw.
In the next against Brazil though he did show some promise, especially in the second half, but that was never enough. And despite the goalless draw Portugal advanced to the next round.
In the round of 16 clash against Spain, Ronaldo was never in the game. He was a peripheral figure who clocked a couple of decent first-half chances but failed to score for the third time in four games in South Africa.
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Brazil's Kaka came into the World Cup with injury concerns. There were doubts about him recovering on time, but he made it to the former champions' first eleven. Save the odd assist, he hasn't been unable to leave his impression. The fourth richest player in the world looks subdued - no goals, no dream football - and there's nothing much to shout about.
Instead, he has garnered attention for all the wrong reasons. The Real Madrid forward was dismissed by French referee Stephane Lannoy for what he deemed to be two bookable offences in the game against Ivory Coast. As a result, Kaka missed the last group game against Portugal.
His affair with yellow cards continued in the round of 16 match against Chile. He received a caution, placing him in danger of a further suspension with the quarter-finals kicking off on Friday.
Thierry Henry (16.2m)
Thierry Henry is another one of those players who effortlessly fit into a 'richest players' list. But this Frenchman who has done wonders in Arsenal and Barcelona colours failed to get it right for Les Bleus.
It was Henry who led France into the World Cup after his controversial handball in the qualifiers that had Ireland knocked out in the play-offs. But when it mattered most, the French superstar was left on the bench by a stubborn coach in Raymond Domenech.
Critics said Henry, France's record scorer with 51 goals from 122 internationals, was past his prime and coach Domenech sort of believed those views without stopping to think if they hold true.
Henry was used as substitute in two games out of three and completely left out in the game against Mexico.
In the last group match against South Africa, he came in for Djibril Cisse in the 55th minute and wore the captain's armband, but couldn't do much to reverse the fate of his sinking team.
Image: Thierry Henry
Carlos Tevez (13.8m)
This Manchester City striker hasn't done exceptionally well in this World Cup. His controversial first goal in the round of 16 clash against Mexico might have portrayed him as villain. But all was forgiven after the Argentine struck a brilliant 25 meter pile driver in the second half to put that match beyond the Mexicans.
A top earner in the club, Tevez has shown glimpses of his brilliant self. Argentina will be looking for much more from him when they take on German in the quarter-finals.
Image: Carlos Tevez
Frank Lampard (12.8m)
This Chelsea veteran and another players who ranks high in the big earners' list was nothing less than a big flop at the World Cup. The 32-year-old's goal against the Germans was controversially disallowed, but that apart there is nothing much to write home about the mid-fielder.
Lampard has once again shown that he is not as effective in England colours as he is in the blue of Chelsea. He played in his usual position - on the right of midfield - but his shots on goal provided no results. Inaccuracy was his trademark all through the campaign.
Image: Frank Lampard
Wayne Rooney (12.2m)
England's Wayne Rooney was one of the most prominent faces in a popular shoe brand's 'Write The Future' series of advertisements. Now the future looks gloomy for this Manchester United star forward after England's World Cup campaign was brought to a grinding halt by Germany last weekend.
Rooney came into the World Cup after recovering just in time from an ankle-injury suffered during the Champions League match against Bayern Munich in March.
Of all the aforesaid players, he undoubtedly had the worst World Cup. He was never in form, played without a smile - as if he would rather be anywhere else. And although he came close to a goal in England's final Group C match against Slovenia, he had a miserable, sullen campaign.
Rooney was given no space to play and made no impact whatsoever in the round of 16 clash against Germany.
Veteran England goalkeeper David James sprang to the defence of him saying, "You have to credit the opposition. Teams like Germany knew how good Wayne was and did all they could to stop him," said the senior citizen of the Three Lions squad.
Image: Wayne Rooney
Samuel Eto'o (12.4m)
Probably one of the biggest mistakes Barcelona committed was to let go off Samuel Eto'o. Although he was the second most expensive player after Ronaldo in the summer sale, he couldn't do much at the World Cup for Cameroon.
He scored a goal each in the matches against The Netherlands and Denmark but there was nothing exceptional from him and that meant that Cameroon became the first team to go out of the World Cup.
Image: Samuel Eto'o
John Terry (10m)
England's John Terry may have tried hard but eventually his best was never good enough. The Chelsea centre-back has always given his best for the Blues but the England colours don't seem to inspire him that much.
England were terrible in the group matches against the US and Algeria and he nearly inspired a revolt against coach Fabio Capello. He openly admitted that the English players showed lack of fight, desire and belief during their lacklustre draw against Algeria.
His only noteworthy performance was against Slovenia when he dived full length to deny Zlatko Dedic a sure goal. Just like his team-mates, he too failed to live up to his billing.
Image: John Terry
Didier Drogba (4.8m)
Didier Drogba was expected to lead the African charge at the World Cup. But the Ivory Coast captain, who played with a protective cast after fracturing his arm before the tournament, was no where close to his scoring self and not in the same form he enjoys in the Chelsea jersey.
His shots were mostly inaccurate but, at least, had the personal satisfaction of becoming the first African to score a goal against Brazil in the World Cup when he netted in their 3-1 defeat at Soccer City.
Image: Didier Drogba
Steven Gerrard (9m)
England captain Steven Gerrard failed to inspire his team through their campaign. Even though he scored the first goal for England in the competition, he failed to deliver when it mattered most.
Like we saw in the last World Cup, this time too he failed to gel well with Frank Lampard in mid-field. This was the biggest let down.
He worked tirelessly to create chances by playing upfront, but that left too many gaps in the middle for the opposition to exploit. In sum, he was uninspirational and that probably rubbed off on the team as well.
Image: Steven Gerrard
Fernando Torres (4.7m)
Torres has looked well short of his best after returning from knee surgery days before the Word Cup. The Spanish forward didn't have the best of seasons with Liverpool in 2009-10 and seemed to have carried that form into the World Cup. His injury woes only added to his slump in form.
Expectations were high. Torres was expected to turn on the heat in the competition. But he has been unable to do anything for Spain. He hasn't had much feel of the ball and whenever had a shot at goal it was anything but accurate.
He was deployed in attack with David Villa from the start in Spain's last three matches in South Africa after being brought on as a substitute against Switzerland in their opening Group H game.
Spain plays Paraguay in the quarter-finals at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium on Saturday and the winners will take on Argentina or Germany for a place in the final. If they are to go that far, the Liverpool livewire will need to fire. Surely, team coach Vicente del Bosque will be counting on him.
Image: Fernando Torres