GANGUE-RUZIC: Why Canada represents world football's next untapped talent gold mine
A chance to return to the world’s stage can present many opportunities for those involved.
Ultimately, the CanMNT’s first participation at the men’s World Cup in 36 years will be about enjoying the moment and trying to make as deep of a run as possible. Still, beyond that, it’s essential not to ignore what else is at stake for them when they take the field in Qatar.
For example, the chance to continue and inspire the next generation looking to play the sport is a big plus. As is the opportunity to potentially unite a nation around the sport for a couple of weeks, much as they did during qualifying.
One other aspect, however, is the impact that such a tournament can have on the overall credence of a country in this sport. Overnight, World Cup participants and their players can go from unknown commodities to global stars, which adds to the grandeur of the spectacle, one that can literally make careers in a flash.
Therefore, for Canada, this tournament also represents a chance for many of its players to enter the global consciousness of this sport, something that is just as important as the spectacle itself.
Of course, World XI alumnus Alphonso Davies, currently of Bayern Munich, shouldn’t have that problem. Ditto for Lille’s Jonathan David, who is already a champion of France and Canada’s all-time transfer record.
But for the likes of Alistair Johnston, Kamal Miller and Sam Adekugbe, for example, this tournament can help show the world why they were so key to Canada in qualifying, showing why some believe they can make the step up to bigger clubs and leagues post-World Cup.
To be fair, that belief can also be chalked up to Canadian bias, as those players will always be remembered in Canada for their exploits, but there’s also another aspect to consider in this discussion - it’s starting to be good business for clubs to look at Canadians.
Once a wild thought to imagine, as some of Canada’s top players littered in forgotten leagues or with the famed ‘unattached FC’, the power of a once worthless Canadian passport could be set to grow exponentially in the years to come.
Building off of the work started by Davies and David’s strong performances, more-and-more Canadians are proving the value that a Canadian passport can bring, showing that there could be some value in investing in those who hold the nationality.
Take Tajon Buchanan this past year for Club Brugge, as one example. After his transfer from the New England Revolution, he’s become an integral part of their club, helping them win the Jupiler Pro League last year, before embarking on a magical UEFA Champions League run this season.
Despite costing them just just $7 million, he's been a huge part of their success in 2022, and is expected to be sold sometime in the future for at least triple what he cost, if not more, should he keep this up.
And he's not the only example of the value that Canadians are providing at the top level this year, as you can't help but mention Stephen Eustáquio when talking about CanMNT players who provide immense value for what they cost their clubs.
Arguably Canada’s MVP of their qualifying run, he made the big move from mid-tier Portuguese club Paços de Ferreira to country giants, Porto, whom he first joined on loan at the beginning of 2022 before signing permanently for approximately $4 million dollars this summer.
There, he quickly found his feet, playing a decent role in their quest to do a league and cup double in the spring, before becoming a huge part of their start to 22/23, which has included them topping their Champions League group while remaining in the hunt to defend their league title.
Despite costing next to nothing, he has already paid back his fee and then some with his performances, and could very well get Porto to easily recoup his cost (and make a healthy profit) if he keeps this up.
And that list could go on and on, even if factoring in the more expensive Canadians such as Alphonso Davies ($11 million + add ons) or Jonathan David (~$35 million), who have still been immense value for their price, and would be sold on for a healthy profit today despite what they cost.
So with the World Cup right around the corner, and with it the value boost that it can provide to players, you can only imagine what that could do for some players.
Because of that, look for clubs to start and get in early on this Canadian gold mine, one that is starting to be littered with quality talent, especially of the youth variety.
It's no coincidence that in MLS, for example, this year saw 56 Canadians see the field for a total of 50 178 minutes, representing the second-highest number of players from one nationality in the league, as well as the third-most minutes.
Just five years ago in 2017, Canada sat second in terms of players that saw the field, but narrowly in fourth in overall minutes, despite being a major stakeholder in the league.
Now, however, the tide is turning, and in a big way, as Canadians are being trusted more than ever to help play a big role for MLS teams. Plus, with more Canadians making the jump from MLS to the top level, such as Davies, Buchanan, Cyle Larin and (*technically*) Richie Laryea, it's only a matter of time before European teams start poaching some of those players with regularity, as is being seen south of the border.
And that's not even the real Canadian gold mine that is yet to properly blow up - the Canadian Premier League. Having just finished its fourth year of existence, it turned out to be a pretty monumental year for the league, especially on the transfers front, as some of the league's top players have been able to make the jump up to higher leagues for decent fees.
There, many of them have provided great value, as Victor Loturi has become a semi-regular for Scottish Premier League side Ross County, while Lukas MacNaughton was a regular for Toronto FC in MLS this year, among others.
Not a bad year for #CanPL moves, eh?— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) July 27, 2022
Lukas MacNaughton —> #TFCLive
Kadin Chung —> #TFCLive
Diyaeddine Abzi —> Pau FC
Victor Loturi —> Ross County
William Akio —> Ross County
Mo Farsi —> #Crew96 (via Crew2)
Aribim Pepple —> Luton Town 🔜?
Lowell Wright —> #VWFC 🔜?
Big growth pic.twitter.com/LNKFSWNSeR
You add in that the first-ever export out of the league, ex-Cavalry FC defender Joel Waterman, is likely to be included on Canada’s World Cup squad after becoming a regular for CF Montréal these past three seasons, and that just shows what the league has been able to do for Canadians in its limited existence.
So as the pool of Canadian talent in the CPL improves and grows, look for more leagues to look at it as an avenue of player acquisition.
And in general, look for this World Cup to continue and strengthen that already-growing Canadian player export market. In a soccer world always scouring for the latest market inefficiencies, right now the lack of value in the Canadian passport appears to be chief among them.
Therefore, before that changes (and in a hurry) getting in on that gold mine before Canadian stocks explode could be a smart idea. Especially with 2026 looming, there is only one direction that stock will trend, and it isn't downwards.
Once seen as a devalued asset, things are about to change for CanMNT players and hopefuls, and in a big way, showing how the value of a World Cup can extend far beyond memories.
"This Canadian passport now has real value," CanMNT head coach John Herdman proudly stated back in March.
Now, it's just about getting to extract it, and then not looking back from there.