Who Is The Kanye West Of The World Cup?

OK, so you’re a typical American and know nothing about fútbol, er, soccer. Yet, you want to show your international joie de vivre by watching the World Cup with the billions of other folks around the world.

You’re going to need a quick primer on the superstars to pay attention to in this year’s Cup. And, we’ll do this by comparing them to something you clearly do know far too much about: music’s biggest pop stars.

Cristiano Ronaldo is Kanye West

Both men are vainglorious and most certainly believe their own hype (it will be virtually impossible not to see a shirtless photo of the shredded Ronaldo every day during the Cup). Still, each legend lives up to his hype and awards are heaped on both of them–Grammys and VMAs for Kanye, and last year’s Ballon d’Or (World’s Best Soccer Player) for the Portuguese Ronaldo, who netted 69 goals in just 60 games in 2013. (Not to mention, Ronaldo is likewise dating a famous beauty, model Irina Shayk.)

Lionel Messi is Justin Timberlake

Both men were superstars from a young age back when each had huge mops of hair–Timberlake was on the Mickey Mouse Club at age 11, the Argentinian Messi played in his first World Cup at just 19. Now with closer-cropped looks, the two men are still, maybe the most talented in their respected fields. Messi, a three-time winner of the Ballon d’or, is coming off an injury-plagued 2013, but is poised to cement his status as maybe the greatest of all time with a big performance in this year’s Cup. And, even despite the fame, adulation, and awards, it’s hard to find anyone who has anything bad to say about either beloved man.

Neymar is Bruno Mars

The best player on the hometown Brazilian team, the singularly named Neymar is quite young (22), but a money-making machine (some $20 million a year) who absolutely oozes talent, which he presents to the world in through a joyous showmanship full of trick moves, fancy dribbling, and spectacular goals. All this despite his diminutive stature at just 5’9″ and 140 pounds. Sound like another young, excitable and wealthy showman in the 5’5″, 148 pound Mars?

Luis Suárez is Justin Bieber

The Uruguayan Suarez is another player in the conversation for best in the world, the only problem being that he’s been suspended for 11 games for racist statements. Despite all that, Suárez is such a goal-scoring machine–a league-leading 31 in the past English Premier League season–that he still has a whole country, if not planet full of belieb…we mean, believers who are certain a good man truly exists inside of him.

Mario Balotelli is Waka Flocka Flame

The enigmatic Balotelli is a bit of an oddball with his Dennis Rodman-esque peroxide blond mohawk and propensity for wearing undershirts with strange messages on them. Likewise, his bizarre behavior both on the field (once crying on the bench and frequently feuding with fellow players and coaches) and off (missing curfews to go to the strip club) have made him a divisive figure in world soccer. But the exceptionally skilled forward is also the Italian national team’s best chance to go far in this year’s Cup. Kinda like the funky Atlanta rapper likewise known for his, um, unique hairstyle and feuds with fellow superstars like Gucci Mane.

Clint Dempsey is Luke Bryan

America’s captain is a country boy who, while an A-list superstar on the field for the U.S. national team and the Seattle Sounders of the MLS, much prefers a quieter life of fishing back home in Nacogdoches, Texas, during the off-season. Sounds a little like fellow country boy Luke Bryan, a musical superstar who might just prefer hanging with his college sweetheart Caroline back home in Georgia instead of rocking the Grand Ol’ Opry. If America wants any shot to advance far in this year’s World Cup, we will absolutely need the supremely-talented Dempsey to perform well on the planet’s biggest stage…and, hopefully, not fall off of it like Bryan.

Aaron Goldfarb is the author of "The Guide for a Single Man" and "The Guide for a Single Woman".