Good evening all and welcome to the latest installment of my blogs on the SevernSport page. David Nugent, Adam Lallana, Joe Allen. What do all these players have in common? Yep, that’s right: they are (or were in the past) stupendously overrated. They’re always talked about in the mainstream media as being “the next big thing for their country” because they’ve had 5 or 6 good games out of a 38 game season. Then after a few standard, rubbish performances the hype dies down and it’s back to every pundit and fan alike spouting rubbish like “oh he’s just on a poor run of form, he’ll pick up.” No he won’t. He’s crap. So this is why I think we need to stop focusing on really rubbish players and trying to build them up and instead focus on players that contribute massively to the team whilst putting in excellent individual performances at the same time (yet they don’t get the recognition they deserve). Ladies and gents, I present to you my list of the most underrated players of all time! Counting down from 10….
10) Morgan Schneiderlein – The Southampton midfield dynamo is almost criminally underrated in my opinion. Southampton’s successful 2013/14 Premier League campaign may have been down to the ‘big’ stars like Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez, but it really can’t be stressed enough the influence that the Frenchman has in that Southampton team. The defensive midfielder is a real rock in the heart of the midfield and it was his style of play that really allowed the creative stars of the Saints to shine last season. They would be foolish to let him leave, especially to a Premier League rival like Arsenal as he wanted to in the summer. Although he seems a lot more settled now that his side are pushing on for a place in Europe next season.
9) Ramires – Another midfielder in the list, this time Brazilian midfield maestro Ramires of current 1st place Premier League side Chelsea. Up until the arrival of Nemanja Matic he was a mainstay in the heart of the Blues’ midfield whilst also consistently holding down a starting place for the Brazilian national side. It’s very easy to forget the influence that Ramires has on any side that he plays in because of the giants he plays with (literally and figuratively speaking). Costa, Hazard and Fabregas are often the main 3 influences in the Chelsea team and are mentioned first when talking about their key players. But I think Ramires is absolute quality, not only does he run his socks off each and every time he steps out onto the pitch but he also chips in with the odd vital goal or two – notably one against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the 2012 Champions League semi final.
8) Michael Carrick – This isn’t just a list of underrated midfielders I promise you! But you can’t have one of these lists and not have Michael Carrick in it! I once described Carrick as one of the best holding midfield players in the world and I still believe that to be true to this day, so much so that I believe the England team would be a lot better off with Carrick and Henderson/Wilshere in the centre of the park, rather than just Henderson and Wilshere. You cannot overlook his ability to pick the ball up in the centre circle and ping it 30/40 yards across field to create a scoring opportunity for his team mates. A no-nonsense player who goes about his business calmly and often goes unnoticed by the casual fan whereas the more analytical amongst us can clearly see his influence on a team.
Michael Carrick’s ability to dictate the tempo of a football match makes him arguably one of the best central midfielders in the world
7) Antoine Griezmann – The Atletico Madrid and France front man/winger is incredibly underrated and yet he is one of the best young strikers in the world right now. Now there’s a really obvious and simple reason for this and that is because the Spanish League is full of incredible world class talents that nobody really pays any attention to the ‘little guy’ (and at 5 foot 9 inches, Griezmann is very little for a striker!). You only have to look at the way Atletico Madrid steam-rolled the Liga BBVA last season and yet for two-thirds of the season they were considered the underdogs. Griezmann’s statistics speak for themselves though, 13 goals in 25 games. Now a goal every other game is a fairly decent return for a player who has only recently started playing in the central striker position, having been played as a left winger for most of his time at Real Sociedad.
6) Guti – Yes I know it’s another midfielder but with good reason; Guti was an absolute class act and yet was overshadowed by the likes of Zidane, Figo and fat Ronaldo. Guti was one of the best players in the Spanish team at the peak of his career and yet never got any credit because the Spaniards were nowhere near as good then as they are now. His passes were absolutely sublime and not only that, but he had a great first touch and he read the game like no other. While he may not have lived up to his full potential, I think you have to attribute that to the sheer strength of the Real Madrid team. In a very similar way to Iker Casillas, Guti was groomed and moulded into the player he was from a very young age, signing for Real Madrid’s youth academy in 1986, initially as a striker. He was built to be a leader and a servant and went on to appear for the first team 387 times, scoring 46 goals. When a player of the calibre of Zidane retires, any other team would be left with a monumental sized hole to fill, but not Real Madrid. Guti found himself pushed into a creative playmaker role. His excellent passing and through ball abilities, especially the performance in a 3-2 win against Sevilla where he played just 32 minutes from the bench, contributed to many of the goals that enabled Real Madrid to become league champions in the 2006/07 season for the 30th time.
5) Dennis Bergkamp – Controversial, maybe, but if you were to name a list of the greatest technical players to ever play the game, your list would probably consist of players such as Zidane, Figo, Laudrup, Messi, Pele etc. Yet the legendary Arsenal and Holland striker would likely be overlooked for inclusion to said list. He will probably be most fondly remembered for that outrageous goal against Newcastle at St James’ Park, the best ever scored in the Premier League in my opinion. But in terms of his career as a whole, that goal was merely the tip of the iceberg. I’m finding it very difficult to put into words just how good Bergkamp’s intrinsic technical ability really was, so I want you to imagine the most beautiful ballet routine performed to the most uplifting opera song and you get a rough idea. One of the most successful and dominant sides in the Premier League era, and Bergkamp was the creative core of it. He created and scored some of the most incredible goals ever seen, the man was pure art on the pitch.
Dennis Bergkamp scoring what is, in my opinion, the best goal in Premier League history.
4) Claude Makelele – Like many midfielders, you simply can’t over-estimate the big Frenchman’s influence, most notably when he was playing for Real Madrid. When he was sold in 2003, Real Madrid had won 2 Champions Leagues and 2 La Liga titles (and another 3 other titles) in the space of 3 seasons. Yet when he left, they didn’t win a single trophy in four years even though the team had remained largely the same. Makelele was the engine room of that Madrid team, hence why the legendary Real Madrid midfielder Steve McManaman once called him “the most important yet under appreciated midfielder ever at Real Madrid.” His role at the Galacticos was totally invaluable, yet he went about his business in a very inconspicuous manner – much like Michael Carrick does now. It was Makelele’s unrecognised brilliance that paved the way for some of the greats such as Figo and Zidane to work their magic up top and create a winning recipe, of which Makelele was the key ingredient.
3) James Milner – I contemplated putting Milner higher up in the list but I’ve got a couple of curveballs at number 1 and 2, so stick around for that, but first onto the most boring man ever to play in the Premier League. Milner is easily one of the most underrated English players out there, his work ethic is tantamount to that of Cristiano Ronaldo and his ball skills often go unnoticed during a match but Milner is not afraid to take on his man and cut back inside. Statistics show (and we all know that football is a game of statistics and statistics alone) that during England’s 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine, Milner ran 1.4 kilometres more than any other player on the pitch. Richard Jolly once described Milner as a player that “does not exude class, but there is a craft to accompany the trademark graft. It is easy to imagine Milner as the antithesis of his elegant, inventive teammate David Silva.
2) Paul Scholes – Getting to the real big boys now and we start with probably the greatest English midfielder, if not greatest English player, ever, the ginger ninja Paul Scholes. Now before you close this blog in complete and utter disgust that Scholes is even on this list, let alone as high up as number 2, let me explain. As the great Peter Schmeichel once said, “A great player is a player who has a bottom level that is not noticed. If he is having a bad game, a spectator wouldn’t notice.” Basically, Paul Scholes was such an incredibly gifted player and yet so underrated that you wouldn’t even notice if Paul Scholes was having a bad game, because his standard was so immensely high. Nowadays the ginger assassin Scholes is as highly rated as the next great player, yet when he was in his prime he never received anywhere near the amount of praise he does now. Anyway, enough about him, onto possibly an even bigger shock…
1) Alan Shearer – The man who has scored the most amount of Premier League goals in the history of the competition is at the top of my list. Yes that’s right, Alan Shearer is my most underrated player ever. If you were to draw up a list of the greatest strikers ever, I guarantee that Alan Shearer wouldn’t even have been considered for that list but I can’t stress enough how badly that needs to change. Scorer of 260 Premier League goals, that’s 73 more than his nearest rival Andy Cole (!), Shearer was easily the best striker in the Premier League in his day. He was a complete striker, he wouldn’t just score tap-ins and finesse shots from 12 yards out, oh no. He was a scorer of spectacular goals, volleys, free-kicks; you name it, Shearer’s probably scored it! Perhaps it’s his own fault that he’s so underrated though because after all, he turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United instead opting to sign for boyhood club Newcastle United, which meant he finished his incredible career with just one Premier League title. Maybe that’s what separates him from the likes of Pele and Ronaldo in the eyes of the casual fan, but those who’ve seen him in action know that he was a special striker!
So there you have it, my top 10 underrated players of all time! If you read all the way to the end then congratulations, it was a lot to get through!
Kelsey De Maria
Next Friday I look at the other side of the argument: just who are the most overrated players of all time? Be sure to check that one out!