Bleacher Report brings you the 50 most underrated footballers right now in alphabetical order.
In this slideshow, "underrated" refers to players whose ability is underestimated by the general footballing public.
Leighton Baines is not underrated, because he’s the best left-back in the Premier League. Isco can’t be underrated when several major clubs are chasing his signature. And someone like Steven Fletcher isn’t underrated given that he’s worth £14 million.
I’ve only included players that have left an impression on me, so it’s impossible for this list to be exhaustive. Don’t hesitate to comment below with your opinions.
He's the creative hub on the team, the trickiest dribbler and the biggest goal threat.
Abdel Barrada has bought into Luis García Plaza's philosophy of every attacking player pressing to win back the ball.
The Moroccan surprisingly averages the third-highest tackles per game for Azulones.
He was the best player on the field when Plaza's side shocked the world with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid.
When Southampton dropped into League One, it would have been a logical decision for Adam Lallana to bail on the club.
Instead, he showed loyalty throughout the dark days and worked diligently on his game—with and without the ball.
Lallana has registered four Premier League assists, which indicates how decisive he is.
But his best attribute as a footballer is the way he reads the game.
Just ask Jack Rodwell, who had a pass intercepted by Lallana in the Saint's defensive third, which resulted in a goal on the counter for Nigel Adkins' side.
Last May, Alain Traoré wowed the Stade de l'Abbé-Deschamps faithful with a world-class performance against Lyon.
Maxime Gonalons was chasing shadows, as Traoré inspired Auxerre to a 4-0 win over Lyon.
During the 2011-12 season, Auxerre had three first-rate footballers in Traoré, Willy Boly and Dennis Oliech. The club was built around those three, but the supporting cast was below par, hence why Auxerre were relegated.
Lorient manager Christian Gourcuff took a calculated risk on Traoré. So far, he's shaping up to be one of Gourcuff's best-ever signings.
The 23-year-old has formed an instinctive relationship with Jérémie Aliadière, who finally looks like the player Arsène Wenger hoped the French forward would become. Alas for Aliadière, it's 10 years too late.
Eintracht Frankfurt are the Bundesliga's answer to Everton.
David Moyes has Marouane Fellaini.
Armin Veh has his own battering ram in Alexander Meier, who not only manhandles opposing players, but has a touch of finesse in his game.
Meier didn't score in the 3-3 draw against Borussia Dortmund, but he did a thankless job by dragging Moritz Leitner and Sebastian Kehl all over the field.
As a result of Meier's physicality, space opened up for his teammates Takashi Inui and Stefan Aigner.
In the space of 10 minutes, Andrei Gorbunov made five saves as Lille desperately tried to save face. It was to no avail, as the French side crashed to a 3-1 loss to BATE Borisov.
14 days later, Bayern Munich were in the same perilous situation as Lille, with BATE parking the bus and executing one brilliant counterattack after another.
Gorbunov would go on to have an unforgettable game, pulling off several world-class saves.
Before kickoff, 88.8 percent of Goal.com readers had Bayern winning the game. Next week against Valencia, BATE will garner more respect because they are legitimate dark horses.
Could Gorbunov be this season's Helmuth Duckadam?
Diego López being sent off was the opportunity Andrés Palop needed. He came off the bench and saved the day for Sevilla as Granada pushed for a winning goal.
Since then, López has been ruing that decision to bring down Antonio Floro Flores, because Palop is now the No. 1.
Like he was against Granada, he was rock-solid against Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna. On all three occasions, the woodwork was there to bail him out.
Arouna Koné was given a new lease on life by Levante after a nightmarish spell with Sevilla.
Roberto Martínez, who signed Àngel Rangel at Swansea City and Mohamed Diamé at Wigan Athletic, pulled the trigger to get Koné.
If you look at the Ivorian's track record, he tends to perform for underdog clubs: Lierse, Roda and Levante.
This season, the graphics say Shaun Maloney and Koné are wide forwards. But in fact, Martínez has allowed both players leeway to drift in from out wide and act as deep-lying forwards behind Franco Di Santo.
All three players are combining well, which is why Arsenal loanee Ryo Miyaichi and Estudiantes standout Mauro Boselli have been watching from the bench.
When Bastian Oczipka was on loan at St. Pauli, he produced several top-notch performances. But he never really caught on at Bayer Leverkusen, where he was just a squad player.
With Eintracht Frankfurt, he's been good at the back and whipped in incisive crosses every game.
He's also built up a good relationship with Takashi Inui. And once again, comparisons to Everton can be made.
David Moyes has Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar, while Armin Veh has Oczipka and Inui.
Once known as a Manchester United outcast, Ben Foster has gradually repaired his reputation with exceptional keeping at Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.
He was an elite keeper last season, yet some football fans comically rate Pepe Reina over Foster.
Classy, elegant and genius are three words to describe Beñat.
Last season, he had Iriney to enforce in midfield, but this season, he only has Rubén Pérez, who doesn't have the tackling ability of Iriney.
Yet, even with this impediment, Beñat has been lofting through balls from a deep-lying position every game.
To those who backed Carl Jenkinson from the get-go, please serve my humble pie at season's end.
I've never seen such a drastic improvement in a footballer.
He went from a walking liability to a solid right-back who has the upside to be put in the same sentence as the likes of Mattia De Sciglio and Tony Jantschke.
You can look at last season's tangibles—like his on-field performances, what experts said about him and his stats (which were dreadful)—but you can't measure his intangibles. And he dedicated his entire preseason to getting better.
Philippe Senderos had a purple patch where he was first-class. Jenkinson is going through the same experience. But unlike Senderos, Jenkinson needs to keep up his high-calibre performances.
Cicinho has been world-class for Sevilla.
He made seven tackles and intercepted three passes during the 1-0 win over Real Madrid. Who was he marking most of the game? Cristiano Ronaldo.
That's when he's great defensively, but he has shown the ability to charge forward as well. Deportivo La Coruna's Evaldo Fabiano had a tough time dealing with Cicinho's marauding runs.
Claudio Yacob has the same problem as Hoffenheim's Daniel Williams: Both concede so many pointless fouls.
Williams has received five yellow cards in league play compared to Yacob's one—I guess the Argentine is pretty nice to referees.
Yacob can boss the midfield but also launch counter attacks. For someone who has completed 27-of-32 long passes, it's imperative for him to continue hitting more diagonal passes.
Roberto Soldado, Sofiane Feghouli, Nelson Valdez, Tino Costa and Jonathan Viera were kept at bay by Dudu Aouate's brilliance when Mallorca beat Valencia 2-0.
Mind you, Aouate did have the woodwork to thank, which denied Valdez a possible winner.
Dusan Tadić is a special player who'll make a significant move to a big club sooner rather than later.
How about Twente's tandem-wide forward duo of Tadić and Nacer Chadli? Talk about lethal.
Tadić can walk past opposing defenders, send in accurate crosses or cut in to score.
This season, Eliseu has played on the left, right and centre of midfield. Last season, he split his time between left-back and left attacking midfield.
Is he a good ball-winner? No. But he'll always be an attacking threat because of his rapid acceleration.
Catania will go as far as Francesco Lodi takes them.
He's the conductor in midfield who supplies pin-point passes to Gonzalo Bergessio, Pablo Barrientos and Alejandro Gómez.
Without the supply, the front three are impotent—they need Lodi to replicate his form from last season.
Mallorca signed Geromel on a four-year loan. No, that's not a typo. Yes, a four-year loan.
Against Valencia, he was charging out like there was no tomorrow—hence why he garnered eight interceptions.
He also rendered an elite forward like Roberto Soldado to fleeting moments.
Having a keeper of Dudu Aouate's pedigree has given Geromel more leeway to take risks. Although, he has been caught out several times, and it remains to be seen if his hunger for intercepting passes could be a detriment as the season progresses.
Prior to Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal-scoring exploits, he retained and distributed possession in such a classy manner that you could see he'd be a quality player in one of Europe's elite leagues.
But now he's adding prolific goal scoring from midfield, which enhances his transfer value.
14 goals in 11 league games. Two UEFA Champions League goals. A goal against Italy in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Is he the real deal?
It's wonderful to see Hiroshi Kiyotake played in a more central role, because he's the only player at Nürnberg who has an idea of how to control an attack.
In seven games, he's already created 21 shots for his teammates. If he was surrounded by better players, he'd have more than four assists.
He stood up to Borussia Dortmund and showed that he was equal to their technical ability. He was phenomenal against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Credit has to be given to Bleacher Report La Liga columnist Michael Cerna, who told me that Iago Aspas is something out of the ordinary.
Cerna is right on the money, because the 25-year-old forward is easily Celta Vigo's most naturally gifted player since Nenê.
Dare I say it, Aspas is as technically proficient as Celta legend Aleksandr Mostovoi.
Manuel Pellegrini finally gave Ignacio Camacho an extended run in the team, and the 22-year-old is playing at an extremely high level.
We're talking about someone who wins back possession 7.4 times per game in La Liga.
He stood toe-to-toe whenever Hulk ventured into Camacho's zone. He also shut down Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain in a 0-0 draw.
Shane Heffernan, a Bleacher Report commenter, once said that, in the MLS, there's Osvaldo Alonso, the local honey badger.
Well, in Europe, there's Javi Fuego, who's the best tackler I've seen since Claude Makélélé (in his prime).
In a 2-0 loss to Real Madrid, Fuego registered nine tackles and four interceptions—honey badger just takes what it wants.
There's not much to comment about Gareth McAuley, who's just a modest footballer.
However, Jonas Olsson said his partnership with McAuley was the main reason why he signed a contract extension: "One of the reasons I have re-signed is that I really love playing with him. He’s a good guy as well and that makes it easier to connect on the pitch."
With an elite keeper in Ben Foster and a solid defensive midfielder in Claudio Yacob, Olsson made a wise decision.
The 29-year-old Swede doesn't receive enough credit for the way he marshals the back four.
Juan Jesus is built like a brick house. I wonder what Rafael was thinking when he squared up to Juan.
The 21-year-old has been surprisingly excellent for Inter Milan. He reads the play well to sweep up, he tackles well, he's strong in the air and is calm in possession.
There's no doubt that he's a world-class centre-back in the making.
Marc-André ter Stegen, Bernd Leno and Sven Ulreich were in top form last season.
Early into the 2012-13 season, Kevin Trapp has outperformed the aforementioned three keepers with some confident outings.
Trapp could be a future German international.
Koke is so versatile that he'd probably do a decent job as a full-back.
Most La Liga footballers can attack and defend whilst also having superb technique.
That is why Manchester United were played off the field by Athletic Bilbao and why Atlético Madrid humiliated Chelsea.
Koke's passing is first-rate, and you'd think he'll be given a run as a No. 10 in the near future. He's a bigger and stronger version of Santi Cazorla.
There's a misguided belief that playing it safe is easy. But it's not if your technique and positional awareness aren't of the highest standard.
Take, for example, Bradley Johnson, who turns over possession 28.4 percent of the time, even though he's a centre midfielder.
You know what is easy? Hoofing the ball and hacking players left, right and centre like Stoke City.
Controlling the tempo and making accurate passes under pressure isn't easy.
Leon Britton is one of the best in the business.
|League Only||Pass %||Long Pass %||Passes Per Game|
Mario Suárez has a knack for making crucial interceptions when Atlético Madrid are hit on the counter.
It's about time that he made strides to become a world-class defensive midfielder. At one point in his career, it seemed he'd never make the jump to the next level.
Being paired with an elite defensive midfielder in Gabi has enhanced Suárez's game.
If there's any consolation for AC Milan supporters, it's Mattia De Sciglio and Stephan El Shaarawy.
De Sciglio hasn't received the same exposure as El Shaarawy, but when the 19-year-old continues producing solid performances in the UEFA Champions League, more people will take notice.
I can't believe he's so advanced for a 19-year-old. Assuming he's not an early bloomer, imagine how good he'll be as a 23-year-old.
|League Only||Tackles Per Game||Interceptions Per Game||Shots Created Per Game||Cross %|
Michu is so calm in one-on-one situations, yet he seems on edge whenever he's not near the goals.
He has a habit of just hacking down players for no reason. He needs to be smarter with his fouling and tone down the dissent to referees.
In March this year, I wrote:
It was a masterstroke from José Ramón Sandoval to not only sign Michu but move him into a deep-lying forward position.
Throughout his career, he had played as a centre-midfielder, but this season, he’s been basically playing as a forward.
Even with his 11 goals, he’s still not the most important player at Rayo Vallecano.
That accolade goes to Javi Fuego.
Seven months later, Michu is bringing his A-game to the Premier League.
Milan Badelj has accumulated 4.2 tackles per game and intercepted 4.7 passes per game—just crazy numbers.
During the match, it seems like the Croatian is completing 85-90 percent of his passes, yet he only has completed 77.2 percent of his passes this season.
Also, I love how, whenever he seems to have doubt, he just passes the ball to Son Heung-Min.
For a guy with a heart condition, Mohamed Diamé throws caution to the wind by covering so much ground.
He needs to rampage down the field more, because countless opponents have been caught flat-footed by his mazy runs.
|League Only||Tackles Per Game||Interceptions Per Game||Dribbles Per Game|
In terms of passing, there's no comparison—Yaya is on another level.
Just a caveat: Yaya is easily a better player, and keep in mind, his defensive numbers are low because whenever Roberto Mancini needs a goal, Yaya is deployed as a deep-lying forward.
Morgan Schneiderlin to Manchester Untied? They need someone with his physical presence.
He's 22, he knows his role inside-out and he's going to move to a big club soon. Hopefully for Southampton, they can inflate his transfer fee, because he's been an elite defensive midfielder.
|League Only||Tackles Per Game||Interceptions Per Game|
|John Obi Mikel||2.3||1.7|
You can't help but appreciate players like Nacer Chadli—as well as Hulk, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Didier Drogba, etc.—who've dedicated the large majority of their life to working out and refining their technical ability.
Against Hannover, Chadli ripped Steven Cherundolo apart.
He has what it takes to be a dangerous wide forward for a major club.
Nacho Monreal is a model of consistency, and he's been the same way since he broke into the Osasuna starting XI.
In a 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao, he marked out the talented Markel Susaeta.
Monreal was excellent in a 3-0 win over Zenit Petersburg.
Quality left-backs are rare, so major clubs should contemplate signing Monreal.
Nikica Jelavić has scored 13 goals in his last 19 Premier League games, whereas Papiss Cissé has 13 goals in his last 21 league games and is goalless in the EPL this season.
At the commencement of this season, if you had to pick one of the two to flop, you would have gone with Jelavić. I know he would have been my pick.
In an ideal situation, you want a forward who not only can poach goals but can create for his teammates and be a consistent threat.
That is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for you.
In February, he memorably netted a hat trick against Lorient. He scored a brace and created a goal against Caen in April. And in May, he took advantage of Bordeaux's back three with a goal and an assist.
This season, he's continued his hot-streak with five goals and two assists in eight league games.
René Adler had been at Bayer Leverkusen since he was 15. He spent 12 years with the club until injuries caught up to him and he was replaced by up-and-coming youngster Bernd Leno, who was so fortunate to get the opportunity.
Leno was superb throughout the season, except against Barcelona, and Leverkusen decided to release Adler.
On form alone, Adler is the best keeper in the world right now.
Did you watch Joe Hart's performance against Borussia Dortmund? Well, Adler is playing like that every week.
Joachim Löw, being the maverick he is, hasn't selected Adler in the latest German squad. For some reason, he's picked Marc-André ter Stegen, who has been awful.
Yet, when Ter Stegen was arguably the keeper in the world for portions of last season, Löw ignored the Borussia Mönchengladbach keeper.
Who knows what Ron-Robert Zieler is doing in the squad.
My top three Bundesliga keepers this season are: 1. Adler, 2. Kevin Trapp and 3. Fabian Giefer
Talking about Giefer, he was on the long list for this article. If he didn't suffer a concussion, he probably would be Leverkusen's No. 1 right now. Instead, he's playing heroically for Fortuna Dusseldorf.
In the last three seasons, Rickie Lambert has scored 31, 21 and 37 goals, respectively.
He hasn't looked out of place in the Premier League, as he contests challenges, scores goals and provides goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates.
If he was 20, he'd be proclaimed as England's next great No. 9.
For those who aren't Arsenal or Aaron Ramsey supporters, it's easier to give Ryan Shawcross a reprieve for his transgressions.
Shawcross is playing the best football of his life, throwing his body on line to block shots. He leads the back four on a very physical (and sometimes thuggish) Stoke City side.
It's unfortunate that his career will probably be remembered for that horror tackle on Ramsey, just like Andoni Goikoetxea is best known for butchering Diego Maradona.
Eintracht Frankfurt have five standout players: Sebastian Rode, Kevin Trapp, Alexander Meier, Bastian Oczipka and Takashi Inui.
Rode has been the best of the five with his creativity from deep and his tenacity in midfield.
He is Frankfurt's Bastian Schweinsteiger.
I'll never forget Ricardo Carvalho's reaction when Son Heung-Min deceived the Portuguese centre-back to score during a preseason game.
A few years later, Son has it together and is Hamburg's most dangerous player.
He tends to score goals on the counterattack.
He's playing excellently on the right, but you just wonder how he'd do as a No. 9.
Artjoms Rudnevs doesn't look like the same guy who tormented Juventus. He's really struggling, and it would be a good punt to start Son up front.
|League Only||Goals||Shots Per Goal|
Everton have a world-class left side, with Steven Pienaar combining brilliantly with Leighton Baines.
The Englishman's delivery is astonishingly good. He's creating 4.3 shots per game—the highest in Europe's elite leagues. Yes, better than Lionel Messi.
Pienaar is quietly cashing in with smart, angled passes.
Oh, and there's Marouane Fellaini, a second striker to aim at.
No wonder Nikica Jelavić's strike rate is so high for the Toffees.
Szabolcs Huszti would drive Brendan Rodgers crazy.
The Hungarian sends in so many Hollywood passes. You think Charlie Adam is bad, watch Huszti. No wonder Rodgers got rid of Adam.
The difference between Adam and Huszti is that the Hungarian has seven assists right now, which is the highest in Europe's elite leagues.
Takashi Inui works hard without the ball, he's a smart dribbler and he's full of creativity.
He stepped up in a high-profile game against Borussia Dortmund by scoring and creating a goal.
Credit has to be given to Alexander Meier, who diverted so much attention away from the likes of Inui and Stefan Aigner.
Timm Klose has won 29-of-33 aerial duels, which tells you he is near unbeatable in the air. He's forceful in the tackle and has intercepted 24 passes in seven games.
Marcus Berg was shut down by Klose. And Robert Lewandowski wasn't much of an influence when matched up against the 24-year-old centre-back.
He is so dominant that you just have to take note—kind of like Philipp Wollscheid during the 2010-11 season.
Héctor Moreno was a highly-touted centre-back for Espanyol. He didn't live up to the hype, though, as he was found wanting against little-known Tomer Hemed.
The Israeli is a sizable unit, good in the air and will score against weak centre-backs.
He has scored five league goals in seven games, but it still remains to be seen if his early good form can continue.
Barring unforeseeable circumstances, Tony Jantschke will be a world-class right-back. From a defensive perspective, he has no weaknesses.
He averages 5.3 tackles per game, 7.4 tackles per foul and 2.1 interceptions per game.
Takashi Inui, who was in great form, couldn't deal with Jantschke during Borussia Mönchengladbach's 2-0 win.
Wissam Ben Yedder's positional awareness is elite, and he's a feisty little player.
He's only 5'7", but he's somehow scored three headed goals.
In a 2-0 win over Troyes, he out-hustled 6'2" Rincon to the ball, embarrassed Matthieu Saunier with several step-overs and then dispatched the ball past Yohann Thuram.
In terms of breakout fowards in European competitions, Ben Yedder is up there with Jackson Martínez.