20 Most Underrated Footballers on the Planet
The modern game is full of hidden gems that fall off the mainstream media coverage. Here are 20 of the best players in world football that are not getting the recognition that they might deserve.
To define a player as underrated is perhaps controversial, as there will be plenty of people who follow that player's league a lot more closely than the majority of the footballing world.
Somebody who might be a good example of the sort of player that I am trying to bring attention to would be Swansea's Michu.
The Spaniard was a household name to the keenest of La Liga fans during his time with Rayo Vallecano, but his exploits went a little unnoticed to the more casual fan, so that is the type of player I attempt to bring to attention in this piece.
Please contribute to this debate, as there will be plenty of players that deserve a shout but do not make my list. Use the comment section below and let me know your thoughts.
Beñat Etxebarria, Real Betis
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Mostly known as Beñat, the Betis midfielder is commonly described as having a similar style to Andrea Pirlo while looking like Gennaro Gattuso.
His displays for high-flying Betis have earned him an introduction to the Spanish national team and rumours linking him with a move to Liverpool and Manchester City.
Javi Fuego, Rayo Vallecano
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Rayo have had to cope without Michu, who joined Swansea this summer, but Javi Fuego is certainly able to keep the side's backbone together.
Productive on the ball and snappy in the tackle, Fuego is capable of inspiring the side and sets a precedent for the others to reach with his desire and work rate in the midfield.
Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad
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Antoine Griezmann is proving to be a real star prospect with Real Sociedad.
The French player is a traditional winger with close control and wonderful balance that make him such a dangerous proposition from the wings, especially in the one-on-one situations.
Finished second behind Iker Muniain in La Liga's Best Newcomer award.
Aaron Hunt, Werder Bremen
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Aaron Hunt might not be the most exciting German attacking midfielder, but that's nothing to be ashamed of when you have a golden generation coming through consisting of Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Julian Draxler, Lewis Holtby and Toni Kroos, among others.
Moreover, Werder possess a great deal of talent in their squad with Chelsea loanee Kevin De Bruyne, Marko Arnautovic and Eljero Elia, making Der Werderaner one of the most attractive sides on the Bundesliga.
Hunt is a terrific, dynamic centre-midfielder who is capable of carrying the ball great distances in transition with his pace and power.
Capable of contributing goals from midfield too, Hunt is a very productive player indeed.
Juan Arango, Borussia Mönchengladbach
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Juan Arango is one of the greatest players in his country's history, so it's only fair that he should be lauded in greater circles of the footballing world.
The Venezuelan, affectionately known as Arangol, is thriving for Gladbach in the Bundesliga in a left-wing role where he can weave his magic and cause nightmares for the opposing fullback.
Serdar Tasci, Stuttgart
Serdar Tasci is exactly what the modern day centre-back should be, athletic and positive in possession.
A stalwart for Stuttgart, Tasci has often been linked with moves to bigger clubs, including Arsenal.
The 25-year-old would be a perfect fit for a possession-based team due to his excellent range of passing and extra care for the ball when afforded the time and space to influence games from the back.
Benoît Trémoulinas, Bordeaux
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Benoît Trémoulinas is probably the most outstanding left-back in Ligue 1 and has finally been rewarded for consistently putting in brilliant performance for Bordeaux with a call-up to Les Bleus.
A substitute in France's 2-1 defeat of Italy last month, Trémoulinas is solid defensively and can offer great support in an attacking sense too.
Destined for a big move at the end of the season, this is one of the best left-backs in Europe.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Saint-Etienne
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Aubameyang epitomises one of the best stories in European football right now.
The Gabon international provides flair and skill from wide areas for Saint Etienne, potentially this year's Montpellier, and is taking Ligue 1 by storm this season.
With a goal almost every two matches, Aubameyang has put his frustrating spell with Milan behind him. After numerous loan moves to French clubs, the Rossoneri let the 23-year-old go permanently last season to Les Verts.
Ironically Milan are in need of a tricky wide man, so it is likely they are looking on with envy as the Gabonese sparkles at the top of Ligue 1.
Nicolas Nkoulou, Marseille
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Nkoulou is a monster at the back for L'OM and one of the best athletes in world football.
The 22-year-old is one of the most outstanding young centre-backs around and possesses all of the raw attributes to eventually reach the very top of the game.
Anthony Pilkington, Norwich
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Pilkington was signed in 2011 from League One side Huddersfield Town for £2 million by The Canaries.
The 24-year-old jumped up two leagues and managed to adapt immediately with Norwich—who easily avoided relegation—scoring eight goals, an excellent contribution from midfield.
Pilkington could be considered as highly underrated when you consider that he has not played international football yet. Having made one appearance for the the Republic of Ireland's under-21 side, Giovanni Trapattoni is now desperate to secure the player's services after more outstanding performances this season.
If he continues the way he is going, Roy Hodgson will come calling, something that might have forced the player to delay his decision on which country to represent internationally.
Francesco Lodi, Catania
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Lodi has been churning out outstanding performances for the Elefanti since joining last season from Frosinone.
Catania is the perfect club for the 28-year-old, as Vincenzo Montella, now with Fiorentina, and now Rolando Maran give the Italian license to work his magic on corners and free-kicks.
Perhaps the most lethal player in Europe from dead ball situations, opponents dare not commit fouls on tricky customers like Alejandro Gomez and Pablo Barrientos in and around the penalty area.
Gabriel Paletta, Parma
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The former Liverpool centre-back is reaching his potential in Serie A with Parma.
The Argentine—who returned to Argentine football with Boca before giving European football another go—is strong in the challenge and is often seen galloping forward due to the cover of two other centre-backs in Roberto Donadoni's system.
Argentina always appear to be weak in his position, and when you consider how cheaply caps have been handed out by the Albiceleste of late, it is stunning that the 26-year-old has not been called up to the senior team.
David Pizarro, Fiorentina
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David Pizarro is, quite simply, a wonderful footballer and should be considered as one of the most entertaining players in world football to watch at close quarters.
The Chilean—who spent a short stint with Manchester City last season—is relishing his important role with the Viola, showcasing his incredible vision and passing ability in Vincenzo Montella's new-look side.
The 32-year-old regista is not the greatest athlete in the sport, but his care on the ball and canny ability to help his side purr when given the tools ahead of him is one of world football's great sights.
Shane Long, West Bromwich Albion
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Shane Long is one of the key pieces in West Brom's rise to the Champions League places this season and the Premier League's surprise package under Steve Clarke.
The Irishman is adding goals at a more prolific rate to go with his great intangibles—work rate, desire and unselfishness—which has been enough to keep Chelsea's £18 million Romelu Lukaku out of the starting lineup for the majority of the season.
Jobi McAnuff, Reading
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Jobi McAnuff might have been around for a long time, but he has seized his opportunity at Reading and has become one of their leaders.
Currently enjoying his longest spell at a club since his first club, Wimbledon, McAnuff is consistently the most creative player that Reading possess.
Buzzing from the wide areas and eager to involve his teammates with crosses from deep or intricate one-twos through the middle, McAnuff deserves more recognition than he has received.
Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
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The Texan is shoved into the shadows at the Galaxy for the most part due to big names like David Beckham and Landon Donovan.
The 24-year-old centre-back is equally vital to the MLS champions, though, with great pace to sweep up and cover his teammates, Gonzalez is a weapon in the air, both defensively and offensively.
Bernard, Atletico Mineiro
While Bernard is no stranger to lovers of Brazilian football, not many will be aware of his exploits of late.
Atletico crumbled under the pressure in their pursuit of the Brasileirão, and Ronaldinho tends to grab the headlines ahead of the 20-year-old.
A wonderful talent who enjoys doing his damage in the wide areas and has contributed 11 goals and 11 assists to alert a host of vultures from Europe.
Jordy Clasie, Feyenoord
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Another modern footballer who is most responsible for screening the back four, but takes the responsibility to provide more than just work rate and tough tackling.
Clasie can control the midfield from deep and distribute, both short and long. Capped twice already by the Netherlands, the 21-year-old could be an integral part to De Oranje by Brazil 2014.
Jan Oblak, Rio Ave
He might be only 19 years old, but Oblak is already a first choice for Rio Ave on loan from Benfica, who have high hopes for the Slovenian.
A future with the national team will be complicated when you consider Samir Handanovic is in the form of his life, but having already been capped once by the Fantje, it will not be long before the Águias recall him to challenge for their No. 1 spot.
Jádson, São Paulo
Jádson, formerly of perhaps the team of the Champions League so far, Shakhtar Donetsk, is sparkling for São Paulo back in his homeland.
The 29-year-old has inspired the Tricolor to the final of the Copa Sudamericana (South America's equivalent of the Europa League) and will surely be in contention for a spot in the Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup.
Close control and a willingness to always receive the ball, even in tight areas, make him the sort of player that others love to play with.