25 Most Underrated Footballers Right Now
Deciding whether a footballer is underrated, overrated or fairly rated is a very subjective affair, but here, I will put forward 25 players who merit more plaudits than they currently receive.
Rather than a list of relative unknowns, most of the names here are already playing at the top level for major clubs and, by definition, knowledgeable football folk must regard them highly.
Though no footballer who reaches such levels can truly be underrated, those mentioned here could be regarded as underappreciated by the greater public.
Perhaps, they have flashier teammates who get more acclaim, or for one reason or other, their reputations simply doesn't match their influence on the pitch.
Feel free to join the conversation by adding your own names to the list in the comments section.
25. Jeremain Lens
Though he became somewhat infamous for his tunnel brawl with Feyenoord defender Joris Mathijsen while playing for PSV back in February, Jeremain Lens deserves recognition for his ever-improving performances on the pitch for club and country.
This 25-year-old attacker continues to show signs that he is finally cashing in on his immense talent.
He has always been a fantastic dribbler and looked dangerous when cutting in from wide positions, but now, the Dynamo Kyiv man is doing it consistently and ensuring there is an end product as well.
24. Sascha Riether
He might have arrived at Craven Cottage from German second division outfit 1. FC Koln with little fanfare, but Sascha Riether proved in a short time to be an extremely savvy acquisition.
The right-back was one of Fulham's best last season and has now secured a permanent deal after initially moving on loan.
A reliable defender who has a knack for advancing into attacking positions at just the right time, Riether's work ethic and undeniable quality have made him instantly popular with the club's fans, who will be hoping the Premier League's big spenders don't notice just how good he is.
23. Mikel Arteta
Sure, most EPL observers are well aware of just how much Mikel Arteta brings to any side, but one feels that he would have become even more highly regarded had his career not run parallel to that of a bevvy of brilliant Spanish midfielders.
Though he has failed to earn a cap for the Spanish national team, the 31-year-old is nevertheless one of the game's most elegant passing machines.
Whether he is used in a deeper midfield role or as a more advanced No. 10-style playmaker, Arteta always oozes class.
22. Mark Schwarzer
It has taken Aussie shot-stopper Mark Schwarzer until the twilight of his career to earn a move to one of Europe's giant clubs, and at this stage, he is unlikely to play any more than a backup role to Peter Cech at Chelsea.
It is somewhat surprising that the Premier League's most experienced foreign player was not picked up earlier by a Champions League-level side.
He may not be the flashiest keeper in the business, but the 41-year-old has always been a consistent and capable performer between the sticks.
21. Son Heung-Min
Bayer Leverkusen/South Korea
Though a host of English clubs were interested in signing this South Korean hit man in the summer, according to Barrie White of the Daily Mirror, he opted to continue his career in Germany, moving from Hamburg to Bayer Leverkusen.
The dangerous striker could become a worldwide star if he maintains his form at the World Cup in Brazil next year, but as B/R's Allan Jiang points out, he sometimes struggles to receive the recognition he should for some brilliant showings.
20. Pablo Zabaleta
The ultimate team man, utility defender Pablo Zabaleta is ever-willing to do the grunt work for Manchester City and Argentina while his companions earn most of the plaudits.
Whether his managers ask him to play at right-back, left-back or sit on the bench, Zabaleta carries out his duties without complaint.
He's not a bad footballer either. A tough defender who can rumble forward to good effect, the balding 28-year-old must be adored by his managers.
19. Miralem Pjanic
Roma/Bosnia and Herzegovina
This highly technical midfield playmaker has already racked up 44 appearances for his national side and is a well-established member of the Roma squad.
Miralem Pjanic has the world at his feet, and the 23-year-old is only likely to get better in the coming years. He has all the skills of the great Balkan players of the past and should soon be recognized as a true superstar.
18. Leon Osman
The level of adoration Everton fans have for Leon Osman indicates how much they value him, even if his reputation has never soared to the greatest of heights outside of Liverpool.
A one-club man (aside from brief loan spells to Carlisle United and Derby County), Osman has only earned two England caps.
Coach Roberto Martinez, speaking to Greg O'Keeffe of the Liverpool Echo, stresses what an important player the veteran is to his team:
Leon is more than just a footballer. He represents Everton.
He’s an incredible guide to the young players.
I want the strongest squad we can have and then it’s down to the performances of the players and Leon has been outstanding this season.
17. Juan Cuadrado
Pacy and skillful, Colombian Juan Cuadrado must be one of the form wide men in world football right now.
The Fiorentina flyer is almost unstoppable when he finds space to race into down the right wing, and despite his lankiness, he has surprisingly good close control.
If you don't rate him, you probably haven't seen him play in the last 12 months or so.
16. Olivier Giroud
Previously considered by some to be wasteful in front of goal, Frenchman Olivier Giroud has proven this season that all he needs to score regular goals is regular service.
Arsenal may have been pursuing other strikers over the summer, but their failure to land a big-name front man could end up being a blessing in disguise.
A strong target man with ball skills, Giroud is even staking a claim to become France's starting No. 9 ahead of Karim Benzema, based on recent form.
15. Alvaro Arbeloa
Compared to some of his club mates who are constantly under the media spotlight, Real Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa maintains a relatively low profile.
He has more than 50 Spain appearances under his belt, however, and has featured in all of his country's recent successful campaigns.
A committed, combative and canny defender, Arbeloa ticks all the boxes required at domestic and international level.
14. Julian Baumgartlinger
1. FSV Mainz 05/Austria
Tough and uncompromising Austrian Julian Baumgartlinger has been a rock in the center of midfield in the Bundesliga for his club FSV Mainz 05 for a number of seasons now.
If the 25-year-old were to get picked up by one of Germany's big guns, or an overseas club, he would, no doubt, prove a valuable addition to their starting lineup.
A pacy midfielder and attacking player, Chelsea's Ramires shows plenty of pluck in the physical EPL despite his light frame.
He is quick, creative and he knows how to score goals—attributes that mean he is jostling for a place in Brazil's starting 11 in the face of competition from some of the world's best midfielders.
12. Fernando Gago
This former Real Madrid and Roma defensive midfielder is back in his homeland with Velez Sarsfield, on loan from Valencia.
He impressed, at times, during his time in European football, but, perhaps, failed to live up to the promise he once showed in his Boca Juniors days.
Nevertheless, he remains a master of the midfield arts and has proven an excellent linkman in Alejandro Sabella's Argentina side.
He has the potential to be outstanding at World Cup Brazil 2014.
11. Diego Costa
Whether he is still underrated is up for debate, but Diego Costa's blistering start to the La Liga season has certainly raised his profile across the globe.
Cantankerous and feisty, he may not rub everyone the right way, but he must be a nightmare for opposition defenders to play against.
Most Atletico Madrid fans would have expected David Villa to be their most prolific striker following the departure of Radamel Falcao, but Costa has, thus far, shown himself to be the revelation of the league, and the side's most valuable asset.
10. Francesco Lodi
He played for Italy at every under-age level, but at 29, Francesco Lodi is yet to claim a senior cap.
Despite being snubbed by the national team, the Genoa midfielder continues to shine at Serie A level, spraying precise passes around the pitch and blasting in sensational goals from free kicks.
It would seem to be an anomaly if he finishes his career without playing for the Azzurri or one of Italy's biggest clubs.
9. Javi Fuego
Like Arteta, Javi Fuego is unfortunate to be around in the era of some of the all-time great Spanish midfielders. In other generations, he may have had played 50 times for his country.
Just don't compare the holding player to Valencia legend David Abelda, as Inside Spanish Football points out, with the modest Fuego saying:
I’m a simple player who came here with all the enthusiasm in the world and hopefully, the fans are happy enough with my performance, but to speak of such a comparison isn't good, because it puts me in a very bad situation.
8. Benat Etxebarria
A deep-lying playmaker in the Andrea Pirlo mould, Benat Etxebarria's talents are very much appreciated by Athletic Bilbao and Betis fans, but not quite so well-known outside of Spain.
The Basque free-kick specialist dictates play from the middle of the pitch with his superb passing game and tough-tackling style.
7. Borja Valero
Linked with Barcelona in the transfer window, this Spanish expat ended up staying with Fiorentina, where he is revered for his on-field artistry.
His uninspiring stint with West Bromwich Albion may have convinced many EPL fans that he is a player of modest abilities, but that poor spell aside, Valero has proven himself to be a genuinely classy creative hub.
At 28, he is currently at the peak of his powers and racking up plenty of clever assists for the Italian club.
6. Charles Aranguiz
Universidad de Chile/Chile
One of a golden generation of gifted Chilean midfielders, it is somewhat startling that Charles Aranguiz has not been poached by a European club as of yet.
The 24-year-old international possesses a passing game of a standard that should see him click comfortably into a first-rate side on the Old Continent.
If he plays a starring role in Brazil next year, he might not be based in his home country for much longer.
5. Angel Di Maria
Always appreciated by his managers at Real Madrid and Argentina, some outside observers may wonder how Angel Di Maria is able to continually win a starting berth in two of the most talent-laden sides in world football.
Not only is the wide-man an attacker capable of moments of individual genius, he is also a strong defender and hard worker for his coaches.
His attitude has improved in recent years as well, and he should now get his dues as a footballer from the very top drawer.
4. Sergio Busquets
Some players are called underrated so often that they almost become overrated. Sergio Busquets would possibly fall into that category if he wasn't so breathtakingly good.
Often slated, especially earlier in his career, for partaking in a little too much gamesmanship, nowadays most knowledgeable football fans are well aware of the qualities Busquets brings to Spain and Barcelona.
He is the engine room for both sides, playing the all-important first pass out from the back with almost perfect proficiency.
If Brazil win the World Cup next year, Paulinho will play a crucial part in their success.
Tottenham's box-to-box dynamo has the capacity to dictate the tempo of a match with his driving runs and smart passing game.
The 25-year-old is among the premier midfielders in the game right now.
2. Gokhan Inler
Able to take control of a game like few other footballers, Gokhan Inler has been a force of nature in Serie A for a number of seasons now.
His rasping shots from distance bring terror to goalkeepers, but the Swiss offers so much more as well.
The athletic Inler not only scores goals, but creates them as well, and he can hold his own with the most intimidating hard men on the peninsula.
He's close to being the complete midfielder.
1. Yaya Toure
Manchester City/Ivory Coast
How can a player who receives the glowing acclaim on a regular basis be underrated? Because he doesn't always get his rightful praise as one of the top five footballers on the planet.
Everyone can see Yaya Toure's unique qualities; he boasts a technical and visionary soul housed in the body of a behemoth.
Equally comfortable being his team's enforcer or creator, the Ivorian is also one to shine on the big occasions.
It will be a great shame if he hasn't won a Ballon D'Or by the time his career is over.