When you ask someone which playmakers represent the future of world football, you're likely to hear of Belgian starlet Eden Hazard or German wonder kid Mario Gotze. And though those answers are in themselves true, as both those players are phenomenal talents, there still remains a plethora of mercurial young players that seem to have gotten less attention.
In many cases, these playmakers may be as good, or even better than the other aforementioned talents. But due to numerous reasons, namely their team either already boasting a world class roster, the club's location and lack of global appeal these players either seem to go unnoticed by fans of the sport, or simply aren't rated as highly as Eden Hazard or Mario Gotze.
So then the question remains, who are these playmakers?
Without further delay, I present to you the 10 most underrated playmakers in world football.
Georginio Wijnaldum is yet another prodigious talent that seems to have gone unnoticed due to his previous club's (Feyenoord) lack of global appeal.
The Dutch attacking midfielder, at just 21, possesses skill and speed in abundance. He's one of those players, like Eden Hazard himself, that simply oozes of flair, as he can be seen dribbling in opposition territory almost at will in nearly every single game. He's also boasts a decent goal-scoring record, at least at his new club PSV, where after making his €5 million switch, he's already scored four times in just 11 outings.
Wijnaldum made his debut in 2007 at the tender age of just 17. At the end of that season, after putting in a string of some eyebrow-raising displays, he won the Dutch League's Rotterdam talent of the year award. Currently, he's considered an important first team player at PSV, a club where he'll arguably begin to grow in stature and prominence.
Blackburn Rover's 21-year-old playmaker Junior Hoilett is probably one of the most underrated players in all of football.
A player possessing great vision and a knack for picking out players with pinpoint and precise through balls, Hoilett is now considered indispensable by Blackburn Rovers. He's arguably already established himself as the heartbeat of Steve Kean's team by way of some impressive appearances which have seen him rise to prominence in England.
Perhaps the one factor that might prove a setback in the Canadian midfielder's development and potential move to a bigger club is his horrid injury record. Since making his first-team debut at the beginning of last season, Hoilett has been on the injury table no less than three times.
Still, there are some positives, the major one being his goal-scoring record; he's managed to register eight goals in just 59 appearances for the Rovers. For a 21-year-old player fighting it out in arguably Europe's most elite league, all the while playing for a club battling near the tail end of the table, it's a pretty decent record, and one that may yet get better as he gains more experience.
Ilkay Gundogan, 21, was brought into German champions Borrusia Dortmund as a potential replacement to the versatile midfielder Nuri Sahin, who got his big break with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in the summer. And if early signs are anything to go by, it looks like Jurgen Klopp has uncovered yet another gem!
Gundogan is a typical all-action playmaker in the mold of Xavi Alonso. A player capable of filling in as a box-to-box midfielder or a deep-lying playmaker, Gundogan is already winning over the Dortmund faithful with some extremely impressive displays.
The lack of attention Gundogan has gotten so far is down to one simple reason: he plays on the same team as Mario Gotze. With time however, expect more and more people to gradually learn of the young German playmakers talents as he tries to fill in Dortmund's midfield void in another title-challenging season.
Though Phillipe Coutinho isn't a talent unheard of to any observer of the Italian Serie A, the average football fan is unlikely to have heard of the player before.
The 19-year-old Brazilian playmaker is arguably one of the most underrated of the names mentioned in this list. Whether it's scoring, nailing free kicks, dribbling past defenders or even just providing an effective killer ball, it seems Coutinho can do it all.
And given his current youthfulness, expect him to go and grow from strength to strength in the coming months, as he tries to establish himself in a team already stacked with loads of talent. Given his immense potential though, don't bet against him doing just that!
Dinamo Zagreb playmaker Mateo Kovacic, 17, is without doubt the most unheard of player on this list.
The attacking midfielder, who seems to possess sublime vision, as well as great speed and technical ability, is fast turning heads in his native Croatia. What's even more scary when considering Kovacic is that he made his first team debut last year, when he was only 16!
Kovacic is a player the Zagreb faithful will be hoping to hold onto in the coming years. Reported interest from the likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax—all of whom began scouting him when he was only 13—will probably mean though that the young playmaker will likely be plying his trade for one of the European powerhouses in the coming years.
At only 19 years of age, Brazilian attacking midfielder Lucas Moura is fast establishing himself as one of the most promising players in all of world football.
Unfortunately, fans across Europe are traditionally less accustomed to prodigious talents from South America, which essentially means he's still a player largely unknown to the rest of the footballing world.
A player in built in the mold of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lucas is a typical "speed demon" that likes to cause havoc in opposition defenses by his direct running and dribbling style. His eye for goal, which saw him score 10 times in just 11 outings for the Brazilian U-19 squad makes him a standout player, one which has earned the Sao Paulo midfielder a place on FIFA's players to watch in 2011.
Though the 22-year-old German may be getting plenty of attention lately, Marco Reus was a player virtually unknown to most football fans across Europe till now. For most fans of the German Bundesliga and Borussia Monchengladbach however, he's affectionately revered as one of the nation's most exciting prospects.
The attacking midfielder has gained a reputation of not only possessing immense technical and creative abilities, but also for being a generally unselfish player that looks for opportunities to set up his teammates. Besides being efficient and effective on the ball, Reus also boasts an impressive eye for goal, as he's managed to score 29 goals in just 80 games for his club.
Reus, who made his first team debut at the age of just 19, is reportedly already garnering interest from some Europe's top clubs, as Arsenal and Bayern Munich both seem to be continually linked to the playmaker. Whether that materializes into a move isn't clear at this point. What is clear though is that Reus will eventually establish himself as one of Europe's top players in the coming years.
It's extremely rare, and probably hard to believe, that a player of just 22 years of age could have a buyout clause of €50 million on his contract. However, when that player is Santos' playmaker Ganso, it actually makes a whole lot of sense.
Those that know Neymar know all about his exuberant goal scoring abilities. However, what they don't know is that the player setting him up in most of those cases is none other than Ganso!
A player with a playing style similar to Eden Hazard, Ganso is quite literally the hub of his team's midfield, as the play, more often than not, usually goes through him. The Brazilian playmaker possesses almost unmatched technical skills, as well as a great eye for a pass. In all, he has the ability to dictate the tempo of any given game; something even a few of the most experienced veterans struggle doing!
Following marginal success at the Euros in 2008, Russian players seem to have grown in prominence and important in mainland Europe. And though leagues such as the EPL seem to have undergone an influx of Russian players, one prodigious talent that seems to have evaded everyone is CSKA Moscow's playmaker Alan Dzagoev.
Fans of Inter Milan will remember him from his recent display against them, where he bagged a goal via an impressive direct free kick. Dzagoev made his first team debut at the age of just 18. Since then, he's gone on to establish himself as Russia's greatest young player, as he won the country's best young player award in his opening season.
A player built in the mold of Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin, Dzagoev is an extremely selfless playmaker that seems to enjoy setting up teammates rather than going for glory himself. It's no wonder some of Europe's top teams are being linked with the player who Arshavin himself describes as "the best young footballer in Russia."
Christian Eriksen makes this list not because he's an unknown player (most of Europe has at least heard of him). He's just criminally underrated!
For a player possessing as much skill and vision as he does, it's astonishing he's not mentioned in the same breath as Eden Hazard or Mario Gotze. Fans of England will remember his standout performance against them in a friendly against Denmark, where he seemed to boss a midfield comprising the likes of Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker.
Eriksen was recently named as both Dutch Football Talent of the year, as well as Danish Player of 2011. For a player of only 19 years of age, he's a phenomenal talent that will likely showcase his skill at bigger clubs in the coming years.
"He's a player I really like with all my heart. This prize [Dutch Footballer Talent of 2011] is just the beginning, a stimulus to get the maximum out of his career. The talent is there, the recognition also; now it is up to the player himself. He is a typical product of the Danish school. You can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup. Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them." - Dutch legend Johan Cruyff
Agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, or simply tweet/follow me @saqibddb