World Football's Most Forgotten Superstars XI
Not every world class footballer can transcend the game and become an immortal like Pelé, Diego Maradona or Alfredo Di Stéfano.
Superstars of yesteryear can stay relevant by being major players in the footballing community—à la Michel Platini’s wheeling and dealing to become UEFA president.
Being irrelevant is a harsh reality check to footballers who once had the world at their feet.
Some fade into obscurity as the years go passing by, a select few descend into the depths of despair, as was the case with Garrincha.
This article will list 11 forgotten footballing superstars whose reputations have been dealt a disservice simply because they haven’t been relevant for eons.
I’ve only included those who are still living because they still have the chance to be relevant.
Goalkeeper: Ray Clemence (1965-1988)
Ray Clemence could have earned 186 caps for England, if not for Peter Shilton. If that had happened, Clemence's reputation could have rivaled that of Gordon Banks.
It's unfortunate the prisoner of the moment syndrome has seen some Liverpool fans foolishly elevate Pepe Reina ahead of Clemence.
Until Reina wins three European Cups and accumulates 335 clean sheets, it's illogical to suggest that he would displace Clemence's position as Liverpool's greatest goalkeeper ever.
Right-Back: Djalma Santos (1948-1970)
Two achievements Carlos Alberto and Cafu don't have on Djalma Santos is three FIFA World Cup All-Star appearances. Alberto made one appearance, whilst Cafu never made the All-Star team.
Alberto is immortalised by "that" goal during the 1970 World Cup, and Cafu's marvelous career only ended recently.
Those are the primary reasons why both Alberto and Cafu are generally rated over Santos, who should be rated above both of them.
Centre-Back: Elías Figueroa (1964-1982)
Elías Figueroa is the inspiration for this article because of what he said during his botched FIFA presidency bid:
In such a short period of time I could not develop a case worthy of the magnitude and importance of such a distinguished job.
Translation: I'm not relevant enough.
Which is the sad reality and it shouldn't be the case for one of the greatest centre-backs ever.
He won the South American Footballer of the Year three consecutive times as a defender.
It's been 36 years and only two defenders have won the South American Footballer of the Year award (Oscar Ruggeri and Cafu). No defender has won it twice, let alone three consecutive times.
Centre-Back: Claudio Gentile (1971-1988)
There was nothing gentle about Claudio Gentile's game.
During the 1982 FIFA World Cup secondary group stages, Gentile's brutal man marking of Diego Maradona was decisive in Italy's 2-1 win.
Gentile's close watch of Zico was key in Italy upsetting Telê Santana's majestic Brazilian team.
During that game, Zico memorably ran towards referee Abraham Klein and turned to show his ripped shirt. Klein nodded and walked away whilst Gentile discarded the piece of shirt he had just taken.
Left-Back: Ruud Krol (1968-1986)
Ruud Krol was a total footballer because he was ambidextrous and he was dashing when going forward yet dependable at the back.
So complete that he made a FIFA World Cup All-Star appearance as a left-back during the 1974 World Cup and as a sweeper during the 1978 World Cup.
Right Winger: Sir Tom Finney (1946-1960)
At one point of his life, Sir Tom Finney was mulling over an offer from Palermo, which would have made him one of the highest-paid players in the world—not bad for a former plumber.
Nowadays, he's collecting his pension and, excluding Preston North End supporters, he is largely forgotten.
Finney not only scored 210 goals from a wide position, but he created hundreds more for his teammates.
The memorable photo of him slipping on the wet pitch at Stamford Bridge was made into a statue.
Centre Midfielder: Josef Masopust (1950-1970)
During the 1962 FIFA World Cup, a Chilean hotel had misspelled both Josef Masopust's first and last name.
After his dominating performance during the tournament, no-one would ever misspell his name.
Whilst Viliam Schrojf kept Czechoslovakia in the game with his shot-stopping, Masopust's dynamic play enabled the European side to reach the final, where they came up short against Garrincha's Brazil.
During a group stage game between the two sides, Masopust sportingly decided not to tackle an injured Pelé.
When the game finished, the Brazilian said it was an act he'd never forget, and he lived up to his words 42 years later by naming Masopust as one of the 125 greatest living footballers.
Centre Midfielder: Gérson (1959-1974)
What did Gérson do to Pelé that caused the elegant midfielder to be omitted from the 125 greatest living footballers list?
Gérson was the architect of arguably the greatest side the world has ever seen. Mário Zagallo's side dominated the 1970 FIFA World Cup with a perfect combination of dominance and elegance.
Left Winger: Paco Gento (1952-1971)
Alfredo Di Stéfano deserves the adulation and deity like status at Real Madrid, but don't forget about Paco Gento.
A jet-heeled wide player, his combination with Di Stéfano was the core reason why Real Madrid won their first three European Cups.
Then Ferenc Puskás joined in—talk about a lethal attacking triumvirate—which led to another two European Cups.
Centre Forward: Coutinho (1958-1973)
Have you ever wondered who Pelé's strike partner was during all those years at Santos?
It was Coutinho.
Coutinho was to Pelé to what Scottie Pippen was to Michael Jordan. That is the reason why Pelé scored 774 of the combined 1,114 goals.
Centre Forward: Just Fontaine (1950-1962)
It took Ronaldo three FIFA World Cup tournaments to score 15 goals, whereas Just Fontaine took six games to score 13 goals.
After breaking Sándor Kocsis's 11 goals in a World Cup tournament, the closest person to come near Fontaine's record was Gerd Müller with 10 goals during the 1970 World Cup.
Two broken legs ended Fontaine's career at just 28 years old.
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