Football is very subjective at times, whether it be discussing the best players in the world, the worst players ever to play for your respective clubs or the greatest international sides of all time. The topic of the most underrated footballers in the game is no different, and there are many players who are criminally under-appreciated by fans, the media and, sometimes, even colleagues.
The players on this list are all household names, rather than unknowns who get absolutely no credit – some are even deemed world-class – but they are still overshadowed by other teammates and go about their business winning far less praise than others.
Some will argue that, to have reached the level they are at – every player in this list, barring one, is playing in the Champions League this season – means they cannot be called underrated, but it’s all relative at the end of the day.
So here is a list of some of the most underrated footballers in the world at present –
Luka Modric –
Luka Modric is a midfield magician. He does not make it to the headlines like how bale and Ronaldo do, yet he is one of major reasons behind Real Madrid’s two final victories. Jose Mourinho even wanted to swap Oscar for Modric at Chelsea.
We all know how difficult “The Special One” is to please and if Modric has managed to do it, that stands as a testimony to his skills. He can find space in almost any kind of circumstance and rotate the ball around. May be he can also be the next Iniesta if he is consistent enough.
He is one of the gifted players with a skill set consisting of dribbling, passing, long shots and defensive contribution and is arguably one of the most underrated footballers in the world.
Thomas Muller –
Thomas Mueller is one of the most valuable team players in the current football world. He is a coach’s dream player who fits into a variety of tactical systems. Felix Magath once said he’d rather have Thomas Mueller over Neymar because he performs for the team more than concentrate on individual glory.
While Ronaldo and Messi are goal machines from another planet, Muller has been consistently hitting double figures in goals and assists for the past 5 seasons in a star-studded Bayern side. And he has been played in a variety of roles during this period. He was asked to play as a Number 10 or a Right winger or even a center-forward. Despite this, he consistently keeps delivering quality performances.
The thing with Muller is that he rarely gets noticed. He doesn’t have Ribery’s searing pace or Robben’s ability to weave in and out of defenders but he has an amazing football brain. Mueller has a knack of scoring goals when his team needs the most.
For Germany, he already has 10 World Cup goals in 13 World Cup matches which shows he is a man for the big occasions. Thomas Muller is one of the best players in the world who can fit into any team or any system still highly underrated.
Keiran Gibbs –
Arsenal are one of the clubs that make the most headlines season in-season out. And there is never much middle ground with them. They are either playing sensational football, earning plaudits left, right and centre, or they are performing with as much failing miserably.
Their attacking players receive great praise for their intricate passing style, while their defence is lambasted for its naivety. If there is one player at the Emirates who goes completely under the radar, however, it is Keiran Gibbs.
The 25-year-old has been a regular in the side for a number of years now and he is one of Arsenal’s trustable defender. He is very solid defensively, can get forward well and he clearly loves playing for the Gunners.
When Arsene Wenger’s side concede sloppy goals, it’s hardly ever Gibbs who is the one to blame. He is very popular with the fans, but he definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves elsewhere.
Gibbs has only just been given a deserved international call-up too, having been kept out by Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines for so long. He might not be the undisputed first-choice left-back for England, but there’s no reason why he couldn’t start ahead of Baines and Luke Shaw currently. He is an excellent full-back and one of the most underrated footballers in the Premier League.
Javier Mascherano –
Admittedly, it seems as though quite a few people are now fully appreciating Mascherano for the world-class player he is, following his unbelievable performances for Argentina during the latter stages of this summer’s World Cup, but he still underrated. He is one of the most consistent, passionate, influential players around on his day.
During his Liverpool days, he was a vital member of Rafa Benitez’s side, but it was the likes of Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres who made the headlines week in, week out. People didn’t notice the work Mashcerano was doing off the ball, and his timing of tackles and reading of play was perfection.
Since moving to Barcelona in 2010, he has often been used as a centre-back, and he has thrived there. He may be small in stature and he may not look totally at home in that role, but he is invariably faultless and his use of the ball is much better than many give him credit for.
Midfield remains his best position but wherever you play him you will always get a 7/10 or better performance from him. Mascherano is a wonderful player and one who might not be fully appreciated under he eventually hangs up his boots.
Bayern Munich have become a hugely formidable side over the last few years, whether it be under Jupp Heynckes or Pep Guardiola but during his time at Allianz Arena, Mandzukic was often seen as the weak-link in an otherwise fantastic side. This is hugely unfair as the Croatia international is up there with the most effective strikers in world football at the moment.
The 28-year-old may not have the natural ability of someone like Suarez or the goal ratio of Sergio Aguero, but he is an extremely unselfish, underrated player. He holds the ball up brilliantly, has clever movement and is terrific in the air.
Mandzukic was deemed not good by Guardiola, despite having scored 48 goals in his 88 appearances for the club, and he was sold to Atletico Madrid this summer.
He has shown what a fine player he is at Vicente Calderon but Diego Costa was always going to be a very difficult player to replace, but the Croatian is doing a great job so far. Mandzukic will never earn too much praise, but he is one of those strikers who your teammates appreciate hugely.
James Fonte –
Southampton’s brilliance last season was largely attributed to the likes of Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin and Dejan Lovren. While the latter received a huge amount of praise for his defensive displays, Fonte was just as good as his teammate at centre-back, but wasn’t complimented as much. He was arguably consistently better than Lovren.
The 30-year-old might not be the most glamorous player at the club, both last season and now- the likes of Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle are the marquee names at St Mary’s now- but he is absolutely vital to the Saints’ success. This season Fonte has been fantastic alongside the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Toby Alderweireld and Nathaniel Clyne. You still don’t hear too many plaudits coming his way though.
The one-time capped Portugal defender may not be as well-known as fellow Premier League defenders Vincent Kompany, John Terry and Gary Cahill, but there are not many more reliable players in the country in his position right now.