Who Are The Most Underrated Footballers?
The beautiful game is resplendent with hidden treasures who have escaped the hype and fervor that surround the Pele’s and Maradona’s of the football world. These talented football players had the misfortune of playing at the wrong time for the wrong team, or were over-shadowed by bigger names. Did Beckenbauer individually manufacture Germany’s success in the 1970’s, or were other players of similar importance? Who won the 1982 World Cup with Italy before Baresi came along? Some names resonate in our memories, while others are not mentioned outside of their country. It’s time someone dispersed the limelight.
This video compilation of underrated football players primarily includes retired professionals from the modern era. There are not many current footballers included because they may still receive the recognition they deserve. The players listed here may be relatively unknown, under appreciated, or underrated in terms of not making the elite lists of other football raters. As ever, this is a matter of opinion, but it’s an opinion that has been formed from over 20 years of watching the beautiful game.
10. Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina
As a striker, Gabriel Batistuta was one of the greatest finishers of all time. He could score from almost anywhere on the pitch, and his power and ferocity helped him utilise this ability to full effect. Nicknamed Batigol, he scored 300 goals in 494 competitive appearances, and a further 56 goals in 78 games for Argentina. He won the Copa America twice with Argentina, and won 2 league titles and 1 domestic cup in his club career. His best performances were for Italian side Fiorentina. Had he played for a bigger team during his peak, he may well have earned the reputation his quality deserved.
9. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
Now in his thirties, Andrea Pirlo is still playing professional football. As an incredible playmaker, it’s about time Pirlo was recognised for how good he is. His range of passing is phenomenal, his skills graceful, and his free-kick taking exceptional. While Xavi and Iniesta get all the credit, Pirlo must be wondering what he has to do to get a mention in the cliched rants of people who profess to love the beautiful game. His 1/10 goal to game ratio does not do justice to the amount of assists he has wracked up in his career. He won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, and has won 2 European Cups and 3 league titles.
8. Ronald Koeman, Netherlands
Most people seem to forget how good Ronald Koeman was, but if I was to create a team of world-beaters, I’d want him in it. He was an exceptional central defender, but like the other greats in his position he was a masterful footballer. His passing ability matched some of the best playmakers in the world, and he utilised this ability to even greater effect with his free-kick taking. With 227 goals in 652 games, he may be the highest goalscoring defender ever. Indeed, he was the top scorer in the 1994 European Cup. He guided the Netherlands to their only title in the 1988 European Championships, as well as leading PSV to their only European Cup win. He won another European Cup with Barcelona, and 8 league titles during his club career.
7. Gunter Netzer, Germany
Before Germany won the 1974 World Cup, they won the slightly less prestigious 1972 European Championships. Gunter Netzer was a pivotal part of this team. He was a fantastic passer of the ball, and like many of today’s great players, retreated to his own half to take possession of it. Much like Barcelona’s Xavi, he was the central hub of the team, but he combined this with excellent dribbling ability and strong leadership. With Borussia M’gladbach he competed against Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich, and came away with 2 league titles. He was bought by Real Madrid to counter Barcelona’s acquisition of Cruyff, and again he delivered two league titles against supposedly better players.
6. Davor Suker, Croatia
The best football players of all time are able to do things that few others are capable of. Davor Suker defined this capacity with the goals he scored. What allowed him to do this was his deft touch, or the ability to judge the power and placement of his strikes to perfection. As probably the greatest Croatian footballer ever, he guided the national team to 3rd place in the 1998 World Cup, which is no small feat for a country with a population of less than 5 million. He finished top scorer in the competition too. In all, he managed 45 goals in 69 appearances for Croatia, and 203 goals in 448 games during his club career. He won a European Cup and a league title with Real Madrid.
5. Matthias Sammer, Germany
While Baresi and Maldini get all the plaudits, and Lothar Matthaus is regarded as the successor to Beckenbauer, people often forget about Matthias Sammer. This sweeper and defensive midfielder guided Germany to the 1996 European Championships and was named the best player of the tournament. As an exceptional strategist, leader, and ball winner, he could step up the tempo when it was required, and drive his team to win. Despite being regarded as better than Matthaus, the latter appears to be remembered for the 1990 World Cup triumph. As well as the 1996 Euro’s, Sammer guided an unfancied Borussia Dortmund team to the 1997 European Cup. He also won 2 league titles, but his career was cut short by injury.
4. Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria
Stoichkov was one of the stars of the 1994 World Cup where he led an unknown Bulgarian side to 4th place. He finished top scorer with 6 goals. He was a unique talent who would have made a bigger impression had he been born in Italy or Germany. He helped define the wing-striker position now seen in most 4-3-3’s. With an unusual dribbling ability and a knack for scoring impossible goals, he is fondly remembered by many football fans of the 90’s generation. As well as scoring many free-kicks, he was a great crosser of the ball. Wracking up 350 goals in 677 games, he won 1 European Cup and 8 league titles.
3. Gaetano Scirea, Italy
Franco Baresi is the token defender on most people’s best player lists, but Baresi was absent when Italy won the 1982 World Cup. He was kept out of the team by Gaetano Scirea. This graceful defender excelled in the sweeper role defined by Beckenbauer. Scirea’s great skill, tactical ability and leadership resulted in him winning almost every trophy in the game. As well as the 1982 World Cup, he won the European Cup, UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup, Super Cup, 7 league titles and 2 domestic cups. He was a quiet and contained individual who never received a red card in his career. His character may have led to him receiving less attention than he deserved.
2. Michael Laudrup, Denmark
Romario described Laudrup as the 5th best player ever. Beckenbauer compared him to Pele, Maradona and Cruyff, but have many of today’s fans heard of him? Laudrup was possibly the greatest playmaker ever. He combined vision and tactical thinking with exceptional skill and passing ability. In this sense he was probably a greater talent than Zidane. What made Zidane a great player was how he gave 100% all the time and produced his greatest football on the biggest stages. Laudrup didn’t always reproduce his talent on the pitch and is accused of not always giving 100%. Despite this, he won the European Cup and 7 league titles. As one of the greatest assisters of all time, he still managed 197 goals in 697 games.
1. Gheorghe Hagi, Romania
There is one football player who could score from literally anywhere, and his name is Hagi. As the video shows, the goals he scored were beyond remarkable, they were a kind never seen before. However, the player had more than just a powerful shot, he had dribbling and passing ability to match some of the best in the game. His shooting talent was so great that he is often left out of best player lists by people who think he’s one-dimensional. Rather, it is what marks him out as above and beyond his competitors. He has won the UEFA Cup and 7 league titles scoring 271 goals in 638 games from midfield. The Maradona of the Carpathians should be high up on every best player list, but sometimes he doesn’t even make the top 100.
An Underrated Era of Football
Many of the players on this list are from the 1980’s or 1990’s. The generation of footballers from the 1960’s and 1970’s are appreciated more because of the legendary status attributed to them by fans of that era. Players who came later were never given the appreciation they deserved. It is up to the 80’s and 90’s fans to create the same legacy for their under-appreciated generation of football players. This is difficult to do in an age where fans have access to hundreds of games every year. The attention is very much on the here and now, and the echos of the past are centred on the 60’s and 70’s. It is hoped that this article addresses that imbalance somewhat.
Many greats didn’t quite make it into the top 10 underrated football players of all time. These stars include Alan Shearer, Zico, Gianni Rivera, Leonidas, Andreas Moller, and Dino Baggio. The beautiful game has been graced by many talented football players, but only a few are appreciated by the fans of today.