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Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

We can all agree that there are some football players, who will never receive the deserved attention. In the following article, we will check the top 10 most underrated football players of all time.
Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

As a football fanatic, there is a zero percent chance, that you don’t know these players. We all know them. Truth is, they never got the attention they deserved. That is why there is a list, called the most underrated football players of all time.

Some never won a Ballon d’Or throughout their career, while others never got the deserved media coverage or even a well-deserved FIFA overall score. Let’s check ‘em out now, shall we?

Who is the most underrated football player of all time?

The answer to this question, of course, is very difficult. Yet, I tried to answer it in the most precise way possible.

Gheorghe Hagi

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Why is Hagi considered one of the most underrated football players of all time? He was a mini Maradona back in his time. His technical ability as well as his leadership and temperamental character made him a highly creative, quick, and advanced playmaker. Being a tactically versatile player and capable of playing in several midfield and offensive positions, either on the wings or through the middle, his preferred position was in a free role as a classic number 10, even though sometimes he was used as a second striker.

In spite of his skill and reputation as one of the greatest number 10s of his generation, his career was inconsistent at times. His rebellious attitude made him a controversial player between the press. His lack of discipline led him to several arguments, confrontations, and disagreements with his managers, opponents, and officials. Overall, Hagi could be considered as the most underrated football player ever.

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Brian Laudrup

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Next on our list of the most underrated football players of all time is Brian Laudrup. Being Michael Laudrup’s brother is not easy. Especially since Michael was older and more well-known than him. Brian was a technical, creative, and elegant player who was gifted with implausible pace and ball control. He used his talent and acceleration in the right direction, dribbling at speed and beating players with relative ease to create openings for his teammates. Although he was a player with very good finishing abilities and scoring with his either foot or head, he was also known as a very unselfish player with excellent vision who would often enjoy setting up teammates rather than scoring himself.

Franz Beckenbauer described Brian as “a world-class player”.  Andreas Brehme commented “a player of the highest quality class”. The Great Gascoigne nicknamed him “an amazing player”. Walter Smith, however, shared a more critical view of Brian Laudrup, lauding his ability, but also lamenting his mentality, which he believed limited him as a player.  His exact comment is: “Brian Laudrup is as good a player as I have ever worked with, but he frustrated me.

He had the capability of being up there with the greatest players of all time. There was just that little bit in him mentally that stopped him from being right at the very top. Make no mistake, he was a fantastic player for us, but he could have elevated himself into a position where he was one of the best in the world. We all wished he would’ve come out of Michael’s shadow, but, unfortunately, most dreams do not come true, and this was one of them. Brian Laudrup is probably one of the most underrated football players ever.

Claude Makelele

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Nobody, I repeat, nobody, could’ve revolutionized the role of the defensive midfielder in the Premier League, or perhaps in the entire sphere of football, other than Claude Makelele. Known as a combative and hard-working player, he was capable of getting forward and playing in more advanced positions. He mainly played in front of the backline, serving as a defensive foil for his offensive teammates. Claude Makelele was a 2000 version of Andrea Pirlo, serving as a deep-lying playmaker at a time when Rui Costa, Ariel Ortega, or such players usually were the touchstone for a playmaker, and they played right behind the strikers.

He, with the help of his teammate, Patrick Vieria, changed the way France used to play. Their playmaking skills turned France into a team that was not dependant on Zidane only. His ability to read the game, along with his aggressive tackling helped both the offensive and defensive line of teams he played for. Football pundits still question Florentino Perez’s decision to sell Makelele, since Real Madrid struggled to find such a player for a couple of years until they found Esteban Cambiasso.

This is Fernando Hierro, criticizing Perez for selling Makelele: "I think Claude has this kind of gift – he's been the best player in the team for years but people just don't notice him, don't notice what he does. But you ask anyone at Real Madrid during the years we were talking about and they will tell you he was the best player at Real. We all knew the players all knew he was the most important. The loss of Makélélé was the beginning of the end for Los Galacticos… You can see that it was also the beginning of a new dawn for Chelsea. He was the base, the key and I think he is the same to Chelsea now". Perhaps, Makelele, for sure, is one of the most underrated soccer players of all time.

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Pablo Aimar

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

"I have never played with another player who knows where I'm going to be or just lifts his head knowing where I'm going to", says Javier Saviola on his playing relationship with Aimar.

The handsome number 10 of Argentina before Messi, was an elegant playmaker whose career was destroyed by injuries and policy changes in clubs he played for. Having won 5 trophies in 2 years River, he joined Valencia, a club that unveiled a whole new style of a playmaker to the empire of football. Throughout five and a half seasons, Aimar worked with 5 coaches in Valencia, all of whom had different coaching styles.

He kicked off with Hector Cuper and did amazingly well, helping the club reach the UEFA Champions League final, where they lost to Bayern Munich in penalties. Later, Cuper went to join Inter Milan, and Rafael Benitez took the Valencia hot seat. Aimar did phenomenally well under Benitez in 2002, the season Valencia crowned 2001-2002 La Liga champions for the first time in 31 years, ending as the club’s third-highest goalscorer in all competitions. He also had tough experiences with Claudio Ranieri, Quique Sanchez Flores, and Antonio Lopez in Valencia, which led to his iconic move to top-flight Real Zaragoza. 

Injuries plagued Aimar’s football and made him take some unexpected actions such as moving to Johor Darul Ta’zim in Malaysia Super League. Being a right-footed player, he excelled in a free role as an advanced playmaker, where he was able to exercise his dribbling skills, vision, and passing ability to orchestrate attacking moves for his team. Surely El Mago couldn’t use his magic powers at his best, due to injuries that ruined his career. Thus, Aimar could be considered the most underrated football player of all time.

Wayne Rooney

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

How can the record goalscorer for both Manchester United and England national team be an underrated player? Well, he can be underrated, for he never got the praise or attention he deserved. Imagine joining Manchester United in 2004 on a transfer fee of 25.6 million Pounds, then receiving an offer in 2013 from Chelsea for 20 million Pounds. That speaks a lot about Rooney and his quality, which was always neglected.

Being overshadowed by Messi and Ronaldo, his scoring records were barely seen by the press. Rooney was rarely praised for his phenomenal goals and skills, and highly criticized for his tempers, partying, and drinking controversies. Joining Manchester United at the age of 19, playing alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ferdinand, Neville brothers, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, and a handful of other quality players allowed him to excel himself at many levels. He was well-known for his aggressive on pitch mentality and energy. Being a versatile attacker, he was capable of playing anywhere along the front line, though he preferred to play as a striker. “Wazza” was a prolific goalscorer in his prime at Manchester United.

He is a powerful striker of the ball and an accurate finisher, capable of scoring goals both inside and outside the penalty area, as well as his lethal volleys. The main problem with Wayne Rooney, except his wild lifestyle, of course, was his injuries and his weight issues. Sir Alex Fergusen frequently warned Rooney that he had to train well in the gym because “he is very stocky.” Former Manchester United fitness coach Mick Clegg says: “Wayne didn't see the importance of the gym. He'd say 'I'm here to play football.” Rooney could’ve played for Real Madrid, had he trained well, and didn’t live the wild lifestyle of most English football players such as Gazza. That explains why I’ve included Rooney in the list of most underrated football players of all time.

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Alessandro Costacurta

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Remember the old days? When A.C. Milan had the most formidable defensive unit in Europe? Costacurta was a part of that defensive unit, though he was always overshadowed by Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Filippo Gali, Mauro Tassotti, and Jaap Stam. Many football pundits and journalists regard him as one of the greatest defenders in history, yet when we ask who are the greatest defenders of all time, we hardly ever hear his name. Most people say Maldini, Cannavaro, Nesta, Puyol, Hierro, and so on. Many fail to understand Costacurta’s importance in A.C. Milan’s defensive line.

He was a unique defender, with an ability to distribute the ball well. Back in the time, it was hard to find a defender with good technique and first touch. Yet, we found Costacurta to be a tactically versatile defender who excelled anywhere along the backline, whether as a stopper alongside Baresi, as a sweeper, as a full-back on either flank or even as a defensive midfielder. Being a complete, hard-working, and experienced full-back, he was also a tenacious and disciplined defender with fast reactions. His ability to play the offside trap effectively, along with his excellent organizational and positional sense, turned him into a defender who excelled both at man-marking as well as in a zonal marking system.

In 2014, Ballon d’Or winner, Fabio Cannavaro described Costacurta as the best defender with whom he had ever played. He retired very early from the National team, in 1998, even though he was very fit. He was unlucky to be born in an era when all great Italian defenders such as Baresi, Maldini, Nesta, Cannavaro, and Panucci were present. Costacurta could be one of the most underrated players in soccer history. 

Santiago Canizares

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

 

Playing 500 games in both major Spanish leagues, Canizares could be considered as the most underrated Spanish goalkeeper. He was unlucky to be teammates with one of the best Spanish goalkeepers, Andoni Zubizarreta. He spent 2 years in Real Madrid, playing no caps at all! Pundits know that it’s hard to maintain your balance and morality when you are benched for two seasons straight. Canizares capped 46 times for Spain, 1993 to 2006. Again, he was unlucky that Iker Casillas was at his prime. An unfortunate incident with an aftershave bottle resulted in injuring his tendon, thus missing the 2002 World Cup.
Santiago Canizares was known for his fast reflexes, flexible body, and great handling. He was fast to rush out from his goal, serving as a sweeper behind the defense sometimes. It was unusual for a goalkeeper to sweep behind the defense at that time, so he unintentionally founded a new style of goalkeeping. As a goalkeeper in a not-so-Los Galacticos club like Valencia, he won 2 La Ligas, one Copa del Rey, one Super Cup, one UEFA Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, and one UEFA Intertoto Cup.
He became runner-up in UEFA Champions League twice. The list of his honors with Valencia is long and explains his quality. As a goalkeeper who kept a steady record of performances, he helped Valencia achieve many titles in a short time. In a 2004 interview on the UEFA Champions League weekly, he hinted an interest to Arsenal, but Arsene Wenger was not ready to give up on Lehmann yet.
Most of Arsenal fans considered Canizares a world-class goalkeeper on their online forums and were shocked that Wenger didn’t act on this interview. Had this transfer been completed, Santiago’s future would’ve turned upside down. Some critics consider Canizares as one of the most underrated football players of all time.

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Diego Milito

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

515 games, 224 goals. Diego Milito was lethal in front of the goal! He scored a goal in almost every 2 games. 128 games for Inter Milan, and 62 goals! In the current market, Milito would’ve probably worth almost 150 million Euros! The most important thing about him is that he always kept a steady record of goals. Milito was a very dynamic striker, with an excellent vision and good composure in front of the goal.

He was naturally right-footed, but he could finish with both feet and head. His aerial ability earned him many goals during his fruitful career. “The Prince”, despite his incredible record, never got any offers from football giants. Tottenham was ready to make a small bid to Zaragoza. When he joined Inter Milan, hardly anyone had faith in him, but he proved everyone wrong.

Jose Mourinho always believed in him. He scored 30 goals in his first season in Inter Milan, which is a very impressive record. Milito was also an accurate penalty-taker. He was unfortunate to struggle with injuries throughout his career. Despite his amazing goal scoring record, he rarely caught the attention of Argentina coaches. Maradona was impressed with Milito’s performance in Genoa and called him up more often than other coaches, yet Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero were paired up with Lionel Messi more than anyone at that time. In 8 years, he played 25 caps for Argentina, scoring 4 goals. It should also be mentioned he was mostly used as a substitute during his international career. Milito for sure is one of the most underrated players in football history.  

Miroslav Klose

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Germany’s record goalscorer is one of the most underrated players of all time. Yes, that is true. Miro Klose was a lethal finisher. Known for his modest behavior and fair play and honesty, he was also a prolific goalscorer and a powerful striker with exceptional aerial ability. His strength, timing, and elevation, as well as his finishing skill, turned him into a beast.

A beast who hardly received any offers from football giants such as Real Madrid or Juventus. From 1998 to 2016, he only played for 5 clubs. FC 08 Homburg, FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich, and Lazio, 4 of which were not-so-major clubs. In his 137 games for Germany national team, he scored 71 goals, breaking Gerd Muller’s record of 68 goals and becoming Germany’s record goalscorer. At club level, Klose has been less prolific, but oftentimes reliable goalscorer.  

For Klose, the world stage was his playground, as he thrived under the spotlight at countless major tournaments despite his average domestic form. He is also the men’s top goalscorer of the FIFA World Cup with 16 goals. Klose was pretty anonymous in Bavaria in truth, scoring just 24 times in the league in four years. He may have been thwarted by the presence of Luca Toni and Mario Gomez. The conundrum that is Miroslav Klose is still yet to be figured out. Klose is one of the most underrated soccer players ever.

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Edinson Cavani

Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Perfect in the air, quick, strong, opportunistic, and prolific forward with good technique. I’m not talking about Ronaldo Nazario. I’m talking about Edinson Cavani. 586 club games, 353 goals. In the 2016-2017 season alone, he scored 49 goals in 50 games! His ability to score incredible goals both with his head and feet, along with his excellent first touch, intelligent movement off the ball, and clinical finishing makes Edinson Cavani a beast in front of the goal.

Cavani is a tireless forward, who possesses excellent work-rate and energy across the pitch. He is also one of the few forwards who likes to make the run back and help his team defensively. He is also an accurate set-piece taker, and is generally a competent penalty taker, even though his record from the spot has been inconsistent at times throughout his career.

Despite being a prolific player, and having a reputation as one of the best strikers of his generation, he has been accused at times in the media of missing an excessive number of chances and has also been criticized on occasion for his performances in important matches. Cavani is still considered by pundits as the most underrated football player of all time since the press is keen on neglecting his qualities.  

Who do you think is the most underrated football player of all time? Leave us a comment below.

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