When someone says “underrated” Son Heung-Min is, for most people, the player who springs to mind. But there is an abundance of players out there who don’t get the credit they deserve. Here is my top 5 most underrated players currently plying their trade in Europe. I have gone for a mixture of positions and a combination of leagues. Of course there are plenty of players who don’t make it on to this list; Luis Muriel, Rapahel Guerreiro, Gerard Moreno and of course, one of my personal favourites, Olivier Giroud, were all very close to making it but just missed out on my top 5.
How the big Lazio man with the magnificent moustache hasn’t been picked up by one of the “big teams” is beyond me. The 26 year-old central midfielder has been one of the most consistent players in Serie A over the past few seasons and if you haven’t watched him recently, I urge you to. Whether it’s picking out a pass to create a chance, doing the dirty work in the middle of the park or popping up with a vital goal he does it all. One of the most complete midfielders in the game has been linked with teams like Manchester United in recent transfer windows but a move has never materialised, however I wouldn’t be surprised if a PSG, Juventus or Real Madrid make a move for him in the summer or perhaps even as early as January. The Serbian would cost a fair amount, but after 17 direct goal contributions in 32 games last season and continuing that form with 3 goals and 3 assists already this, surely someone has to take a (in my opinion fairly risk-free) gamble on him sooner rather than later.
With all the talk around Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski, the now RB Leipzig striker somehow flew under the radar last season, despite scoring 28 goals and picking up 7 assists in just 32 league games whilst on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt. That’s one more goal and one more assist than the Norweigan powerhouse at Borussia Dortmund who all the big teams are sniffing around. He has struggled elsewhere previously in his career, not cutting it at Sevilla or AC Milan, but the numbers he has produced in Germany speak for themselves.
What more does the Chilean goalkeeper have to do to prove himself as one of the best? Since completing his move from Spanish giants Real Madrid to the French powerhouse that is Paris Saint-Germain, he has conceded a paltry 42 goals in 57 league matches, including 29 shutouts. In fact, he’s currently keeping Euro 2020 player of the tournament Gianluigi Donnaruma out of the PSG side, playing 7 league games to “Gigi’s” 4. Funnily enough, consistency is likely to be the key word to describe a player who has too often been described as erratic. The Chilean shot-stopper has conceded just 241 league goals in his career; 3 less than his league appearance tally of 244!
A stalwart in the Inter Milan defence since completing his move from Sampdoria just over 4 years ago, Skriniar (have to sound that one out every time I write it) has been a major part of the project that has seen the Nerazzurri rise from 7th to league champions. Aside from his solid defensive stats, it’s his ball retention that truly stands out. The defender has averaged a 92.1% pass completion rate during his time at San Siro, with his long passing averaging 78.5% completion; not dissimilar to Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk (90.8% and 79.4% respectively), known for his expansive passing range. In fact, Skriniar’s pass completion was the highest in the entirety of Serie A in the 2018/19 season. And he is namesake to the city he plays in. That’s always fun, isn’t it?
A right back so good he has become one of the best left backs in the league. The former Juventus man, alongside boss Pep Guardiola, has redefined the role of the fullback. Rather than bursting down the line to support the left winger, he instead tucks in to the midfield, allowing a central midfielder to offer the extra option; whether that’s Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan et al. His stats aren’t particularly strong for such a forward-thinking player, with just 2 league goals and 4 assists in his Manchester city career, but the way he has evolved the role and gives freedom to his team mates is what has seen him on to this list. I also think he’s a better right back than Kyle Walker anyway, but that’s a debate for a different day.
So there you have it! My top 5 most underrated players. Of course there are arguments to be had that these players aren’t even underrated let alone the 5 most underrated in Europe. Aside from Milinkovic-Savic they are all currently playing Champions League football and the Lazio midfielder is representing the Italian side in the Europa League. But it’s more to do with the lack of buzz around these players as opposed to their actual abilities and accomplishments that puts them here. I don’t like to get bogged down with statistics as they never tell the whole story, but you only have to look at Silva’s goalscoring record, Skriniar’s passing stats or Navas’ goals conceded to realise they are top, top players that haven’t managed to really get their names in the headlines yet.