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Top 10 Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Who Are the Most Underrated Footballers?

Football (soccer) is resplendent with hidden treasures who have escaped the hype and fervor that surround the Peles and Maradonas of the world. These talented footballers had the misfortune of playing at the wrong time for the wrong team—or were overshadowed by bigger names.

Did Beckenbauer individually manufacture Germany's success in the 1970s, or were there other players of similar importance? Who won the 1982 World Cup with Italy before Franco Baresi came along? Some names resonate in our memories, while others are not mentioned outside of their country. It is time that someone put the spotlight on these underrated or forgotten players.

This list 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, underappreciated, or underrated in terms of not making the elite lists of other football raters.

10. Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina

Date of birth: February 1, 1969

Height: 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)

Playing position: 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 utilize 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.

Batistuta won the Copa America twice with Argentina and he won two league titles and one 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

Date of birth: May 19, 1979

Height: 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)

Playing position: Midfielder

Only recently did Andrea Pirlo retire from playing professional football. As an incredible playmaker, it is about time Pirlo was recognised for how good he was. His range of passing was phenomenal, his skills graceful, and his free-kicks exceptional.

Xavi and Iniesta received a lot more praise during Pirlo's era and he must have wondered what he had to do to get a mention in the cliched rants of people who professed to love "the beautiful game." Pirlo kept Italy on the map during a time when England and Spain were getting all the attention.

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8. Ronald Koeman, Netherlands

Date of birth: March 21, 1963

Height: 1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)

Playing position: Defender / Midfielder

Most people seem to forget how good Ronald Koeman was but, if I was to create a team of world-beaters, I would want him in it.

Koeman was an exceptional central defender due to his strength and intelligence. However, like the other greats in his position, he was a masterful footballer as well. His passing ability matched some of the best playmakers in the world and he utilized 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 (now the Champions League).

Ronald Koeman guided the Netherlands to their only title in the 1988 European Championships, and led PSV Eindhoven to their only European Cup win in the same year. He won another European Cup with Barcelona, and eight league titles during his club career.



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7. Günter Netzer, Germany

Date of birth: September 14, 1944

Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)

Playing position: Attacking midfielder

Before Germany won the 1974 World Cup, they won the slightly less prestigious 1972 European Championships. Günter Netzer was a pivotal part of this team. He was a fantastic passer of the ball and, like many of today's great players, he 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 Mönchengladbach, Netzer competed against Beckenbauer's Bayern Munich and came away with two 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 Šuker, Croatia

Date of birth: January 1, 1968

Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)

Playing position: Striker

The best football players of all time are able to do things that few others are capable of. Davor Šuker defined this capacity with the goals he scored. What allowed him to do this was his deft touch and the ability to judge the power and placement of his strikes to perfection.

As probably the greatest Croatian footballer ever, Šuker guided the national team to third place in the 1998 World Cup, which was no small feat for a country with a population of less than five million. He was also top scorer in the competition. In all, Šuker 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

Date of birth: September 5, 1967

Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)

Playing position: Defensive midfielder / Sweeper

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 was instrumental in Germany winning the 1996 European Championships and he was named the best player of the tournament.

As an exceptional strategist, leader, and ball-winner, Sammer could step up the tempo when required and drive his team to win. Despite being regarded as better than Matthaus, the latter appears to be remembered more for his 1990 World Cup triumph.

As well as the 1996 Euros, Sammer guided an unfancied Borussia Dortmund team to the 1997 Champions League. He also won two league titles but his career was cut short by injury.



4. Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria

Date of birth: February 8, 1966

Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)

Playing position: Forward

Hristo Stoichkov was one of the stars of the 1994 World Cup, where he led an unknown Bulgarian side to fourth place and finished top scorer with six goals. He was a unique talent who would have made a bigger impression had he been born in Italy or Germany.

Stoichkov helped to 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 1990s 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 one European Cup and eight league titles.



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3. Gaetano Scirea, Italy

Life: May 25, 1953–September 3, 1989

Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)

Playing position: Defender

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, seven league titles and two domestic cups.

Scirea 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. Scirea tragically died in a car crash, aged 36.



2. Michael Laudrup, Denmark

Date of birth: June 15, 1964

Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)

Playing position: Attacking midfielder / Forward

Romario described Michael 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. Because of this, he was probably a greater talent than Zidane. What made Zidane a great player was how he gave 100 percent all of 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 percent.

Despite this, Laudrup won the European Cup and seven league titles. As one of the greatest assisters of all time, he still managed 197 goals in 697 games.



1. Gheorghe Hagi, Romania

Date of birth: February 5, 1965

Height: 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)

Playing position: Attacking midfielder

There is one football player who could score from literally anywhere, and his name is Gheorghe Hagi. As the video shows, the goals he scored were beyond remarkable; they were a kind never seen before.

However, Hagi 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 was one-dimensional. Rather, it is what marks him out as above and beyond his competitors.

Hagi won the UEFA Cup and seven league titles, scoring 271 goals in 638 games from midfield. The Maradona of the Carpathians should be high on every best player list, but sometimes he doesn't even make the top 100.