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The Most Overrated and Underrated Footballers

20 Times. Avid United fan through the hard times and the good. Still believes Wes Brown is the real hero of Old Trafford.

Overrated: Pele

The King?

Pele is undoubtedly one of the greats. The only person to ever win the World Cup three times, his magic on the pitch really drove the sport into the modern age and was nothing short of magical at the time. He was also one of the first 'celebrities' of the footballing world, his influence and fame being one of the first instances of the sport spreading into the commercial world of advertising.

However, it's important to put things into context. Pele was indeed magical, but his magic also coincided with a time when most footballers he came up against weren't even professional players, just part-timers who picked up the sport when they had the time.

Pele also never took his game outside the comfort of his homeland, playing all of his club career with his beloved Santos. There's certainly nothing wrong with loyalty, however, to be the very best, you have to push your limits and prove yourself in as many forms of the game as possible. History is littered with individuals such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Maradona and Zidane, who have achieved great things across several impressive sides. The fact that Pele doesn't shouldn't be forgotten.

Pele is one of the greats, and deserves his place being remembered as one of football's greatest idols; however, there is simply no logic in putting him in the same bracket as the likes of Maradona or Ronaldo who have arguably achieved even more, with a whole host of more skilled, ranged and competitive rivals to come up against.

Overrated: Ribery and Robben

"The Robbery"

Two of the mainstays in Bayern Munich's domination of Germany's Bundesliga, the way in which Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were hyped up by not only the Bavarian faithful, but the whole world would make you think that these were the best two players on the planet.

The reality was their numbers were reasonably respectable, but this is hugely impacted by the fact they belonged to a side with the biggest pockets and would routinely hoover up the league's competition.

In a league as one-sided as the Bundesliga, the best measurement for Robben and Ribery has to be their performances in the Champions League, Europe's premier competition and the place greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have made their name.

Whilst the pair made a final in 2012 and won the competition in 2013, they have never reached a final since, despite playing under world-class managers such as Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti. This should be regarded as a massive failure on Bayern's part, and "Robbery," as the star players in the side, have to take a huge portion of the blame for this.

Both stars have suffered from severe injuries meaning they've never both finished a full season together, only adding to the list of blights you can attribute to the two of them.

Overrated: Nicolas Anelka

The Ultimate Journeyman

There's something about the "bad boys" in world football that make people think they're more talented than they actually are. Someone like Nicolas Anelka really epitomizes the bad boy attitude of world football and the undeserved levels of hype they attract.

During his twenty-year career in the game with thirteen clubs, Anelka only managed to hit a hundred appearances for one of them: Chelsea, from 2008 to 2012. His inconsistencies and total lack of reliability made him a total liability for some of the sides he turned out for.

To be frank, when you play for the likes of PSG, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, and Arsenal, you should have a far more glittering career than Anelka has had. Instead of the trophy-laden time that you would expect of him, you'll find nothing but controversies and a total disregard for the good of the side.

Underrated: Matt Le Tissier

Southampton's Golden Boy

To have over four hundred appearances and well over 150 goals to your name across all tiers of English football, and to only have eight England caps to your name is not just underrated, it's an absolute disgrace.

Matt Le Tissier was one of the last great, true English strikers this country has ever produced. Prolific in the air, strong on his feet, and equipped with a strike that could rip the net off its suspension, he was also a one-club-man throughout his career, plying his trade on the south coast with Southampton from 1986 to 2002.

Such levels of consistency deserve far more than Le Tissier gets. He hardly ever gets mentioned in the same bracket as other English or Premier League greats, which is a crying shame. Not only should he have ended his career with far more caps for his country and trophies for his club, but he should have ended it with the promise of being one of the most beloved forwards the country has ever produced.

Underrated: Edwin Van Der Sar

Mr. Reliable

Sandwiched in between two of the greatest goalkeepers Manchester United has ever produced, there's a real danger that the football world might forget just how solid a goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar truly was.

Playing at the highest level right up until his fortieth birthday, he oversaw what was one of English football's most dominating sides, as well as Ajax, Juventus, and Fulham.

He is one of the few players the great Sir Alex Ferguson 'wished he'd signed sooner' and remains a popular folk figure amongst the Old Trafford faithful to this day. His trophy haul is massive, with the four Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy being the obvious standouts. Such a trophy cabinet deserves far more recognition than it gets.

Van Der Sar was a tall, athletic yet slightly slender keeper when put next to some of the players that have come before and after him. He excelled at coming off his line and claiming balls that had come into his box, and his calm approach to goalkeeping constantly rubbed off on his backline in front of him. He also possessed an excellent sense of where he needed to stand on his, meaning he rarely produced the jaw-dropping stops someone like a David De Gea churns out.

Considering the levels of recognition the likes of Peter Schmeichel and David De Gea get from the football world, it's unfair that an individual as talented as Edwin Van Der Sar has to miss out.

Underrated: Romario

Brazil's Forgotten Superstar

The fact that most of the football world, even those in Brazil, have forgotten the majority of Romario's legacy is an absolute shame. One of the most specialist players to emerge on the competitive scene, there was no one more potent and clinical in the opposition box than Romario.

Boasting one of the lowest centres of gravity found anywhere in the world, Romario was an excellent poacher in front of goal. Nimble and light on his feet, the Brazilian was superb at drifting into space, speeding past defenders with a quick burst of pace, and finishing off a move with his trademark 'toe-poke' finish.

Something of a mentor for the great Ronaldo, who would emerge as Romario's successor in the national team, Romario's feats and exploits at the 1994 World Cup have largely been forgotten when stacked next to the 1998 and 2002 editions.

On top of winning a World Cup, Romario had a prolific time of things for both PSV and Barcelona in Europe, netting consistently at nearly a goal a game throughout his peak.

Romario has become a hero in his home country for his exploits in the Brazilian league, as well as his public appearances as a leading politician.


James Metcalfe (author) from Worthing on July 31, 2019:

I can understand why certain people would believe them to be at that level, I just don't see it myself.

Winning Bundesligas with Bayern Munich hardly ranks as an achievement in my book, certainly not to the level that some people might put it at anyway. On top of that, I just think the injuries have robbed them of the consistency needed to hit that 'world class' quota.

Hacicu Bogdan from Cluj-Napoca, Romania on July 30, 2019:

I totally agree with your opinion on Pele, but I disagree when it comes to Robben and Ribery. Even if they aren't exactly at Messi's or Ronaldo's level, they're still extremely world-class players that always make the difference in almost every game.