A list of XI players from the best leagues of Europe who deserve more respect for what they do on the pitch.
Across the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, i.e. the best leagues in Europe, there are some top quality players, and many highly-rated stars. But for every Eden Hazard, Mario Goetze, Stevan Jovetic, Thiago Alcantara and Gareth Bale, there's plenty more who fall under the radar and don't get the recognition their talent deserves.
Often, footballers who fall into this category were either overshadowed by greater teammates, forgotten as invaluable members to a winning team or just not recognised. They may not create the same kind of buzz around the football world, but they get the job done, and they get it done well.
To be underrated means you deserve much more respect than people give you and the people on this list deserves that respect to say the least. This list of the most underrated XI pays respect to those players who have been outstanding throughout but couldn’t creat the same hype and media attention like most of their counterparts do.
IGOR AKINFEEV (GK) CSKA MOSCOW- Igor Akinfeev has had as great a career as a goalkeeper from outside the biggest European football countries (Germany, Italy, France, Spain, England) can hope to have. He made his debut for CSKA Moscow at the age of 17, and remarkably has been first choice ever since. In eight seasons in the club's first team, Akinfeev has become the club's captain and won a huge amount of silverware, namely three Russian Premier League titles, five Russian Cups, four Russian Super Cups and one UEFA Cup. Akinfeev's good performances for CSKA Moscow led to him being called up in 2004 at the age of only 18 years and 20 days. Though he has not been able to participate in a World Cup with Russia, he was Russia's third-choice keeper at Euro 2004 and first-choice at Euro 2008. He has already earned 50 caps for his country, and at only 25 years old, still has many to come.
IGNAZIO ABATE (RB) AC MILAN- Ignazio Abate has worked his way up the ranks of the Rossoneri with speed and resonance after returning to AC Milan from a number of loan spells. A fast, uncompromising right-back with a great passing game to boot, Abate has become Massimiliano Allegri's first choice to hold the right flank. He came into form as an impact player last season, helping the Rossoneri to with the Scudetto and the Supercoppa Italiana. And there is plenty more where that came from, from the looks of things. The highlight of this season would be his great performances in the home and away leg in Champions League Quarter Final against Barcelona. He is strong on the ball and has a great aerial ability which makes him dangerous even in the opposition penalty box on set pieces.
LEIGHTON BAINES (LB) EVERTON- Leighton Baines has been in a great form for Everton FC ever since joining from Wigan Athletic in 2007. After capping four succesful years at Everton Baines’, 27, hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed and he is being considered as the main contender of England’s first-choice left-back at Euro 2012 ahead of Ashley Cole. It is something which he really deserves, he is good at defending, has a great timing with tackles and can over lap on the wings and put in great crosses. He has a sweet left foot and is really dangerous with set pieces. His great performances throughout the season has earned him a place in the PFA team of the year list in 2012, he is the first one to be included from Everton after 22 years. His inclusion came as no surprise to anyone as he has been by far the most consistent Left back in the premier league this season.
DANIEL AGGER (CB) LIVERPOOL- Daniel Agger is the most under rated central defender in europe or even maybe in the world. This 6 feet 3 inches tall Danish defender has been the backbone of Liverpool’s defense for past 3 seasons now. He has a great positional sense and is strong, powerful and committed in the tackle. He has a good reading of the game and positions himself well to make interceptions. Has a rocket of a left-foot shot too. His only weaknees is injuries which has been a major concern for him for past few seasons. He hasn’t played a full season at Liverpool till now but when he does play, he gives a performance that makes the entire KOP miss him when he’s out. He has formed one of the best partnership with Martin Skrtel in the central defense this season, they are by far one of the most consistent defenders in the premier league.
LAURENT KOSCIELNY(CB) ARSENAL- There is perhaps no central defender playing in Europe whose star has risen so far and so quickly as Laurent Koscielny's during the last two years. After a patchy first season for Arsenal, Koscielny now seems to have hit his stride and has been an outstanding performer for the Gunners this in 2011-12, both at home and in Europe. Koscielny has particularly played well when paired with Arsenal's gentle giant Per Mertesacker. He leads Arsenal in almost every defensive category this season. His break-out performances have been rewarded with a call-up to the French national squad. Should his current form continue, he will likely be a strong candidate to start for France in the coming European Championships and may even force himself into the PFA team of the year.
LUCAS LEIVA (DM) LIVERPOOL- He was a figure of fun at Liverpool for a couple of years and is now more important than Steven Gerrard, if hard work was an olympic sport, Lucas would get a gold medal. He is massively under-rated. He has been the heart of Midfield for Liverpool for past two seasons. Liverpool lost Xabi Alonso and then Javier Mascherano to Madrid and Barcelona respectively, which was a blessing for Lucas, who found his best form after their departures. A knee injury might have kept him out of most part of this season but he surely is one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League. The Liverpool midfield has been shaky this season on more ocassions than not and that's because of his absence. He holds the thread in the midfield, stops the opposition attacks and carries the ball forward.
RAUL GARCIA (CM) CA OSASUNA- CA Osasuna have a lot of players who could make this list—Javad Nekounam, Sergio Fernandez, Alvaro Cejudo, etc. But the key man in engineering Los Rojillos battle for the European places in La Liga is without doubt their 25-year-old midfield maestro Raul Garcia. From the centre of midfield in La Liga this season, Garcia has scored seven goals and made eight assists, and on average creates at least three direct goalscoring chances for teammates every two games. The main goalscoring force for Osasuna, Raul Garcia is the one key player who has made his team tick this season, reflected in the four man of the match awards he's won.
PATRICK HERRMANN (RW) BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH-The rapid rise of Borussia Monchengladbach hasn't been all down to Marco Reus this season. 21-year-old right winger Patrick Herrmann, who could be the next Andres Iniesta, has also been a key player for the team, but hasn't been in the limelight anywhere near as much as Reus. Which isn't right, as Herrmann has scored six goals and made seven assists this season, and has beat many a fullback in the Bundesliga this season with his pace and control on the ball. At such a young age Herrmann is already developing greatly, and is definitely the best unheralded 21-year-old in Europe right now. He could develop to be one of the best in the game, he has speed, control and the physical strength, which makes him very difficult man to mark.
MARKO MARIN (WINGER) WERDER BREMEN- Marko Marin has been the main attacking force at Werder Bremen ever since Mesut Ozil left the club to join Real Madrid in 2010, he was then moved from the wings to an attacking midfielder role. He is a great dribbler and clinical one-on-one finisher. He also has a great technique and footwork, which is where he draws his comparison to Messi. Marin, however is not an impressive goal-scorer, but he provides prolific amount of assists. He has never recorded fewer than 10 assists in a Bundesliga season till this season. As i said before he has been the main threat at Bremen but having signed a deal with Chelsea a while back, it would be interesting to see how he fits into the CHelsea system which has a distant playing style to what he was used to at Bremen,
OLA TOIVONEN (STRIKER) PSV EINDHOVEN- Perhaps one of the most underrated footballer in Europe would be this man, Ola Toivonen. This 6 feet 3 inches PSV Eindhoven striker has been the key figure in the attack for past 2 seasons. He has so far played 76 games for PSV in the Eridivise and has scored 46 times. He is strong in the air and has great physical strength which makes it hard for the defenders to stop him in his stride. He can play on either Flanks, as an attacking midfielder and also as the centre forward. His hard work and great scoring records has made him one of the favorites among the PSV supporters and he is now regarded as an asset to the club which already boasts of numerous young talents.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (STRIKER) BORUSSIA DORTMUND- Robert Lewandowski will no doubt be one of the most talked about, and wanted, strikers in world football after Euro 2012. The 23-year-old doesn't receive any attention outside of Germany and Poland, despite being the most important player for Bundesliga table-toppers Borussia Dortmund this season. In 27 league appearances so far, he's scored 17 goals and made eight assists, and on average creates another goalscoring chance for a teammate. If that's not enough to convince you, overall this season Lewandowski's got 22 goals and 10 assists from 39 games. He is no doubt one of the main reasons behind the rise of Borussia Dortmund in the past two seasons.