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Burning Question: The most underrated player in history?

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be asking some burning questions we have when it comes to the beautiful game. Today’s topic is naming the most underrated player in history.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

To be clear, there is stark difference between being underrated and being underexposed. The following four players – it was overwhelmingly complicated to trim the list to one, sole player – had intercontinental exposure during and/or after their playing days, meaning that their magic met the eyes of many but, for one reason or another, they didn’t reap the unanimous praise they deserved.

So, with that in mind, let’s break down the world’s most underrated players in the history of the game.

Jimmy Greaves

English professional footballer Jimmy Greaves in action for West Ham in the League Division One match between Crystal Palace FC and West Ham United FC at Selhurst Park Stadium in London on 24th October 1970. The match would end in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Before the turn of the millennial, before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo demonstrated to the modern world that scoring over 400 goals in top-flight soccer was possible, the world turned to Jimmy Greaves’ pristine goalscoring dominancy in England.

From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, the English forward was his country’s reference point as it pertained to The Beautiful Game, scoring 357 first-division goals over the span of 14 years. Greaves’ 266 goals with Tottenham makes him the club’s all-time top scorer, while his 44 goals in 57 caps (0.77 goals per game) with England makes him one the most efficient scorers the Three Lions have ever had.

Ironically, in 2019, it was Greaves’ family that took their concerns to the frontlines, asking English soccer authorities why it is that an ill, 80-year-old Greaves has yet to be recognized by the honors system despite being England’s king of goals.

“I have no idea why [Greaves has not been honored],” Danny Greaves, son of Jimmy, said in 2019. “As a family we are not bothered but if someone knocked on the door tomorrow and said we would like to give your dad an honor we would accept with open arms. It is up to the authorities.”

Garrincha

Garrincha: a dignified soccer phenom that truly never was due to Pelé’s immense, looming shadow over the soccer world, and, specifically, Brazil.

A supreme dribbler and one of the most agile wingers of his time, Garrincha was, without exception, the closest player to match Pelé’s greatness during Brazil’s first Golden Age. But to some, the Botafogo icon was better.

Brazilian forward Garrincha (L) dribbles past Welsh defender Mel Hopkins during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Brazil and Wales 19 June 1958 in Goteborg.

“Garrincha was more of a danger than Pelé I believe at the time, a phenomenon, capable of sheer magic,” said Wales defender Mel Hopkins, who marked Garrincha in 1958. 

It is for that reason, that over the years, a world-wide case has been brewing in the Brazilian’s corner: Garrincha is one of soccer’s most underrated players of all time. No spoilers, but the statement hasn’t turned into an animated debate. It’s as factual of a statement as Pelé being one of the top three greats ever.

Miroslav Klose

No other player in the history of the game has scored more World Cup goals than Miroslav Klose. Most lovers of the game are cognizant of that, which has its own, elite level of merit, taking into consideration that the German tops a list composed of Ronaldo, Gerd Muller, Pelé, among other greats of the game.

One can make the case that Klose is the World Cup’s most underrated player, no doubt. But, at the same time, one can make the case that the German striker is one of the games’ most underrated players in history.

BERLIN, GERMANY – OCTOBER 16: Miroslav Klose of Germany celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifier group C match between German and Sweden at Olympiastadion on October 16, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.

Klose had it all: a vigorous right foot, slithering movements, a dynamite header, the titles, and, most awarding for any player in his position, a penchant for scoring goals – for club and country. By the time a 38-year-old Klose called it a career in 2016, he’d lifted 11 trophies, was Germany’s all-time scorer with 71 goals, scored 231 goals and was the World Cup’s all-time scorer with 16 goals.

There may never be another Klose, a sentiment even he would likely agree with: “The football I grew up playing is no longer there. Today, all players care about is their cars, their shoes with their names on, and their image. While for me, the only thing that counted was football. Nothing else,” Klose said in January.

Jorge “Mágico” González

Latin America’s long list of greats poses as if it is at full capacity, showcasing names such as Pelé, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Elías Figueroa, Hugo Sánchez, Hugo Sotil in its trophy case. The list truly goes on and on, but always tends to leave one name out of the equation: Jorge “Mágico” González.

The Salvadoran, who is recognized by many as the player who didn’t want to be better than Maradona, was Cadiz’s reference point in the 1980s, characterized as a force due to his unmatched dribbling skills, wizardry faints and zippy speed.

Off the field, however, it was a different story for the player that led El Salvador to a World Cup in 1982.

In 1984, during Barcelona’s tour in the United States, Diego Maradona and the rest of the team made their way out of the hotel they were staying at due to a fire alarm that had gone off. González, who was on trial with the team at the time, was in his room with a woman, and was reluctant to exit the room despite what was occurring. Shortly after they found out about his actions, Barcelona decided to cut Mágico loose.

“I admit that I am not a saint, that I like the nightlife and that the desire to party; not even my mother can take it away. I know that I am irresponsible and a bad professional, and I may be missing the opportunity of my life. I know, but I have nonsense in the head: I don’t like to treat football as a job. If I did it wouldn’t be me. I only play for fun,” González said.

Honorable Mentions: 

Hugo Sánchez

Rivaldo

Dirk Kuyt

Gerd Muller

3 things learned as Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 8-2

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich was a UEFA Champions League classic as Bayern ran riot in Lisbon to book their spot in the semifinals as they won 8-2. That’s right. 8-2.

Bayern scored early and often as both teams had chances galore but the German giants took theirs with Thomas Muller scoring twice, plus Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry scoring one each. Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and Philippe Coutinho (twice) all scored in the second half after Luis Suarez pulled one back to make it 4-2.

Early on Barcelona briefly made it 1-1 through David Alaba’s own goal but Lionel Messi and Co. were dominated and made so many defensive errors. Hansi Flick’s Bayern will now face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal, while Quique Setien’s brief spell in charge of Barcelona is surely over.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

The game started at an incredible pace as Jerome Boateng defended superbly with Suarez lurking, then Bayern took the lead. Lewandowski and Muller combined and the latter finished to make it 1-0, but soon it was 1-1. Jordi Alba’s cross was shanked into his own net by Alaba to level things up.

Barca then went close as Suarez was denied by Manuel Neuer, then Messi hit the post as his cross missed everyone and struck the woodwork as four Barcelona players were left clutching their heads in disbelief.

[ VIDEO: Alphonso Davies magical assist ]

Chances kept on coming for both teams in an entertaining, end-to-end clash with Messi forcing Neuer into a save. Perisic then drilled home a low shot to make it 2-1 and Bayern almost scored a third but Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved well. They did make it 3-1 soon after as Gnabry drilled home a low shot after fine passes from Thiago and then Leon Goretzka.

Muller made it 4-1 before the break as Joshua Kimmich’s cross found the veteran German at the near post as Barcelona kept conceding chances, and goals. In the second half Suarez made it 4-2 early on to give Barca a chance of an unlikely comeback but that’s all it was. Alphonso Davies’ amazing assist set up Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2 and Lewandowski got his goal to make it 6-2 as Barca were humiliated further when their player, Coutinho, on loan at Bayern rolled two home late on to rub further salt into their wounds.

Here’s a look at what we learned from Barcelona – Bayern Munich, a truly memorable Champions League quarterfinal.


BARCELONA THEIR OWN WORST ENEMIES

No team had conceded four goals sooner in a Champions League knockout match and this was the first time Barcelona conceded five or more goals in a Champions League match in their history. It was also the first time since 1949 that Barcelona had conceded seven goals in a single game. It was also the first time since 1951 they lost a game by six goals. It was the first time a team had scored eight in a Champions League knockout game. Yes, Bayern were clinical but Barcelona caused their own problems time and time again. Ter Stegen was hellbent on playing the ball short inside his own penalty box, while Sergi Roberto and Frenkie de Jong were totally overpowered in midfield and Nelson Semedo was bullied at right back. Barcelona kept making poor defensive mistakes and anybody who has watched them since the restart in La Liga will understand why. This is not a new thing. Bayern could have scored more and Barcelona were just woeful and looked totally devoid of confidence late on. Messi and Co. looked stunned in the final stages of the game.

END OF AN ERA AT BARCELONA?

Messi, Suarez, Busquets, Vidal, Pique. What do they all have in common? Four of them are 33 years old and Busquets is 32. This feels like the end of an era at Barcelona. Of course, Messi is Messi and he can play until he wants as he whipped in delicious deliveries in the first half but didn’t have enough help around him. He gave up in the second half. This Barcelona team couldn’t cope with the pace and power of Bayern and they just gave up. Messi one of the worst culprits. Earlier this season the Argentine legend was outspoken when it came to asking questions of the powers that be and his own teammates and he knew. He knew that big problems were coming and Barca were in big trouble. They still finished second in La Liga and reached the last eight of the Champions League but that’s not good enough for Barcelona and this was one of the most humiliating nights in their history.

BAYERN’S HIGH-LINE A PROBLEM

The one negative for Bayern was how many chances they gave to Barcelona, especially in the first half. Their high-line was problematic but perhaps they pinched so high up so they could give Barcelona’s shaky defensive problems? Either way, they can’t play that high of a line against Manchester City or Lyon in the semifinal. Aside from that defensive line, they were dominant, powerful, hungry and classy throughout. The German champions are full of confidence and are the red-hot favorites to win the Champions League. Barcelona – Bayern Munich will go down in history and Bayern will be feared by everyone if they weren’t already.

VIDEO: Alphonso Davies turns on style with amazing assist

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Alphonso Davies ladies and gents. Alphonso Davies.

The Canadian teenager set up Bayern Munich’s fifth goal in their demolition of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal and he did it in some style.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Remember: the Vancouver Whitecaps product only broke into Bayern Munich’s first team as a regular earlier this season and he’s now ripping it up against Barcelona in the latter stages of the Champions League.

He will be pinching himself right about now as he played a key role in a classic Bayern display as they tore Barcelona apart and could have scored seven or eight easily.

Alphonso Davies, 19, totally bamboozled Barcelona’s right back Nelson Semedo on more than one occasion way out on the left flank. He then drove towards goal, skipped past another defender and put it on a plate for Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2.

Check out the video below to see Davies doing what he does best for the assist, as the teenager is surely going to become the best left back on the planet.

His incredible story continues as his first season as a regular for Bayern Munich has been a hugely memorable one.

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich: How to watch, as Bayern batter Barca

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich is a massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Friday (start time, 3pm ET) and here is everything you need to know ahead of the epic clash in Lisbon, Portugal.

And it delivered early on.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Thomas Muller scored the opener. David Alaba scored a peach of an own goal. Ivan Perisic smashed home. Serge Gnabry and then Muller both grabbed another goal each for Bayern. Both teams had a plethora of chances. And that was just the opening 32 minutes!

Check out the goal videos here, as there was sublime quality in attack from Bayern and Barcelona just couldn’t handle the Bavarians.

PREVIEW: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Many believe the 2019-20 Champions League winner will be one of these two teams, as they face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal.

Barcelona and Lionel Messi have the disappointment of losing their La Liga title in recent weeks to spur them on in the Champions League, while Bayern Munich swept all before them in Germany this season with Robert Lewandowski scoring 53 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

After just a few months in charge, Barca boss Quique Setien likely needs to win the Champions League to keep his job as Messi is firing in attack but Barca are still suspect at the back. As for Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who has masterminded a masterful turnaround since taking charge last November, he and the Bayern hierarchy will see this as the Bavarians’ best chance to win the Champions League since they last did so in 2013.

[ MORE: Key battles in UCL quarterfinals ]

Below you will find all of the details you need on Barcelona – Bayern Munich in what is set to be the game of the Champions League season so far as both teams love to attack.


How to watch, stream Champions League: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Dates: August 12, 3pm ET kick off
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Barcelona have Ousmane Dembele on the bench. The Frenchman hasn’t featured in nine months and had surgery on his hamstring in February, but he could be a great option off the bench. The rest of the lineup is as expected with De Jong and Vidal charged with supporting Messi and Suarez up top and Antoine Griezmann on the bench.

Bayern are without Benjamin Pavard who has an ankle injury, while Alphonso Davies shook off a slight adductor problem to start and experienced duo Thiago Alcantara and Ivan Perisic start for Bayern.


What they’re saying

Antoine Griezmann on Barcelona’s mindset: “We are looking forward to it, we have worked well tactically and we are ready to play the game. We know it will be difficult, but we know what we have to do to qualify for the semifinals. It will be a very good match. We hope to take advantage of the quality we have. We are in a good moment and we can play a good game. We have to be together, up front and at the back, and try to have the ball as much as possible.”

Hansi Flick on the style of play he wants from Bayern: “Defensively to win the ball – and offensively, purposefully and consistently to score goals. The intensity of our actions is crucial. We also want to play attractive possession football. The most important thing is that we see ourselves as a team and that everyone knows what their task is. Every player has to get involved and be able to rely on his neighbor on the pitch. This is extremely important to us.”


Odds – Full matchweek odds

It is not often that Barcelona (+235) are the underdogs but they are here, and that shows you how good Bayern Munich (+115) have been in recent months. Bayern will be wary of Messi but with Lewandowski banging in goals for fun and a stable midfield and defensive unit behind him, the Bavarian giants are the favorites for a reason. The tie at +255 provides value and this should be a goal-fest.


Prediction

If this turns into a straight shootout, you would probably fancy Barcelona to advance with Luis Suarez, Messi and Antoine Griezmann in attack. But Bayern will keep it tight, look to slow play down and then launch counters which Lewandowski can finish. I think this game will be stretched and become the attacking feast all neutrals are hoping for, but the Germans are just a more ruthless and solid team right now. Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich.

Alexander-Arnold wins Premier League’s Young Player of the Year

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Trent Alexander-Arnold is a sensation and the 21-year-old right back has been named the Premier League Young Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Alexander-Arnold has been a revelation since bursting onto the scene at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and his marauding runs from right back, stunning long-range passes and wonderful free kicks were a key part in Liverpool winning the Premier League title.

He set a new record for Premier League assists for a defender, as he racked up 13 throughout the season and was so often a difference maker in tight wins for the Reds. The local lad has well and truly done good with a Champions League, World Club Cup and Premier League trophies in his first few seasons as a pro.

The England international beat Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Jack Grealish and Dean Henderson to the award and there can be no arguments with this decision.

Here’s a look at just a few of TAA’s highlights from 2019-20.

The big question now around Alexander-Arnold is this: how far can he go?

He is much more than just an outlet for Liverpool at right back. He somehow dictates so many of their attacks from the right back position, which is no mean feat, and given that Jurgen Klopp plays a 4-3-3 formation he is also expected to dig in and do plenty of defensive work. Somehow he does that, as well as surging forward and providing an attacking outlet.

Alexander-Arnold could easily move into midfield or play as a forward and it would not be surprising to see Klopp bring in a new right back when one of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane eventually move on, then he could move TAA into the attack.

A defender who does his job at the back but contributes in attack, consistently and with quality, is so hard to find.

Alexander-Arnold is a modern day full back and his form this season suggested he can become one of the best right backs in the game. If he isn’t the best already.

Who else is close to him in the world game? Think about it. Keep thinking. Yep. You can’t think of anybody better than him, can you? Joshua Kimmich? Dani Carvajal? Aaron Wan-Bissaka? Kimmich and TAA are close but Kimmich doesn’t offer what TAA does in attack, even though he is also capable of playing much further forward and in midfield.

The early years of Alexander-Arnold’s career has proven he is versatile and can become a more attacking player, but he’s done such a great job at right back, is it worth the hassle in moving him from that position? Whatever happens and wherever you put him he will provide quality deliveries, assists and clever runs.