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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.

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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

PSG’s Mbappe praises Klopp, Liverpool in recent interview

Kylian Mbappe Liverpool
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This is going to delight the Anfield set.

Paris Saint-Germain mega striker Kylian Mbappe has admitted admiration for the way Liverpool plays, as conversations continue regarding his future.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

Mbappe, 21, may be the most valuable commodity in the world given his position, accomplishments, and skill set. For France, he has a World Cup to go with 34 caps, 13 goals, and 10 assists. For PSG and Monaco combined, he’s scored 117 goals and 65 assists in 180 appearances.

He doesn’t turn 22 until December.

But there’s long been a thought that the World Cup winner will eventually have to leave PSG to cement his legacy given the relatively shallow competition in the league.

“This season, Liverpool have been a machine in the Premier League,” he told The Mirror. “They have made winning look easy but the truth is that it is never easy. Performances like they have been having don’t just happen.

“To be as ruthless as they have been would come from lots of hard work in training and from having a very good manager.”

Liverpool fans will be nodding along, beckoning the center forward with arms extended and hands waving him to them.

Real Madrid has often been the rumored destination, and we’ve argued that there’s no fee too high for this player considering how many years he has ahead of him.

With transfer fees possibly ducking low this summer after a wake-up call from the coronavirus, could Liverpool upgrade its dangerous front three with one of the top center forwards in the game?

The fact that the Reds reportedly negotiated a percentage of jersey sales into their new apparel deal could help, because it’s easy to imagine red Mbappe jerseys all around the world.

Canada’s Davies shines again as Muller brands him Roadrunner (video)

Alphonso Davies
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Alphonso Davies sees your expectations and he moves past them with vigor.

The Canadian phenom again took the international spotlight and ran with it, past it, and over it on Tuesday as Bayern Munich put one hand on its eighth-straight Bundesliga title with a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

We’ll get to the stats and the style in a bit, but let’s start with some video that showcases the elite physical package he’s built.

Davies isn’t grinding here and he’s actually a bit slow to recognize the danger as Erling Haaland works over David Alaba.

Haaland isn’t at top speed and balance, too, but it doesn’t matter. Davies is there in a hurry. And it’s also about what he does when he get there. There are plenty of speed merchants in the game, not all of them can tackle Erling Haaland.

[ RELATED: Real Madrid targeting Davies as Marcelo replacement ]

That’s why this viral soundbite from Thomas Muller is gaining a lot of traction (also because it’s funny).

The roadrunner quip is the main attraction, but hidden in it is the implication that Davies has these elite make-up skills but is only going to get better with experience and awareness. He’s cutting out Haaland a minute earlier.

Before you watch that, though, here’s what Davies said on the play.

“Obviously being a young player I get caught out of position a lot and I’m happy to have the speed I have. That’s a factor in my game that I use very well, but I think over the years going forward with this team I will definitely learn more about my position, better positioning so it doesn’t look like I’m out of position just running back as fast as I can to catch up.”

Davies moved from Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern just last year, but is already the undisputed best player for the Canadian national team with five goals and eight assists in 17 caps.

His 54 tackles are tied for 16th amongst Bundesliga players (Remember: He’s 19).

His 72 dribbles are top in the league (Again: 19).

Only three players have won more duels than his 180 (Not 20 until November).

And his two professional matches of left back experience before October were with Bayern II in 3.Liga this Fall. That’s bonkers.

Meep-meep.

Bundesliga wrap: Bayer, Gladbach wobble; USMNT back is Eintracht hero

Bundesliga wrap
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Second-half goal explosions led to excitement in two of three late Bundesliga kickoffs on Tuesday, with an American making a super sub impact in Frankfurt.

Bayern won 1-0 at Dortmund earlier in the day, opening the door for a challenge on second. Bayer and Gladbach both declined to enter.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

A loss for the former and draw from the latter all make this an absolutely wonderful day for the seven-time reigning champs in Bavaria.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 Wolfsburg

A Maximilian Arnold set piece star show saw the German behind three goals as Wolfsburg firmed up its top six credentials with a big win against red-hot Bayer.

Marin Pongracic headed two of Arnold’s free kicks home with a third taking a turn off the wall to give Arnold a goal of his own. Renato Steffen also scored in the win.

Julian Baumgartlinger scored very late for Bayer, who sinks fifth with 53 points.

Wolfsburg’s win gives them 42 points, four more than seventh-place Freiburg.

Wolfsburg had the two best chances of the first quarter-hour and it could’ve easily been 1-0 or 2-0 if not for a crucial blocked from Bayer defender Edmond Tapsoba and a fine save from Tomas Hradecky minutes later.

Bayer found some footing in the latter stages of the first half, forcing a save out of Koen Casteels before Kai Havertz tempted the frame with a header off a set piece.

The visitors’ breakthrough came before halftime, as ex-Salzburg defender Pongracic rose high to meet a terrific Arnold free kick from the right side to make it 1-0.

Wolfsburg had two quick chances to start the second half, Hradecky making a right arm save and a second chanced missed by the visitors.

Arnold’s 65th-minute free kick then took a hard turn off Kai Havertz inside the Bayer wall en route to defying Hradecky for 2-0.

The third goal arrived in short order, smallish Steffen outleaping Wendell to a Joao Victor cross and heading home.

American defender John Brooks subbed off in the 82nd minute with Wolfsburg holding a 4-0 lead and Havertz in the midst of one of his worst matches in a while.

Brooks posted six clearances, three interceptions, and a tackle and had a rough passing day by his very high standards. Brooks completed 70 percent of his passes, including four-of-eight long balls (Sofascore).

USMNT teen Ulysses Llanez made the bench for Wolfsburg but was an unused sub despite the big score line.

https://twitter.com/FOXSoccer/status/1265372544305168389

Werder Bremen 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

The hosts built on a weekend win by going toe-to-toe with a still out-of-sorts Gladbach on Tuesday at the Weserstadion.

Gladbach moves fourth, level on points with Bayer Leverkusen but ahead on goal differential after the latter’s blowout.

Bremen is still 17th after gaining its 22nd point, two points back of 16th and five back of 15th.

Gladbach had the first half edge in possession and shots but could not break down Bremen, who matched them chance-for-chance on the day.

USMNT youngster Josh Sargent earned another start for Bremen, going 74 minutes with 26 touches, a clearance, an interception, and two fouls drawn. He wasn’t at his best in duels but, again, Bremen’s system puts center forwards on an island and you get the feeling Florian Kohfeldt designed for defense against powerful Gladbach.

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-3 Freiburg

USMNT back Timothy Chandler scored with his first touch of the game to complete a thrilling comeback for Eintracht in a 3-3 draw.

Chandler subbed into the game in the 81st minute and deposited Filip Kostic’s handiwork in the 82nd, three minutes after Daichi Kamada had pulled the hosts to within one.

Eintracht showed a lot of heart in the comeback, out-attempting Freiburg 34-10. The point moves Eintracht five points clear of the bottom three and seven ahead of the automatic relegation places.

Freiburg remains seventh, now four points back of Wolfsburg and capable of finishing the midweek as low as ninth.

Vincenzo Grifo scored a goal and later set up another for Freiburg, with Nils Petersen and Lucas Holer also finding the back of the net.

Grifo’s third goal of the season gave the visitors a 28th-minute lead that would last only seven minutes.

Andre Silva answered with his 10 goal in all comps for Eintracht on loan from Milan, and it was 1-1 at the break.

Freiburg scored in the 67th and 69th to take a lead and, seemingly, another step toward the Europa League.

Instead, it was Eintracht who firmed up their footing at the other end of the table.

Here’s Chandler’s equalizer, a nice feat of power and coordination.

Wednesday

12:30 p.m. ET: RB Leipzig v. Hertha Berlin
2:30 p.m. ET: Augsburg v. Paderborn
2:30 p.m. ET: Union Berlin v. Mainz
2:30 p.m. ET: Hoffenheim v. Cologne
2:30 p.m. ET: Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Schalke

Kimmich reacts to thrilling winner for Bayern in Der Klassiker

Joshua Kimmich
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Joshua Kimmich isn’t an out-and-out scorer, but he looked the part after his heroics led Bayern Munich to a huge victory.

Ask him about his stunning chip over Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday’s Klassiker, and the Bayern Munich midfielder doesn’t tone it down.

“The best goal in my career,” the German midfielder said, via Bayern Munich. “It was very important.”

Kimmich has 28 senior goals between club and country, and this one was a beauty. Kimmich took a lay-off from Kingsley Coman and spun a ball over the flailing Roman Burki.

[ 3 THINGS: Dortmund 0-1 Bayern ]

Burki is a fine keeper and Dortmund had only allowed one goal in his last six outings before the derby. It was going to take something special to beat him.

Kimmich says that Hansi Flick’s staff had prepared the Bayern players for the habits of the strong and aggressive goalkeeper.

“We were previously informed that Bürki is always relatively high.”