Miroslav Klose

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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

Klose ends playing career, will train as coach with Germany

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BERLIN (AP) The German soccer federation says striker Miroslav Klose, the top scorer in World Cup history, is ending his playing career and will train as a coach.

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The 38-year-old Klose retired from international soccer after winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014, scoring twice to bring his total goal tally from four tournaments to 16. With a career total of 71 goals, Klose is also the highest-scoring player for Germany.

Klose’s contract with Lazio expired after last season. The German federation says that, in consultation with coach Joachim Loew and technical director Hansi Flick, Klose will now undergo an individual training program “with the clear aim of embarking on a coaching career.”

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Klose, who played 137 games for Germany, will now become part of the national team setup.

Reports: Miroslav Klose in talks with New York Red Bulls

Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images
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What is it this week with talismanic strikers and New York professional soccer clubs?

A few days after rumors connected Francesco Totti with the NASL’s New York Cosmos,

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The 37-year-old Lazio man has four Serie A goals this year, all of them coming in the last month. He also had three assists in that span and, of course, is the all-time leading goal scorer at the World Cup.

From Empire of Soccer:

The reports cite Il Messaggero as the original source of the Red Bulls, Klose connection. According to the publication, the soon-to-be 38-year-old World Cup veteran has been negotiating with the striker for the past month, settling on a two-year deal worth in the vicinity of $3.4 million dollars per season.

Klose scored 13 goals last season, and it’s not difficult to imagine him having a major MLS impact a la Didier Drogba. Plus, he could absolutely complement and reinvigorate Bradley Wright-Phillips while teaching the younger RBNY corps a bit about finishing and positioning.

Klose to MLS rumors reappear

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German national team legend Miroslav Klose, 37, is said to be mulling over offers from Major League Soccer.

Multiple outlets in Italy claim that Miroslav Klose could be heading to Major League Soccer for the 2016 season as he’s out of contract with Lazio next July.

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The main sticking point is said to be Klose’s reluctance to break out of his contract with Lazio early as the Polish born former German national team star has been with The Eagles since 2011 and has become a cult hero in Rome.

Even if Klose arrives mid-season in MLS next year, would he be a good pickup? Well, it’s hit and miss. Look at the Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba scenarios from last season at New York City FC and Montreal Impact respectively and you’ll see what I mean.

However, there’s no doubting that Klose’s ability as a poacher would see MLS teams lining up to get him on board for an 18-month contract. I mean, come on, this guy is the all-time leading goalscorer at World Cup finals tournaments with 16 across four tournaments. Like Drogba, Lampard and to a lesser extend Pirlo, it seems as though Klose has kept himself in good shape and would be a great addition for any MLS team either midseason or for the entire 2016 campaign.

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It is rumored that he has been offered an ambassadorial role with the German national team as Joachim Low wants him to be with the squad at EURO 2016 this summer, and despite Klose’s apparent interest in getting into coaching in the next few years, it would be interesting to see where  he’d land in MLS.

This is not the first time Klose has been linked with a move to North America’s top-flight and since 2013 we’ve been hearing about reports and rumors regarding the German internartional but this seems like the right time to arrive in MLS if he’s going to do it.

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona, Madrid clubs win; AC Milan continue to free fall

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Elche 0-6 Barcelona

Lionel Messi and Neymar each scored a pair of goals on Saturday as the Blaugrana routed 10-man Elche on the back of five second-half goals. Gerard Pique opened the scoring after 35 minutes, but Luis Enrique’s men went into halftime up just 1-0.

Messi scored his first, a penalty kick, 10 minutes after the break Elche’s Faycal Fajr was shown his second yellow card of the day two minutes later. Neymar notched his brace with goals two minutes apart in the 69th and 71st minutes before Messi (88th minute) and Pedro (93rd) completed the scoring.

Barca remain four points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid, who knocked off Cordoba on Sunday (see below link) and three points clear of third-placed Atletico Madrid.

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Rayo Vallecano

Antoine Griezmann bagged a pair of first-half goals (12th and 22nd minutes) to set Atletico on their way at Estadio Vicente Calderon. The Frenchman used a cool, left-footed strike around the goalkeeper to net his first, and a quick toe-poke underneath the ‘keeper’s legs on the second.

An own goal by Rayo’s Manucho in the 56th minute canceled out Roberto Trashorras’ pinpoint, curling effort from 20 yards 10 minutes before halftime and effectively ended any hope of a comeback.

Villarreal 1-0 Levante

Villarreal (35 points) strengthened their hold on sixth place (Europa League) and kept their chase for the fourth and final Champions League place (currently Sevilla — 39 points, one fewer game played) alive.

Luciano Vietto cut and faked his way past a pair of Levante defenders before slotting a left-footed shot beneath ‘keeper Diego Marino in the 56th minute.

[ FULL RECAP: Cordoba 1-2 Real Madrid as Ronaldo sees red, Bale saves ]

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 1-0 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Deportivo La Coruna vs. Granada (6 am ET)
Athletic Bilbao vs. Malaga (11 am ET)
Espanyol vs. Almeria (1 pm ET)
Valencia vs. Sevilla (3 pm ET)


Lazio 3-1 AC Milan

source: Getty ImagesJeremy Menez scored his 10th Serie A goal of the season as AC Milan took the lead after four minutes and looked on their way to reversing recent fortunes and beginning the climb back up the league standings.

And then the second half began, which saw the Rossoneri conceded two goals in four minutes (Marco Parolo, 47th and Miroslav Klose (right), 51st) and wave goodbye any hopes they had of leaving the Stadio Olimico with anything to show for their troubles. Parolo picked up his second of the game with nine minutes of regular time still to be played, sealing the three points for Lazio (31 points) and climbing back above Fiorentina (30) for fifth place in the league. Fourth-placed Sampdoria are just two points ahead.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Cagliari 2-1 Sassuolo

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Inter Milan vs. Torino (9 am ET)
Hellas Verona vs. Atalanta (9 am ET)
Parma vs. Cesena (9 am ET)
Juventus vs. Chievo (9 am ET)
Sampdoria vs. Palermo (9 am ET)
Fiorentina vs. Roma (2:45 pm ET)