The Premier League has seen some of the world’s best players show their talent in England. From 20 goal-a-season strikers to dazzling number tens to big powerful centre-backs many world-class players have been praised as the world best.
But over the years there have been some players who have slipped under the cracks and not given the spotlight they deserve. Players who have been some of the best in their positions but no one seems to ever mention them for whatever reason.
Whether it be because they didn’t score enough goals, didn’t get enough assists, weren’t the flashiest, couldn’t play that killer ball, couldn’t dribble past four players or just simply were outshined in a team of stars these players deserve so much more credit then they receive these days.
To give these players their due and recognize just how good, important and underappreciated they are here is the Premier League’s most underrated Xl.
Brad Friedel played in the Premier League for 17 seasons racking up a total of 450 appearances, the 4th most in the competition amongst goalkeepers. In that time he has lined up for the likes of Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham. Always a solid pair of hands, Friedel gave any team he joined a good, experienced keeper between the sticks.
Steve Finnan played in the Premier League for the likes of Fulham and Portsmouth but is best known for this 5 seasons at Liverpool where he was their first choice right back and a key player during their road to Istanbul.
Spurs fans will always wonder what could’ve been with Ledley King. A one-club man, King was in the Tottenham first team from 1999-2012, but only made 268 league appearances in that time due to injuries, which averages out to around 19 games a season. But when he was fit and able to get onto the pitch he was one of the best defenders in the division.
Signed by Arsenal in 2002 as a young unknown from the Ivory Coast, Kolo Touré went on to play for some of the countries biggest sides in Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. Toure won two Premier League titles and was a key player in Arsène Wenger invincibles side.
Denis Irwin made 368 league appearances for Manchester United from 1990-2002 winning the title 7 times. In a team full of stars as they dominated the league Irwin was the unsung hero, consistently proving to be one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best players. He also featured for the likes of Leeds and Oldham before ending his career at Wolves.
To Liverpool fans, Dirk Kuyt will always be a cult hero. But to people outside Liverpool, Kuyt remains criminally underrated. Mr Versatilty, Kuyt was always willing to do the hard yard allowing his teammates more freedom. The Dutchman spent a successful 6 years at Anfield where he was a consistent goal threat from anywhere across the front line. He was a regular in all those seasons and became a massive fan favourite.
Just like Kuyt, James Milner will do a job no matter where he is asked to play. He has featured in defence, midfield and attack and has always given at least a 7/10. Making his Leeds debut at 16, Milner has also lined up for Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City and now Liverpool where he plays a key part in Jürgen Klopp’s side, as he looks to add to his two Premier League medals won with City. Milner has made 510 league appearances so far in this career, the most of any active player in the league, and currently sits 7th in all times assists with 82. But despite all his Milner seems destined to be remembered as a good squad option and nothing more.
Gareth Barry is currently the all-time appearance maker in the Premier League with 653 but has seemingly never got the respect he deserves. Playing in the league for a staggering 21 seasons, Barry has been a key player at Aston Villa, Manchester City and Everton. In those 21 seasons, he has only failed to make 30 appearances three times, which shows his importance to the sides he’s played in. Barry was also a key part in City’s title win in 2011-12.
Craig Bellamy was always an experienced reliable player who you could count on to score goals. Bellamy played for Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, two different stints at Liverpool and Manchester City before ending his career at his hometown club Cardiff. Not the flashiest player, Bellamy provided an eye for goal out wide and a constant threat for fullbacks.
Olivier Giroud is always made to look like a laughing stock when in reality he has been one of the leagues most consistent strikers since arriving in 2012. In his 5 full seasons at Arsenal, he has scored 69 goals but more importantly played a huge role and bringing in other players around him into the game. He sacrifices individual success for the team but still manages to be a constant goal threat. At Chelsea, he has been used a lot less but all you have to do is hear players like Eden Hazard speak about Giroud to really get a sense of how good he is.
Another player who is seen as a bit of a joke, Emile Heskey’s latter years have taken away from what was a good career from a good striker. Playing for Leicester, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Wigan and Aston Villa, Heskey, just like Giroud, was much more important to his side than just goals. At Liverpool, Heskey and Micheal Owen formed a fantastic partnership which allowed Owen to shine, with Heskey doing a lot of the groundwork for the young English hopeful. Never a world-class goalscorer Heskey still was a threat in front of goal, but his contribution to his sides go much beyond that. Far from the laughing stock that some people make him out to be these days.