In every sport you have those players which will always be known as some of the best to ever grace the game. Well what about those people who never get the recognition they deserve? Today, our writers give their top picks for the most underrated sportspeople of all time…
Ask any Sunderland fan who the most underrated great is and their instant response is Kevin Phillips. Super Kev was one of the greatest strikers to grace the English football leagues, yet he was often shadowed by the likes of Alan Shearer. His six years on Wearside bring back fond memories for Black Cats of a certain age, with tales of his goal-scoring prowess and the sheer skill he had with the ball at his feet. Despite his talent, Super Kev only ever made eight appearances for England, with strikers such as Michael Owen and Shearer beating him to a first team spot. Phillips is often forgotten as one of the best English strikers ever, but the fact he is the only Englishman to ever win a European Golden Shoe award tells you all you need to know about his talents.
Juan Martin Del Potro
I thought Rebecca had gone rogue with Edwin Van der Sar yesterday, but maybe my pick today can rival her for being niche. In the world of tennis, there’s no player I loved watching more than Juan Martin Del Potro. The towering Argentine’s heavy hitting play and feared serve were unbeatable on his day. Sadly, a series of injuries stopped ‘Delpo’ ever reaching the heights of tennis’ most revered names. Just one Grand Slam win at the US Open back in 2009 doesn’t do the player justice – at his best, I believe Del Potro could beat anyone on the circuit.
George Russell is probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think of Formula One drivers who could potentially win a world championship. Being stuck in a Williams car which could not even compete for 18th place on the grid was probably not how he imagined his first season at the top level going. However, the young Brit who is part of the Mercedes driver programme did the best job he could, out-qualifying his much more experienced teammate Robert Kubica every single race of the season. A winner of both the GP3 series and Formula 2, Russell being stuck in a weak car has hidden his true talent and he has all the makings of a future world champion in him.
When you think of great goal scoring midfield players I doubt that Finnish superstar Jari Litmanen comes into your mind. Well, he should. The mulleted maestro might be best known on British shores thanks to his short spell at Anfield, where he helped the reds win the Uefa Cup in 2001. However, he gave his best performances at Ajax, scoring 91 goals in 159 appearances- a record most strikers would be happy with. Jari was lethal in the Champions League too, finishing top scorer in 1995-96 with 9 goals and scoring 6 goals the year before to help Ajax lift the trophy. Unfortunately, Litmanen’s career was plagued with injuries, so perhaps we did not see his full potential. Still, Jari is undoubtedly a player who did so much in the short time he was fit and is a true Ajax legend.
It took me all of 48 hours to mention this legend. When thinking about the Premier League greats, people may often consider it’s greatest goal scorers, such as Shearer, or it’s best shot stoppers, like Peter Schmeichel. An aspect I think is massively overlooked would be appearances, with Gareth Barry earning the title of most appearances in the Premier League. When I first started following Everton, he was one of those players which always stood out to me when on the pitch. He may not have scored flashy goals, or have the flair of diving recklessly into silly challenges, but he stayed true to his game-plan and always delivered. It takes a certain level of fitness, dedication and grit to be able to stay in the top flight of English football for a total of 20 seasons. Through 653 appearances in the Prem he must’ve been doing something right, boasting spells with Everton, Manchester City and Aston Villa. With the ‘Premier League Hall of Fame’ postponed until after the COVID-19 crisis, I hope that his name is put into consideration.
All images sourced from ‘Wikimedia Commons’
Last modified: 19th May 2020