Why understated all too often means underrated in football

Manchester City Midfielder Yaya Toure

So the games this weekend didn’t really throw up anything shocking – apart from United not getting a penalty decision go their way at Old Trafford for the first time in, well, ever –  Ronaldo scored twice again as the Los Blancos wagon continued to steamroll all before them, Joe Hart proved once again he is the best goalkeeper England have had in a very long time, Mad Mario had more success kicking the Liverpool dressing room door than the ball and Chelsea battered Wolves at the Bridge.

Cue the plaudits for an entirely predictable set of players – by now most people can name who they feel should be in the running as player of the year contender, and who they feel makes their team tick. Yet it was a pre match interview with Yaya Toure that made me stop and think – the ever present Ivorian would not be on many people’s list for player of the season, Joe Hart and Aguero would top the billing for City fans, but people may change their minds when the big midfielder is missing for the duration of the African Cup of Nations.

It is a mark of a really great player that when they are gone it is only then you realise how good they actually are. Think back to Makelele – only upon losing him did Real Madrid realise how important he was to them. Ask Chelsea fans who they wanted fit for the entire season – few would have marked out Essien – but what a hole they now have in the heart of the team without him.

Most Arsenal fans and indeed people with the ability to see would point to RVP as being their GOD this season, and yes, they would struggle ten fold without him, but because of the Dutchman’s sensational form, people have overlooked other members of the team and their contribution – especially keeper Szczesny, who has been brilliant for the Gunners.

It is understandably hard for people to look beyond a team that say has Benzema, Higuain and Ronaldo leading their line, not to mention San Iker in goal or the rock that is Ramos in defence, to more unsung players, and I guarantee no one would mention the contribution of Lassana Diarra this season – yet the Frenchman has been almost ever present, and has played in midfield and at both full backs, never letting the team down.

It is players such as Diarra that are so vital to teams, and no amount of CR7’s would see Real overhaul Barca without players like Diarra and Khedira – I mean have you seen Ronaldo defend? Not as bad as Messi but it’s still not quite clean sheet material!

Barcelona this summer chose to spend their transfer budget on bringing Cesc home and also on the brilliant Alexis Sanchez, who are undeniably star players, but you can only have so many star players in a team, with Barca lacking in the understated squad player with versatility and a gritty defender who can stay fit for a season and lead them to victories.

Look at Levante – it is the collective mentality and understated players that have got them so far this season, with Newcastle much the same in the Premier League.

Whilst ‘star’ players are obviously important, it is all too often that squad players or even those who are ever present yet go about their job in an understated way get forgotten, and it’s about time we started remembering what a vital role they play and showing some recognition of that.


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