They are important players at their club, yet they aren’t heralded as one. They do not cover the headlines like their teammates do. They lurk at the dark side of spotlight. Even in worst case, the fans question their immense contribution. The list belows are some underrated players in Europe :

Darijo Srna

The only reason why Srna isn’t rated as one of best right fullback in the world is he plays for Shakhtar Donetsk. If only he plays for big profile clubs in big league, no doubt people will talk him in the same breath as they talk about Lahm, Alba, Cole, or Coentrao. Don’t get me wrong. Staying in low profile club isn’t a mistake. If anything, it proves his quality both in and out of field. How many players can you find who able to pledge his loyalty despite lucrative offers constantly come ?

His quality is unquestionable. Shakhtar Donetsk aren’t the club with stellar resources, yet they always pose trouble against the teams that have double or triple players worth. Willian was the hottest asset of Shakhtar in recent season, but people forget about Srna who has been the skipper of lethal black horse team for years. His crossing is top notch and can be rated as one of the best in the world –if not the best-. His set-piece ability is deadly as well. Also, he has tremendous stamina to move back and forth, bombarding forward while not neglecting his defensive duty. And his statistic speaks his volume quite well. Captain of Shakhtar Donestk and Croatia national team, 100 international caps, 2 trophies with Hajduk Split, 15 trophies with Shakhtar including UEFA Cup in 2009, and a part of 2010/2011 UCL Team of the Season. Truly one of leading right back in generation.

Thomas Mueller

The UCL semifinal served as grandstages with different purposes for 2 players : Lewandowski and Mueller. The quattrick acted as proving point that the Pole is already ready to challenge the world. For the latter, it is a wake-up call for everybody to realize that –along with Lahm- he has been the best German player since his emergence in World Cup 2010. Scoring 5 goals in World Cup is an exceptional feat, let alone if he was only 20 years old and it was his first World Cup tournament. He replicated his scintillating form into next seasons and the current 2012/2013 season perhaps is his best one. He has already producing 20 goals and 15 assists for Bayern Munich this season and still counting.

Thomas Mueller is the embodiment of old Germany and the contrast of newly technical national team. He can’t dribble past opponent beatifully like Reus or Goetze. He doesn’t have an eye for space and pass like Schweinsteiger or Ozil. But he has key attributes that few have : consistency and tough champion mentality. Let’s look back at UCL final 2011/2012 when Chelsea won it through penalty shootout. When it seemed the Bavarian couldn’t break the deadlock, Mueller came to the rescue by scoring desperately needed goal. Unfortunately, the adventage was denied when his German colleague Manuel Neuer couldn’t save easy Drogba’s header which he should and could deal with. Schweinsteiger case wasn’t better either. He didn’t even dare to watch his teammate Robben took the penalty and he didn’t have enough nerve to take it by himself. He was obviously nervous and he didn’t even dare to look at the goal when his shoot-out would determine the heaven or hell. Muller proves that, to become the champion, skill and technique aren’t adequate, you must have the champion mentality to achieve it.

He also has 1 key attribute that is frequently overlooked, namely defensive contribution. Most of attacking players have tendency to neglect their defensive duties. Ronaldo and Hazard are few examples of them as the opponents will target their flank and pose big trouble for the sideback. It is not the case for Mueller. Either closing down at the front line or tracking back the opposition winger, he deals with them excellently.

Mikel Arteta

Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are the main cannons of Arsenal, but everyone forgets the base which allows the bullet to be shot without losing its stability. Arteta is the base of explosive cannon of Arsenal. Stationed in front of unreliable and inconsistent backfour in ultra-offensive team, he is the first man who is responsible to repel opponent’s attack. Adding up the factor that the level of Arsenal pressing is nowhere near good, Arteta’s task is incredibly difficult.

One amazing thing that is often overlooked is how Arteta converts his role in the age of 29. He was always the playmaker who relied on his vision and passing ability and they are the asset that attracted Wenger. But, Wilshere recovery and Cazorla arrival compelled Wenger to shift Arteta for greater good and the latter willingly agreed. Such sacrificial alone in late stage of career is already worth the praise.

Maybe Arteta defensive ability isn’t as good as other established players like Schneiderlin, Sandro, Parker, Lucas etc. But, to underestimate his defensive contribution is really a stupid thing. Currently in EPL rank, Arteta stands at 13th rank in tackling department (highest in team), 10th in intercepting (2nd in team), and 3rd in committing foul. The statistic proves that he is the most important axis in Arsenal defence and it is underlined by his foul. We all know that Arsenal play high defensive line, but with lack of pressing. Thus, they are really vulnerable to counter attack. By committing foul, he buys time for his team to retreat and forming the defence. And amazingly, he has only amassed 3 yellow card in this season. Adding up he always manages to distribute the ball well after robbing the possession, Arteta is undoubtly an unsung hero of Arsenal.

Michael Carrick

This season is when MU fans finally appreciates Carrick as fine player. Carrick himself admitted that he is enjoying 2012/2013 season as the best campaign he has ever have. But, it is not that his previous seasons were bad. Instead, he has always been one of MU best players since years ago. Common sense here. There is no way Sir Alex will keep playing him if he is bad player. Also, to quote Xavi and Xabi Alonso, Carrick is the player that both of them dream to play with. Pay attention, the words come out from the cores of reigning world champion.

Carrick is the modern central midfielder which emphasizes on ball retention. He is not trequartista who able to unlock the defence with magical pass. He is not anchorman who fights for every centimetre of midfield. His role is very simple and not eye-catching. Sitting in front of defence, he tries to make himself available for his teammate to pass and then recycling it with short pass to other players. Simple, isn’t it ? Sounds like easy job, but when you must do it on regular basis on high level games, it becomes ridiculously hard. In current era when possession and ball retention are the key features of game, the passer role becomes even more important. His defensive contribution also can’t be overlooked. Just like Arteta, he defends with his sense, not by physical battle like classic defensive midfielder.

Carrick has his up and downs during his career in MU. Back then, he was good player, but his passing was more sloppy than now. Sometimes, he coughed up possession in even easiest circumstances. Furthermore, his defence wasn’t as good as he has now. Any MU fans would remember how he conceded unnecessary foul or just couldn’t apply enough pressure on his opponent. Also, only few people understand the tactical value of passer role as it seems like easy job. It was very common to hear any MU fans called for Carrick’s head and complained how he contributes nothing for team. What abruptly change people opinion is the licence to spray more ambitious ball which he gets this season. It is obvious that he passes more risky ball and more defence-splitting pass than he used to do. And it is the reason why more people regard him more highly now although there is not so much difference between present-Carrick and past-Carrick.

Samir Handanovic

Throw “Who is the best keeper in the world ?” question to people and most of them will answer big names such as Casillas, Buffon, Neuer, Hart, Cech etc. If anything, he can be counted as best 3 goalkeepers in the world, if not the best. Aside of Inter Milan and Serie-A fans, it seems no one bothers about Handanovic. Too bad that people don’t know he was elected as Serie-A best goalkeeper, in 2011. Considering how he stands strong amidst crumbling defence of Inter, it is very likely for him to grab the award for 2012/2013 season.

He had already shown his remarkable goalkeeping skill while he was at Udinese, but it was Alexis Sanchez and Di Natale who got the attention. When Inter released Julio Cesar to QPR and replaced him with Handanovic, many people raised their eyebrows. Could the Slovenian replace an integral part of Inter Milan treble team and Brazil number 1 ?  Now, the move has been proven as a great business as he produces terrific performances throughout the season. Every Interisti has already lost count of how many times Handanovic saves Inter from certain goal. The most notable games were when Inter defeated Juventus at their own home 1-3 and drew against AC Milan 1-1. He contained barrage of shots, keeping Inter in the game before the Nerazzurri clawed back into the game. If Handanovic could keep his performance in high level consistently, no doubt that he will be Inter number 1 for many years ahead.

Sergio Busquets

The offensive football of Barcelona has taken the world by storm. Messi-Xavi-Iniesta have won so many admirers across the globe. But does anyone ever put attention on the man who does all dirty jobs to shore up the team ? The man is Sergio Busquets. Messi may score as many goals as he likes. Iniesta may split the defence like a hot knife on the butter. Xavi may dictate the game like a dirigent maestro. But, Busquets is the first layer of Barcelona defence and believe me, he is as indispensable as them.

To describe how good is Busquets in short, he is the better version of modern central midfielder than previously mentioned Arteta and Carrick. Three of them play at the same role, only Busquets does it even better. To begin with, his defensive ability is top notch and arguably the best among the midfielders in the world. As Barcelona play high-line defence, they are very vulnerable to counterattack and Busquets shoulders the greatest responsibility to break it before his backline is threatened. He reads the game very well. To quote Iniesta, Busquets is the best player when it comes to tactical understanding. As if they are not enough, Busquets also holds great importance in term of aerial dominance. Remember, Barcelona comprise of mostly short players and only few of them are comfortable in handling aerial threat, i.e. Puyol, Pique, and Busquets himself. Since Puyol has been injury-ridden throughout the season and Pique is oblivious in defending, the task is even heavier for him.

Attacking wise, Busquets is fine player as well. His passing is top class –as expected from La Masia graduate-. There is reason why Barcelona can switch from defence to attack smoothly and Busquets is main factor here. And his passing also the reason why Barcelona dominated football backthen. It is impossible to close down Barcelona as the whole tri-cores of midfield are very comfortable with ball.

If there is downside of him, it is his notoriety as a diver and actor. Although he has been already trying to fix his old sins by playing more cleanly, his past will keep haunting him. The image of him peeped through his palm when he rolled down the pitch as Thiago Motta was sent off will linger forever in history. But, like or not, his acting is one of his strength. He has magical knack to turn 50-50 situation in favor of him. When other players must commit a foul to stop the counterattack, Busquets will get a freekick when his opponents run into him. This is a dirty trick, but unnoticed foul is the high-class technique, isn’t it ?

Others :

For several reasons, here are other players which aren’t mentioned in list above : Neven Subotic, Sami Kheidira, Stephan Liechtsteiner,  Ramires, Thiago Silva, Leighton Baines.