Football

Top five: Underrated Barcelona players

Giovani Dos Santos was tipped to become a world star (©GettyImages)
Giovani Dos Santos was tipped to become a world star (©GettyImages).

Barcelona is clearly one of the most prestigious clubs in the world, and great players like Xavi, Carles Puyol or Lionel Messi come to our minds when we hear the club‘s name.

Nevertheless, there are many youngsters who fight their way up to the first squad before quietly disappear among the stars.

Still, the crucial Blaugrana players need help from their unnoted team-mates to secure the success.

Here are the top five of many underrated players to have played at the Camp Nou in recent years:

5. Ludovic Giuly

The little French winger played a major role at Barcelona, before being replaced by no other than Lionel Messi.

Giuly, now aged 36, represented Barca between 2004-2007 and scored 20 goals in 85 appearances on the wing. He was a goalscoring machine in the first two seasons after moving from AS Monaco. The Frenchman was the key to Barcelona’s Champions League final triumph in 2006, thanks to his ultimate goal against AC Milan. A year later, Giuly signed for AS Roma on a three-year contract.

4. Ibrahim Afellay

Ibrahim Afellay, 27, moved to Barcelona in 2010, hoping to be the new sensation on Barcelona’s wing.

The Dutchman is known for his ball control and dynamic speed abilities. When things were getting better for Afellay after the first season of his stay, he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during training and was ruled out till May 2012. However, the player made an impressive comeback, speeding up Barcelona’s game – a skill the club is missing now.

This player’s motivation helps him perform well on the pitch and if given more minutes on it, he could be extremely useful. The Netherlands international is now ending his notable one-season loan with Schalke and will hopefully shine in the 2013/14 season with the Catalan side.

3. Jeffrén Suarez

The winger, born in Venezuela, was spotted in 2004 by CD Tenerife scouts and moved to Barcelona B, where he developed his dribbling skills.

He debuted with the first team in 2009, bringing interest of many Premier League sides. Still in 2010, Barcelona extended his contract until June 2012. The player showed a great combination of speed and dribbling, which also resulted in many short-term injuries.

Jeffrén appeared less in 2010/11, but still scored a goal in the historical El Clasico 5-0 win.

Despite the energy he brought into the attack, Pep Guardiola preferred to sideline him, before selling him to Sporting CP in 2011. The Spanish international penned a five-year contract with a £12m buy-back option.

2. Juliano Belletti

The Brazilian right-back came along with Ludovic Giuly to Barcelona in 2004 from league rivals, Villarreal.

Despite being 30, the player appeared in 71 matches for Barcelona, before being sidelined due to the performances of Gianluca Zambrotta - back when Frank Rijkaard was Blaugrana’s coach, and Oleguer Presas was the starting right-back.

In the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal he was brought on and scored the winning goal in an historic 2-1 comeback, crowning the Catalans as the new champions of Europe. The Brazil international was not only a great defender, but also took part in the offensive game.

He deserved more first-team appearances, but Belletti was still a really important part of Barcelona’s tactics. Ronaldinho once said that he "would not be able to play such an attacking game, if Belletti wouldn’t secure the back", giving credit to his international team-mate for the hard defensive job he had done.

1. Giovani dos Santos

Along with his older team-mates, Bojan Krkić and Lionel Messi, the Mexican attacking midfielder was fighting his way up to the starting XI. He was named the ‘new Ronaldinho‘ thanks to the style and skills he showed.

It was Frank Rijkaard’s decision not to start the player due to his young age (17), that made Giovani dos Santos want to move out. Despite extending his stay at Barcelona until 2009, one year earlier the Mexican preferred a move to Tottenham in a deal worth around £5m.

One of the obstacles to his professional career was his alleged rebellious character, plus his preference for night clubs over Monday morning training at White Hart Lane.

After a series of loans to Ipswich Town, Galatasaray and Racing Santander in 2012 the 23-year-old signed a four-year deal with La Liga‘s bottom side Mallorca. It was at the same time Mexico were the Gold medal-winning team at the 2012 London Olympics. Giovani scored three goals and led his national team to the podium.

Another transfer can be expected soon, as Mallorca are the last side in La Liga and will likely be relegated at the end of this season. If Rijkaard had understood Giovani a little better, maybe he today he would be one of Barcelona’s stars along with Messi.

 

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