Neymar, Pogba, Lukaku, Van de Beek: The most disrespected XI in world football

  • Kobe Tong

Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Neymar are some of the most disrespected players in the men’s game.

The word ‘disrespected’ with regards to footballers is often thrown around social media with fans believing that certain players are treated harsh in comparison to the quality that they actually offer.

It’s a phenomena that can manifest itself in many different ways with managers, clubs, footballing hierarchies and supporters themselves all being sources of certain players being disrespected.

‘Disrespected’ players in football

As such, here at GIVEMESPORT, we wanted to zoom out and take a look at certain players that we think are getting a hard rep relative to the quality that they bring to the beautiful game.

To do so, we’ve drawn up an XI of players that we think are often inordinately criticised or treated harshly by at least one element in the footballing sphere – and are deserving of more praise.

Obviously, the term ‘disrespected’ within this context is just as subjective as the way we happen to view the larger footballing zeitgeist, so rest assured there are more players who could have made the XI.

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And it’s important to stress that the players have all been picked for their own unique reasons because some might well be loved by the fans or managers, but are ‘disrespected’ in other ways.

By the same token, we’re not necessarily declaring that each one of them is an absolute saint who has never done anything wrong, rather that the harsh treatment needs to be toned down at times.

And it’s an interesting exercise for us, the media, because we’re all guilty sometimes of being taken for a ride by the wider social media narratives, stereotypes and biases that can surround footballers.


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The most disrespected XI

However, enough with the housekeeping and disclaimers because we’ve got 11 male players to fight for here and you can check out how they line up in football’s most disrespected XI down below:

GK: Keylor Navas

Dumped at Real Madrid for Thibaut Courtois despite shining between the sticks in three consecutive Champions League finals.

Dumped at Paris Saint-Germain for Gianluigi Donnarumma despite reasserting himself as one of the world’s best goalkeepers and thriving as the French club reached their first Champions League final.

If there’s a shot-stopper that’s more taken for granted in world football, then we haven’t met them because Navas never seems to get the credit he deserves as one of the finest ‘keepers of our era.


DF: Ashley Young 

Ok, sure, diving incidents haven’t helped along the way, but we’ve never been able to understand the surface-level accusations that Young has somehow been past his best for the last 10 years.

Young’s time at Old Trafford is criminally underrated – ending his spell as club captain with 261 appearances – while fans seem to forget that he started a World Cup semi-final as recently as four years ago.

Marry that to playing 26 times in Inter Milan’s first Scudetto-winning campaign since Jose Mourinho was in charge and lazy claims that he’s stealing a living need to jog on.


DF: Phil Jones

Did Sir Alex Ferguson get far too ahead of himself by saying that Jones could become United‘s greatest ever player? Yes, but is he the godawful defender that he’s made out to be? No.

While injuries and errors have blighted his recent years at Old Trafford, we can’t be so short-sighted as to forget the good moments that have reaped over 200 United outings and 27 England caps.

We’re certainly not above the meme culture that has encircled Jones at times, much of which is in harmless humour, but it shouldn’t bleed into ham-fisted suggestions that he’s simply a bad player.


DF: Gary Cahill

A selection born more out of ‘underratedness’ than anything because Cahill is too often one of those players who is oversimplified into an English battering ram from a bygone era on social media.

When, in actual fact, Cahill deserves far more credit than he receives having played almost 300 times for Chelsea – leaving as captain – in arguably the most successful era in the club’s history.

We’re talking about a two-time Premier League winner who lifted the Champions League, Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup trophies, but you wouldn’t know it from his supposed reputation.


RM: Neymar

Look, let’s be transparent here, Neymar really hasn’t helped himself at times because we would be here all day if we wanted to list all the controversies that surround him.

That being said, the Brazilian superstar is written off as some sort of money-grabbing, overrated skills merchant who dives every 10 seconds despite being one of the finest players of a generation.

Some of the slander that runs through social media would leave you blown away to discover that he’s finished on the Ballon d’Or podium and is on course to become Brazil’s all-time record scorer.


CM: Jordan Henderson

From Manchester United turning him down over his running style to a Liverpool chief claiming they were sacked for signing him, Henderson has been disrespected throughout his career.

However, it says it all that Henderson has needed to captain Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League glory for so many fans to open their eyes to just how talented he really is.

We’re relieved to say that Henderson has slowly started to get due praise in recent years, but lazy social media narratives still make it feel like the bar for praise is set higher for him than others.


CM: Donny van de Beek

No guesses as to why Van de Beek has made the cut because his treatment at United has been northing short of ruthless despite the majority of fans and pundits giving him the time of day.

It will forever be beyond our understanding that one of Europe’s finest young midfielders has started just four Premier League games in one and a half seasons at Old Trafford. It beggars belief.


LM: Paul Pogba

Mercilessly trodden upon by Graeme Souness and other arms of the media for everything from hairstyles to social media posts to dabbing and everything in between.

Yes, Pogba hasn’t been an undisputed success back at United, but that’s because the bar is so often set against his Herculean performances at Juventus and for France at the 2018 World Cup.

All this is to say that Pogba at his world-class best is taken for granted whereas anything shy of that gets picked apart at the first possible opportunity – and his unreal talent deserves more than that.


FW: Romelu Lukaku

Ok, yes, Lukaku really put his foot in it with that interview, but the lazy narrative that the Chelsea man is some sort of plodding oaf with the world’s worst first touch is just not on.

While Lukaku is admittedly not the perfect centre forward, certain fans need to put more respect on Belgium’s all-time record goalscorer who is fresh off the back of a Ballon d’Or nomination.

And suggestions that he’s not good enough in the Premier League are just boring when you recall that he became one of the youngest players in the competition’s history to join the 100-goal club.


ST: Edin Dzeko

Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Sergio Aguero, Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez have scored more goals from Europe’s top five leagues this century.

Seriously, let that sink in for a second and remember that Manchester City loved nothing more than expelling him from the starting XI despite scoring 19, 15 and 26 goals in his peak seasons at the club.

Throw in the fact that his 39-goal season at AS Roma never seems to get the time of day and poor Dzeko just doesn’t appear to get the credit that other goalscoring heroes of the century receive.


FW: Olivier Giroud

Maybe it’s just us, but there’s an unintentional Premier League theme that’s running through this front three…

However, we’re not apologising for Giroud’s selection because everyone from Arsene Wenger to Frank Lampard has shortchanged him as an impact substitute despite his stunning scoring record.

It seems mad that one of the France national team’s greatest ever scorers who started a triumphant World Cup final is so often underrated and stapled to the bench of sides he could surely start for.


Who do you think is disrespected?

Let’s face it, whether the fans, managers, clubs or major awards need to step up their game, there’s reason to think that the entire XI deserves a little more praise than the current culture gives them.

Who knows, Van de Beek might find that with a loan move to Crystal Palace just as the history books will surely do Henderson no end of favours, but there’s no denying that credit is overdue.

Either way, though, it’s important for everyone in the footballing sphere to keep an eye on the swirling narratives that surround players to identify who fits under that ‘disrespected’ umbrella.

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