Underused and underrated: Overlooked stars

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Maxi Rodriguez’s two goals against Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday took his Liverpool Premier League goal ratio to one every two games – where has he been?


The Argentine midfielder has only made eight appearances for Kenny Dalglish’s side in the league this season, yet has scored four goals.


It seems baffling that the former Atletico Madrid man has not played more often in a season where the Anfield club have struggled to score goals.


He has found the net six times this season; that is more than Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing, while only one less than Andy Carroll.


This is quite a telling record considering his restricted playing time and suggests Dalglish is underrating one of his more effective players this season.


The Reds boss obviously has his reasons for doing so and Rodriguez can sometimes go missing in games, but there can be no denying his eye for goal.


He has made a career out of being a goal scoring midfielder and has been a regular in the Argentina side for nearly a decade.


He is not alone in being underrated, however, and the Premier League is littered with players who do not get the attention and playing time that they arguably deserve.


Take, for instance, Yossi Benayoun at Arsenal who has been underrated for much of his career in this country.


He joined West Ham United from Racing Santander in 2005 and became an integral part of the Hammers side that got to the FA Cup final in 2006.


The Israel captain moved to Liverpool and, again, after an initially promising first season for the Reds, failed to secure a regular starting place and was moved on to Chelsea.


His first season at Stamford Bridge was scuppered by injury but he was not given many opportunities.


It seems a waste of a genuinely creative talent and it is hard to understand why no manager has been able to incorporate him into a set place in a system, other than filling in when there is an absence.


The 31-year-old has begun to get regular football in his loan spell with Arsenal this season and Arsene Wenger has expressed how impressed he is with Benayoun’s ability to bring balance to the side.


There is a nagging feeling, though, that no big team has really given Benayoun the important role his talent warrants, nor given him the responsibility with making the difference in a match.


Tottenham Hotspur have a similar story with two of their players; Steven Pienaar and Niko Kranjcar.


Both of these are very talented players and have been important figures at clubs of lower stature, but failed to cement themselves as important figures in their new surroundings at White Hart Lane.


Kranjcar proved his worth while at Portsmouth and his delicate passing, coupled with a decent eye for goal, led many to believe he would become an influential player at some point.


When Spurs bought him from cash-strapped Pompey for £2.5million, it was generally agreed that this was a bargain price.


Other than a handful of starts, the Croatia international has not been able to get into the team since his transfer.


The story is similar with Pienaar, except that the South African international had been at some of Europe’s leading clubs but had been unable to fully establish himself.


At Ajax Amsterdam he was an integral part of the squad but a move to Borussia Dortmund did not turn out as expected and he was loaned to Everton after an initial loan.


Pienaar’s performances since returning to Goodison Park on loan from Tottenham have been outstanding and he has shown what he is capable of if given the opportunity.


These players are just a few examples of the wasted talent that is going unused in the Premier League due to being underrated by their managers.


Harry Redknapp may be looking north enviously as he watches one of the men he deemed surplus to requirements play a central role in another side’s resurgence, while his own team stutter and threaten to undo some of the fantastic work they did earlier in the season.


Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool side have had all kinds of trouble trying to find the back of the net, yet have a player in their ranks that seems to do so regularly when given more regular opportunities.


This could be favourable to persisting with expensive signings who seem to require a lot longer to find form and goals.


Whatever the reasons for players such as Benayoun and Pienaar being overlooked, it is clear that their exceptional talent is being wasted.


You can understand why a player would want to move to a bigger side in search of the game’s biggest prizes, but there is an argument for staying somewhere your contribution is valued more highly and you can really feel what it is to be appreciated.

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