Top 5: Overlooked & underrated stars

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The Premier League is full of great players looking for first-team action - and GMF has decided to look at five of the best.

The Premier League's decision to restrict squads to 25 players was, in part, designed to prevent the top clubs from stockpiling highly-valued players.

And while the relative success or failure is still to be determined, one casualty has been the highly-paid squad player.

Languishing on the bench, these well-enumerated footballers pick up the pay-check, but don't get out onto the pitch.

That's not because they're not good enough. The importance of securing Champions League football grips clubs towards the top of the table, and it's left a certain type of player caught in no-man's land.

These footballers are Premier League quality. They are excellent players. But they're just not quite good enough to crack the top four/six first-teams.

Unfortunately, the disparity in wage budgets between the top four and the rest means that often these footballers are on significantly higher wages than other clubs can afford.

That leaves them stuck on the bench, or even worse, out of the squad altogether. So, who are these lone rangers?

GMF looks at five right here...

Nani | Manchester United

The Portuguese winger is a Champions League player. His skill, trickery and unpredictability brings some different to the Manchester United squad - something they've lacked since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

While Ashley Young is effective, and Antonio Valencia is functional, Nani offers another, often infuriating, sometimes brilliant, option.

But he seems set to leave - another player brave, or stupid, enough to lock horns with Sir Alex Ferguson over a new contract.

The problem for Nani is that, while Wayne Rooney's importance to Manchester United is consistently evident, Nani's is only occasionally visible. His brilliant displays are too few and far between.

The Manchester United Players' Player of the Year 2010-11 delivered one of those performances last night against Reading - dizzying defenders left, right and centre, before capping it off with a goal. It's a shame, but that's probably one of the last we'll see in a United shirt.

Andrey Arshavin | Arsenal

It's cruel that a player as talented as Arshavin has been relegated to the same Arsenal scrapheap as Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou, and Park Chu-Young. He's better than this.

The Russian may be far removed from his best form, but at 31-years-old he remains a difference-maker.

In 2008, he was the sixth best player in the world. Now he's a figure of fun at the Emirates Stadium.

But he's still a talented player. At last summer's Euro 2012 he was the top assist provider. Talk of a move to Fulham, or back to Russia, failed to materialise over the January transfer window, and Arshavin remains an underused Arsenal player.

Wenger clearly rates him, and defends him staunchly, but his opportunities - even from the bench - have steadily reduced year-on-year.

His last great memory in an Arsenal shirt? Scoring the winner against Barcelona. What price he repeats the trick against Bayern Munich this evening - it would be a fitting bookend to his Gunners career, because he surely must move on at the end of the season.

Tom Huddlestone | Tottenham Hotspur

Huddlestone has always had the talent, it's the work-rate and commitment that's held him back. 

The Nottingham-born midfielder made his debut for Derby aged just 16, before moving to Spurs while still a teenager.

A handful of England caps have followed, but his Tottenham career has stuttered. Fulham were thought to be interested, as were Stoke, and Huddlestone would have made a fine Premier League player for either.

At just 26-years-old he's only a decent first-team run away from another call-up to the England squad - especially considering the dearth of ball-playing midfielders with Huddestone's passing range. 

Florent Malouda | Chelsea

Named Chelsea's Player of the Year for the 2009-10 campaign, Florent Malouda's subsequent fall from grace has been as rapid as it has been dramatic.

Exiled from the first-team squad, and forced to train with the youth team, Malouda has claimed Chelsea are trying to desperately "break him" emotionally.

The 32-year-old is hugely gifted wide-player, with international and Champions League experience - experience that could have been vital for the Blues during this year's tournament.

It seems strange to banish a player you have committed so much financially too, but Malouda remains on the sidelines - even after the January transfer window.

With a few years left yet at the highest level, expect him to move on in the summer. And don't be surprised if he's still turning in the performances at the highest level. That's assuming a season on the sidelines hasn't dampened his ambition.

John Guidetti | Manchester City

The Manchester City forward must be itching for first-team football. Last year's loan to Feyenoord saw Guidetti establish himself as one the Eredivisie's most feared strikers, after he notched 20 goals in 23 appearances.

Comparisons with Zlatan Ibrahimovic have followed him since his days in the Swedish national team youth set-up, and the City coaching staff reportedly rate him highly.

He continues to bang in the goals for the reserve team, and having only just returned from nine months out after a knee injury, Guidetti stands the best chance of these five players to make it big at his current club.

But Manchester City's riches have proved difficult to resist, and it would not be a surprise to see Roberto Mancini dip into the transfer market for a striker again this summer - especially considering the sale of Mario Balotelli to AC Milan.

In that case, Guidetti may be better off taking his considerable talents elsewhere. If he does, City will have lost one of their most undervalued players.

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