Sometimes footballers can give their all but find themselves underappreciated by either their own fans or the managers and coaches they work under. Tottenham Hotspur is no different and there are players who ply their trade for the north London outfit that probably do not get the credit they deserve.
Every squad has such players and often they are those who are valued highly by their team-mates for what they bring on and off the pitch, but when it comes to the fans or sometimes the manager, there’s a feeling they should not be on the team-sheet when it is submitted to the officials ahead of each game.
We’ve decided to look at five players who we believe are underappreciated by one person, a couple of them or many.
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There is only place to start and that’s with Ben Davies. The Welshman has played 262 matches for Spurs, arriving as Mauricio Pochettino’s first signing eight years ago. The 28-year-old is one of the longest-serving players at Tottenham now, he gives everything for the cause and every manager he has played for loves him.
“I think Ben from day one because he arrived at the same time as us, we are so happy with him. He is still so young but his mentality, his maturity – he is so professional – he is helping the team every season,” Pochettino told football.london back in 2017. “For me he is a good example at Tottenham like a man and a professional and then if he plays well, fantastic.”
He added: “He’s fantastic, not only today but in the last three seasons from the day he arrived, on the bench, out of the squad or playing, he’s a great professional, a great player and a great man.”
When Lucas Moura scored that famous goal at Ajax to send Spurs to the Champions League final, it was Davies who Pochettino ran on to the pitch to leap into the air to celebrate with. Jose Mourinho loved the Welshman and Antonio Conte has compared him to Cesar Azpilicueta in him fitting the left-sided centre-back role in a back three perfectly.
It is in that new role under the Italian – a more attacking one that he plays for Wales – that Davies has found his place in the current set-up. Loved by his country’s fans, Davies is often underappreciated by the fans and he can be scapegoated for his mistakes when other players’ errors are glossed over.
Football clubs rarely have 11 superstars in their starting XI and all managers need the less showy, headline-makers like Davies, who will give everything for their team and have more talent than they are given credit for. It isn’t good fortune that every manager at Tottenham has been so fond of him.
There’s a combination here of those within the club underappreciating Hugo Lloris and perhaps some outside of it as well. Lloris had not had a new contract at Spurs since 2016 – six years ago – despite the fact that he was the captain and undisputed number one at the north London outfit. He was undervalued for a long time by those within the club.
When this season began – the final one of his contract – there was a belief that his successor could easily be found and in Pierluigi Gollini, Fabio Paratici and Nuno Espirito Santo felt they had that man. The campaign swiftly proved otherwise, with Lloris only continuing to show his consistency in goal and Gollini struggling to show that he was better for the long-term.
It soon became clear that the club had to show their captain that they wanted him to stay in order to avoid an expensive summer and finally talks began to take place over a new deal. Lloris had very modest demands and wanted to stay which meant the contract was quickly wrapped up and would last until 2024, when he will be 37.
The fans have perhaps underappreciated their World Cup winner at times as well. It’s very rare for a player to remain in the number one position for a decade and beyond at a club. Lloris’ ability and longevity has ensured that Tottenham have not had to splash out millions on their goalkeeper spot since 2012 and are unlikely to need to do so again this summer.
He might not be the best with the ball at his feet sometimes but with his hands he’s saved Tottenham on countless occasions.
Watching Joe Rodon put in a top class performance for Wales in their crunch World Cup qualifying match against Austria on Thursday night, many casual viewers might have wondered why the 24-year-old has played just one Premier League match this season. Yet it has been the story of the young Welshman’s time at Tottenham. This campaign, he has played just 506 minutes for the club across eight games.
Since joining Spurs in October 2020, Rodon has only played 22 matches in all competitions, totalling just 1,325 minutes of action on the pitch. To put that into context, since the moment talks began over his move from Swansea to Tottenham he has played 1,535 minutes for Wales.
Rodon has had a couple of unfortunately-timed injuries but other than the final weeks of Jose Mourinho’s reign, no Spurs manager has really put their trust in him. Conte told football.london that Rodon was simply unfortunate because he saw him as his back-up to Eric Dier in the centre of the back three, despite the Welshman having played on both sides as a centre-back at Swansea. Yet when Dier was out, Rodon did not come in and instead Davinson Sanchez was awkwardly crowbarred into the role.
It’s not that Rodon has played badly when he’s appeared either. Often when he has come into the team it has been during periods of disarray. This season’s only Premier League appearance is the perfect example as he replaced the injured Dier to play alongside another young defender in Japhet Tanganga, who got himself sent off in the second half.
The likelihood is that Rodon will be playing in another team’s shirt next season but Tottenham would mad to let it be anything other than a loan, because the Welshman could be a departure that comes back to haunt them.
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Another defender for the list and when it comes to Davinson Sanchez, his mistakes of the past perhaps tarnish his reputation now.
When the then 21-year-old Colombian arrived from Ajax in 2017, he had a superb first season at the north London club, forming a strong partnership alongside Jan Vertonghen, with Toby Alderweireld out injured for a long period, and Tottenham ended the campaign with the third tightest defence in the Premier League. Pochettino labelled him as having the ability to be one of the world’s best centre-backs.
The problem for the young defender was that in the following couple of years, his centre-back partner was constantly changing and that guiding hand he had from Vertonghen was lost. Sanchez made the rash mistakes that young defenders often do but there was no room or leeway for him to make them and grow in a constantly changing backline.
Jose Mourinho, who had previously made comments about him following Manchester United’s Europa League final win against Ajax, was clearly not a fan and Sanchez spent a couple of months out of the team last season before a consistent spell when he did return in February.
This season the now 25-year-old Sanchez has shown that he has matured as a defender and under both Nuno Espirito Santo and then Conte, he has put in some big, consistent performances, adding some goals to his game as well including the match-winner at Watford. His only problems have come when asked to play out of position, most notably during that period as a sweeper centre-back during Dier’s absence which did not suit him at all.
Conte believes the centre-back just needs to tighten up his focus for the entirety of matches and he can become one of the game’s best. “He has a lot of space for improvement. He’s good physically, he’s fast. He’s good technically,” he said. “He has the right characteristics to become a top defender but he needs to be focused from start to end. This is the gap to him becoming a top defender.”
Sanchez is improving but his previous seasons live long in the memories of some Spurs fans and he may never win them over.
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Bear with me on this one, but even Son Heung-min has been underappreciated this season.
One of Tottenham’s star players yet, with a drop of confidence in recent months and perhaps being overplayed since returning from injury, his displays led to some of the club’s fans calling for him to be dropped before he roared back with two goals against West Ham, including a celebration with his finger to his lips, silencing his critics in more ways than one. To call for Son to be dropped, even simply to be rested, overlooks just how crucial he has been for the team even when not on top form.
Since the start of December, there have been only four Premier League games when Son hasn’t scored or assisted a goal for a team-mate. In all he’s been involved in 14 goals in the 15 games during this period, scoring nine and assisting five. The South Korean star is the Premier League’s joint second highest scorer this season, with a better goal conversion rate than its top scorer Mohamed Salah.
Even Harry Kane, when he struggled at the start of the season with his form, was not able to still chip in with the goals and assists the team needed from him. The club understand his importance, hence his new four-year deal this season and Conte said he would be crazy to drop Son and it’s very clear why. You simply can’t underestimate him.