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FLEETING FANCY

7 players we will probably appreciate a lot more once they’ve retired

You never know what you've got until it's gone, so perhaps we should enjoy the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Aguero now instead of later

It’s probably fair to say that we all took Paul Scholes for granted back in the day.

After all, the legendary midfielder went a little under the radar in this country, but enjoyed plebnty of admiration from his competitors abroad, such as Zinedine Zidane, Andrea Pirlo and Xavi.

In fact, at La Masia – Barcelona’s famous youth academy – Scholes is said to be mentioned “quite a lot”, according to Lionel Messi.

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But sadly, it seems many of us only grasped the sheer scale of his brilliance after he retired.

So let’s learn from this great mistake and start opening our eyes to some of our current Premier League favourites who perhaps don’t get the appreciation they deserve.

Starting with this lot.

Cesc Fabregas

Stalwart

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Stalwart

From making his Premier League debut with Arsenal as a 16-year-old through to winning the title with Chelsea under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, Cesc has been a staple of English football for over 15-years (if we forget about his fleeting fancy with Barcelona, that is).

But in recent years, we’ve basically stopped thinking about the handsome Spaniard.

Good times, bad times

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Good times, bad times

True, he was perhaps the biggest midfielder in the world back in 2010, after assisting Andres Iniesta’s World Cup winning goal and sealing a move to Barca a year later.

And of course, he returned to the limelight for a bit in 2015 when he became an integral member of Mourinho’s title-winning side.

But if truth be told, Fabregas is rarely sounded out above his peers for his wonderful technique, vision and passing ability.

And we can see it now; when he does retire, we’ll probably all be talking about how much Arsenal fans hate him, rather than how consistently brilliant he’s been.

Doesn’t that upset you, just a little bit?

Sergio Aguero

Came, saw, conquered

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Came, saw, conquered

We don’t know about you, but just reading the name ‘Sergio Aguero’ makes us instantly turn into Martin Tyler.

The Man City striker will forever be associated with that famous last-minute goal against QPR during the climax of the 2011-12 season.

But it seems he’s only recently started to enjoy proper admiration from folks outside of City’s fanbase.

Champion

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Champion

Just a couple of weeks ago, Alan Shearer heaped praise on him during Match of the Day, saying: “He is the best foreign player to ever play in the Premier League – a great centre-forward with no weaknesses.”

We absolutely agree, but we can’t help but feel a little under-awed by the fact that he’s never been named in the PFA Team of the Year, despite being a prolific goal-scorer since his move from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

So, why?

Well, we reckon his plethora of injuries and the brilliance of other strikers in recent years (from Robin Van Persie through to Harry Kane) means he’s always been ever-so-slightly overshadowed.

Gary Cahill

Captain, leader… legend?

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Captain, leader… legend?

Did you know that Cahill has won everything with Chelsea?

There’s the Champions League, Europa League, League Cup, two Premier Leagues and even the FA Cup a few months ago.

In fact, he’s been one of the club’s most consistent winners ever, which is pretty mad when you think about it.

Not only that, but he’s been a big part of England’s back-line for the past decade, quietly doing his thing while we’ve been harping on about the failings of the Golden Generation.

Got the passion

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Got the passion

Still, we can’t help but feel that big Gary won’t quite be held up in the same esteem by Chelsea fans as the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard or Didier Drogba once he retires or leaves the club.

Which is shame, because Cahill has been really good since his days at Bolton, and has never caused the Blues any off-field problems.

Which can’t be said for some of the aforementioned, eh?

Aaron Ramsey

Wizard

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Wizard

Now, here’s a player who often divides opinion, even among fans of his own club.

But by and large, we reckon Arsenal play their best football with Ramsey in the team, and you’d be a fool to think otherwise.

After all, he’s pretty much everything you want from a modern attacking midfield, isn’t he?

Direct, relentless and constantly running. So why isn’t he known as ‘Arsenal’s answer to Steven Gerrard’?

Stalwart

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Stalwart

To be fair, most of us probably think Ramsey’s injured right now.

He’s not, by the way (at the time of writing, anyway). In fact, he’s leading the club in chances created so far this season and is seemingly adapting well to Unai Emery’s system.

Even Neil Warnock has been talking up the Welsh midfielder in recent weeks, saying: “Every time I watch Wales, every time I watch Arsenal, I just think he does everything. He is a complete player.”

No doubt we’ll all be saying the same thing in 10 years or so, but currently? He goes a little unnoticed for weeks and months a time.

James Milner

Don’t call him boring

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Don’t call him boring

We’ve all been so busy calling Milner boring, did we stop to think just how consistently great he’s been over the years?

Sure, he doesn’t have the same effortless technical ability of David Silva or the creative excellence of Christian Eriksen or Kevin De Bruyne.

We’ve put that down to the fact that he’s very plainly English, likes to keep his head down, works hard and doesn’t cause any drama on or off the pitch.

He’s been around forever, hasn’t he?

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He’s been around forever, hasn’t he?

But for years he’s been playing at the very top level, racking up honours and individual accolades and records that range from two Premier League winners medals all the way through to the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2010.

He was even the Premier League’s youngest-ever goalscorer at one time, netting for Leeds at the age of 16 to surpass Wayne Rooney’s record.

Ever the first-team regular wherever he’s played, he’s reached 25-appearances or more in a top-flight season 15 times, which includes his role as one of Aston Villa’s main attacking outlets between 2007 and 2010, and as a constant presence in Man City’s title-winning sides of 2011–12 and 2013–14.

Leighton Baines

The Last of the Shadow Puppets

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The Last of the Shadow Puppets

Everyone’s favourite footballer-who-looks-like-an-indie-rock-band-guitarist will be turning 34 in November, which means he’s slowly but surely reaching the end of his playing days.

And while the Everton left-back has been a regular in your fantasy football team over the years, he’s also been consistently one of the best attacking full-backs we’ve had in the top-flight.

Imagine how many England caps he’d have if he wasn’t competing with Ashley Young

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Imagine how many England caps he’d have if he wasn’t competing with Ashley Young

His place as the current record holder for most assists as a defender in the Premier League backs that up that, we think.

But much like Ian Harte during his time at Leeds – another great marauding left-back who was great at set-pieces – we hope Bainesy doesn’t fall into footballing obscurity once he retires.

Olivier Giroud

Sacre bleu!

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Sacre bleu!

Giroud doesn’t score many, does he? Just ask France’s World Cup-winning campaign.

But we don’t love Giroud for his goals – although, occasionally, they’re absolutely stunning – but for his unstoppable work-rate and link-up play.

Just ask Arsenal fans, who still absolutely love the Frenchman – even though he’s now at Chelsea – and talk him up as one of their favourite players of recent years.

Unfortunately, it seems the rest of us associate the handsome striker as a product of Arsene Wenger’s declining ability at the Emirates.

Still, let’s hope he’s remembered fondly in years to come.


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