At various points during their title-winning season, praise was shared around the Leicester side. Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez were the obvious ones, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater and Kasper Schmeichel got their plaudits too, but Marc Albrighton went under the radar. And so he still does, despite his game improving further since then. What is particularly impressive about Albrighton, aside from his tireless work rate and fizzing delivery from the flanks, is that his performance levels do not seem to drop whether he is playing on the right or left, wing or wing-back, or wherever he’s asked to play.
Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur)
By now, none of Tottenham’s attacking players can qualify as underrated. At various points they have all been proudly lauded by Mauricio Pochettino as among the best in the world, in most cases quite correctly. Ben Davies is a slightly different matter, not least because most of the discussion around their left-back/wing-back slot concentrates on Danny Rose no longer being in the team. But Pochettino would not keep Rose on the bench just to make a point: he is able to omit Rose because Davies has been so solid this term. He is not the best player in this Spurs side, but he might be the most underrated.
Pascal Gross (Brighton)
If someone were to sell you a car, a top-of-the-range model that would usually go for £25,000-plus, but they ask for only £3,000, you would gleefully skip away with the vehicular bargain of the year. That is essentially what Brighton did when they bought Pascal Gross from Ingolstadt last summer: while most other clubs were breezily splashing flamboyant fees on players without a second thought, the Seagulls were charged £3m for Gross, the player who had created the most chances in the Bundesliga in the last two seasons. He has been a prolific creator in England too, so do not be surprised if it is Brighton fielding telephone number-length bids next summer.
Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
After being lauded for his scouting successes at Leicester, things have not gone quite as well for Steve Walsh at Everton. But one of his first signings has turned out nicely: Idrissa Gueye came to England with Aston Villa, not the greatest place to display his talents, but Walsh saw that he was better than he was showing in that spiralling Villa side. Which has proved to be the case at Everton, and he has been a rare consistent constant at the base of their midfield, while all else around him has looked rather less solid. A new four-year contract, signed in February, shows that Everton rate him at least.
Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City)
Milan’s interest in a player is no longer quite the stamp of approval it once was, but the suggestion that Gennaro Gattuso’s lot are keen on signing Ki Sung-yueng when his Swansea contract expires in the summer is at least an indication that the South Korean midfielder is handy. Which, of course, is a conclusion you could reach by watching him. An economical passer, Ki is one of those midfielders who keeps the ball moving, is stronger than his skinny frame suggests and was a key man as they escaped relegation last season. If they are to avoid that fate again, he will have to perform in similar fashion.
Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle United)
Plenty was made in the last two seasons of Jamaal Lascelles’s maturity, and his willingness to tell senior colleagues some home truths when they needed telling. He was the straight-talker Newcastle needed. But all of that, while clearly admirable, tended to obscure his ability as a defender, and that might be why he is not as highly rated by those beyond Tyneside as he should be. All you really need to do to appreciate his importance to Newcastle is watch them play without him: their usually strong defence (they’ve conceded fewer goals than Arsenal) is greatly reduced without their leader.
Ben Mee (Burnley)
It was James Tarkowski who got the England call-up, and deservedly so, but those who watch Burnley every week will probably tell you that his central defensive partner has been just as impressive this season. Ben Mee, one of many players discarded by bigger clubs but who have rebuilt their careers under Sean Dyche, probably does not get more attention because he is not an especially attention-grabbing defender. He is the definition of unfussy, the sort of defender who you might not notice is there until he stops an opposition attack by simply being in the right place.
Pedro Obiang (West Ham United)
This season has been almost exclusively desperate for West Ham, from the owners, manager, most of the players and the stewards asked to stand in the way of marauding protesters. But Pedro Obiang has been one of the few bright spots, sometimes holding the midfield together with his fingertips, particularly standing out in the early days of David Moyes when things were looking a bit more promising. It is probably not a coincidence that West Ham’s form has nosedived since Obiang suffered a knee injury: coping without him for the rest of the season will be a perilous business.
Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
There are any number of ways to be underrated. Most Premier League players can live with social media indifference, most have to deal with rather more direct feedback during games, and they will struggle on after sniffy media appraisals too. But when your manager does not rate you, and what’s more, seems to take every possible opportunity to publicly show his distaste, that will sting a little. José Mourinho’s problem with Luke Shaw, whatever it is, might be well-founded, but for everyone’s sake it should probably be resolved one way or another soon: this is a player too talented to be lost.
It’s pretty hard to go under the radar in the Premier League, and impossible when you play for Chelsea. Plenty of people rate Willian very highly, not least Antonio Conte who will praise the Brazilian at any given opportunity, while more attention goes to Eden Hazard or N’Golo Kanté. What’s notable about Willian is how he plays when the team around him is underperforming: he was Chelsea’s best player in 2015-16 when they imploded under José Mourinho, and is on his way to being their top man this term as they struggle to grab a Champions League spot.