It comes around once every four years and the world collectively stops to take in the many wonders it has to offer. The World Cup is a fantastic worldwide event that captivates the hearts of billions with the plethora of stars trying to earn something for their country rather than a paycheck. That’s what makes the World Cup such a special event. Most associate sports with a bunch of greedy athletes who make exorbitant amounts of money and who will change ships for an increase in those amounts. The World Cup refutes those ideas. The players are here for pride and for their country (and, contradictory to the point, to increase their value in world football).
Despite all the talent on hand, there are some players who have made their way to Rio that might not deserve all of the acclaim that they receive. Some players have had the hopes of their nations pinned on their back despite having had next to little success in any national tournaments. One such player is Lionel Messi, who has failed time and time again on the national stage. However, since he is one of the two best players in the world, it’s impossible to rank him as overrated, though it might be fitting.
Naturally, this article won’t serve to pick on players on smaller teams, but on players who people believe have world class talent, but don’t often show it. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 players at the World Cup who are overrated.
10. Joe Hart – England
Many outside of England might be a little confused with this selection, but most who watched the England number one play this year could not disagree. Joe Hart was shaky at best for Manchester City and one might go as far to suggest that they won the Premier League title despite his inconsistent play. He was dropped from first team action in November, only to regain his spot later in the season. There are also a large number of rumors that Manchester City are looking to replace him this summer. Though England doesn’t have much else in the pipeline, the English keeper is still overrated. You need only to re-watch the game from last year where Sweden, and specifically Zlatan Ibrahimovic, embarrassed him as an example.
9. Giorgio Chiellini – Italy
Perhaps by the standard of defending in the world right now, this is a foolish inclusion. However, there are many on the peninsula who believe that Chiellini is an elite defender and they are sadly mistaken. He is no Cannavaro, he is no Nesta, he is no Baresi. He is weighed down by the fact that he isn’t as good as those who preceded him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s overrated. Just watch the tape of the game versus Costa Rica. He should’ve been penalized for a tackle in the box but was lucky to escape and he was caught out of position on the goal. While sturdy, he’s also not as good as most think he is.
8. Ezequiel Lavezzi – Argentina
He’s a real firecracker when he gets going, but Lavezzi is routinely invisible in games. Ever since his move from Napoli to PSG, you could easily confuse Lavezzi for a different player from game to game. Sometimes he’s dynamic, sometimes he can’t get a touch on the ball. He has the potential ability to turn a game on its head, but he doesn’t always get to that point.
7. Marcelo – Brazil
As will be mentioned throughout this article, the defending has not been great at the World Cup. Fullbacks seem more interested in racing forward than looking to see if an attacker is behind them. This is especially true with the marauding Marcelo. A great attacking player going forward, Marcelo leaves a lot to be desired in the back. Just ask Julio Cesar who watched him poke a goal into his own net. There isn’t a lot of defensive talent at right or left back in the world right now (especially nothing of the caliber of Paolo Maldini or Cafu) and Marcelo just doesn’t offer enough in his own end.
6. Steven Gerrard – England
It’s been a strange year for Mr. Steven Gerrard. He guided Liverpool to the top of the standings only to make a horrible blunder versus Chelsea that handed them the title. Then, versus Uruguay, he made a similar blunder to his club teammate Luis Suarez that cost England the game and essentially eliminated them for the tournament. This is not to say that Gerrard wasn’t a fantastic midfielder in his day, but that perhaps he is no longer the world class player we expect him to be.
5. David Luiz – Brazil
Another example of a player who is excellent in attack, but pitiful in defense. And he plays in central defense! The Sideshow Bob haircut hasn’t done him any favors when trying to protect his own net as he is known to always be taking risks, going into rash challenges and being beaten by clever offensive runs. And somehow, PSG have decided to pay a king’s ransom for him before the World Cup. Jose Mourinho is laughing all the way to the bank as he can now spend that money on an actual defender. However, perhaps his best position is in midfield where he can push forward and be a capable defensive presence in the middle of the park.
4. Nani – Portugal
The Portuguese winger has all the qualities you look for in a player out on the wing. He’s speedy, physical, gifted with his feet and can provide quality service in the box. So why does Nani make it onto this list? He rarely puts all of these abilities together. Ask a United or Portugal fan the last time he made an impact on a large stage and they’d be hard pressed to remember one. He’s fallen out of favor in Manchester and did not have a very good first game versus Germany at the World Cup. The talent is there, but he doesn’t always put it to good use.
3. Gerard Pique – Spain
So far in Rio, it has been the World Cup for casual fans of the game. This is because almost every game has had plenty of goals. Sadly, that means a few centerbacks have been made to look terrible. The one that stands out the most is Gerard Pique. Having made to look invincible at Barcelona before the last two seasons due to their torrid attack, he now finds himself at the center of defense on two aging teams on the decline. He has looked terrible at the club level and looked worse versus Netherlands last week. He didn’t even start in the game versus Chile, which they also lost. Barca and Spain need to find a backup plan fast as he has become injury prone and inconsistent.
2. Pepe – Portugal
What a surprise, another defender makes the list. A position that hasn’t shone thus far at the World Cup. The biggest shame on the position thus far? Pepe and his brainfart versus Germany. He took the bait given to him by Thomas Muller and found himself sitting out the game, which turned into an embarrassing defeat against the Germans. A player known more for his tenacity than his defending ability, most assume him to be a top level player because of his status as a Real Madrid player. However, any educated Madrid fan will tell you that the future of their defense lies with Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.
1. Wayne Rooney – England
It would be hard to justify putting anyone on top of this list other than Wayne Rooney. Is he incredibly talented? Yes. Has he failed horribly on the national stage in his career? Yes. By scoring against Uruguay this past week, he notched his first goal at a World Cup. For a player of his pedigree, that is simply not enough and would lead us to believe that he’s not an elite player on the national stage.
Now, this isn’t to say that he isn’t a huge talent for Manchester United because he is. Anyone who remembers his terrific bicycle kick goal versus rival Manchester City can attest to his ability in big moments, but there have been very little of those moments when he dons his nation’s jersey. He isn’t too old to shake this title of being overrated on the national stage, but he’ll have to wait another 4 years to have a chance to prove himself. He can only hope the young talent around him continues to grow (Sterling, Sturridge, Lallana) and gives him that chance.