With the the majority of Europe's top leagues drawing to a close, football fans around the world are set to experience a massive hole in their schedules over the next few months - a gaping chasm that no amount of friendlies and exhibition matches will be able to fill. Without the weekly excitement of the best clubs in Britain doing battle, contesting points and engaging in a series of psychological and physical clashes, many see the off-season as a point of disinterest, something that is becoming increasingly about unimportant tournaments and meaningless matches hyped by excessive money.
Take a less cynical view, however, and the intrigue, spectacle and potential are boundless. Giving us time to take a look at some of the best players from outside our primary interests, players who normally would not get much attention suddenly have the chance to break the mould, grab the headlines and capture our imaginations. Club friendlies from all over the world will offer us plenty of opportunities to see some fringe players at some of the biggest clubs gain some much-needed experience and time to shine in the limelight and on the pitch, where they belong.
With that, we've decided to run though some of the most underrated players we'd love to see in the Premier League. Including performers who have had little opportunity to play over the last few months as well as those who have received little or no media coverage in contrast to some of the bigger stars, we've attempted to compile only the best of the rest. Knowing that there will be plenty of games to feature in the coming months, expect to see lots of transfer speculation linking rising stars to some of Britain's most-loved clubs. But just who will make our list?
As ever, make sure you have your say in the comments thread, below.
15 Richie Towell (Dundalk)
With nine goals to his name already, Richie Towell is already the League of Ireland's best player and top scorer, having helped Dundalk reach the summit of the Premier Division with his exquisite play. Committing to the Lilywhites for the 2015 season, the 23-year-old clearly has his sights set on helping his team retain the title they fought so hard to win last year as he scored 15 goals in all competitions.
14 Franco Vazquez (Palermo)
Signed from Belgrano back in 2012 for the princely sum of around €4.5 million, the Palermo attacking midfielder has since established himself as a regular starter, and with seven goals and nine assists to his name in the Italian Serie A this season, the 26-year-old has undoubtedly been one of the league's brightest stars from clubs outside the top four.
13 Nolito (Celta de Vigo)
Sure, the 28-year-old star who plies his trade with Celta de Vigo in La Liga might well have been linked with a move to the Premier League's Everton in the past, but interest in his services really ought to be a lot higher. Statistically speaking, the ex-Benfica man has been one of the most impressive of the season.
12 Rubio Rubin (Utrecht)
At 19 years of age, the USMNT star is currently plying his trade with Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie, and he's been playing some rather good stuff of late since he signed for them. With a handful of assists (five) to his name in the league, the starlet has made a decent impact since he joined.
11 Hakim Ziyech (FC Twente)
Vying to finish at the top of the Eredivisie assists chart, 22-year-old Hakim Ziyech has been an absolute revelation ever since joining from FC Heerenveen. Normally a midfielder, his love for netting deadly accurate free-kicks - like the impressive one he scored against Feyenoord back in 2014 - has seen him grab a few headlines, but interest from the Premier League has been sparse. And it's been a head-scratcher trying to figure out exactly why.
10 Benik Afobe (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Following a series of loan spells with Bolton Wanderers and MK Dons, Wolverhampton Wanderers eventually signed the ex-Arsenal man on a three-and-a-half year contract. Pretty much everywhere the 22-year-old has gone, he has had the Midas touch, and although he has possessed it in the lower leagues, his rate of rattling the net has always been impressive and incredibly eye-catching.
9 Shinji Okazaki (FSV Mainz)
Over the past few seasons, there has not been a huge amount of fuss made over Shinji Okazaki. That said, the tide of public opinion is slowly but surely starting to turn as the 25-year-old continues to churn out some fantastic displays in the German Bundesliga.
8 Julian Green (Hamburg)
Not given enough playing time, 19-year-old loanee Julian Green has been neglected and shunned since he made the move to Germany, and it's a shame to see such an innately talented midfielder waste his potential on the sidelines. Demoted to the reserves team after a public falling out, he has only featured a few times for the senior side.
7 Tommy Oar (Utrecht)
Yet another underestimated Utrecht star to make the cut is Australian international Tommy Oar. Still only 23 years of age, the youngster, who had a terrific time at the World Cup, could well be poised to move on from a team he has worked wonders for.
6 Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)
One of the youngest players to feature on our list is Domenico Berardi, a pacey attacker who has shown great signs of promise in his formative Serie A seasons, but has remained on the fridges of the top clubs' radars nonetheless. Initially catching the public's eye towards the beginning of 2014 at the Citta del Tricolore, the then 19-year-old sensation bagged four goals against AC Milan in a remarkable performance as he became the second-youngest player ever to score that many goals in Italy's top flight.
5 Marek Hamsik (Napoli)
As surprised as some of you might be that Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik has been included here, it's almost irrefutable just how underrated a player he is when you look at the facts. Last season, in the league, between assists and finishes, he contributed to 12 goals whereas this season he has already bettered that with 13. Suffice to say, his contributions have been severely diminished in the public's eye, and it's easy to see why.
4 Yacine Brahimi (Porto)
Lighting up this season's Champions League for Porto has been 25-year-old Algerian international Yacine Brahimi. Playing a key role in their run to the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition, he did his utmost to prolong the dream that the Portuguese club could go all the way again - alas, Bayern Munich got in their way.
3 Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen)
He might be 31 years of age, but Stefan Kiessling has all the hallmarks of being the Premier League's next best striker. Far from the easiest league for ageing stars to make their mark, it has seen certain players such as Rickie Lambert, Graziano Pelle and others come into their own with some fantastic performances - could Kiessling be next?
2 Luiz Adriano (Shakhtar Donetsk)
He might well be in contention to take home the Champions League golden boot this season, but the 28-year-old from Porto Alegre, Brazil has not been as highly-thought of as that achievement suggests he should be. The reason? All nine goals arrived in the short space of just three group stage encounters as he struggled to find another once the Ukrainian outfit had wriggled their way into the knock-out phase.
1 Jonathan Soriano (Red Bull Salzburg)
Far and away the Austrian Bundesliga's top scorer this season with nearly 30 strikes, he has scored more league goals than Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, and Carlos Tevez, but the 29-year-old still finds himself unable to secure a move to England's top flight.
Scoring for fun, the striker has been one of the most prolific in Europe for the past 12 months, but many remain unconvinced by is knack for goalscoring due to the fact he plays in a league that is widely regarded as weak. Nevertheless, confidence is something that can be replicated in pretty much any league and it's something he possesses in spades. This summer could see the towering forward finally secure a transfer, but as he's one of the most underrated players in the game, it could well be a last-minute deal.
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