It is not disrespectful to some clubs to say that they have players who are simply too good to play for them. This can be down to a variety of reasons; young players who've come through said team's academy and not yet moved on, old players returning to their boyhood clubs or clubs who are paying players extraordinary amounts of money to play for a team well below their true level.
It is usually clear to see a class player playing for a team well above their level. When the likes of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez really turned on the style at Tottenham and Liverpool, most people knew it was only a matter of time before they made a big money move. Some of the players on this list may well follow suit, and make a move to a bigger and/or better club in the not too distant future.
The list features playing all around the globe, from the Premier League to the Maltese Premier League, and all that come in between those two levels of soccer. There are veteran Champions League winners and youth products who went globetrotting after struggling in major leagues. Here are the top 20 soccer players who are too good for their teams:
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20 Mathieu Valbuena - Dynamo Moscow
Mathieu Valbuena was one of the best players in Ligue 1 in his eight years with Marseille, before joining Dynamo Moscow in 2014. The Frenchman was 29 when he made the move, and had a plethora of more illustrious sides in more reputable leagues chasing him, but chose to head to Moscow instead. Dynamo's other notable players include Alex Buttner and Christopher Samba, but Valbuena is without doubt a class above and is still a full France international, with 48 caps since making his debut in 2010.
19 Joao Moutinho - AS Monaco
In their Champions League defeat of Arsenal, the ultimate millionaire club of Monaco proved that they were a force once more. Having said that, Joao Moutinho is one of the best central midfielders in Europe, and is really to good to be playing for the principality's team. He spent nine years in Portugal playing for two of the big three in the country, Sporting and Porto, before Monaco had their big spending summer, recruiting Falcao, Moutinho and James Rodriguez. Moutinho is still only 28 and a real class act of a player.
18 Harry Kane - Tottenham Hotspur
A little more controversial than the others on this list, Harry Kane has only had one exceptional, or even notable season, which came last season, but what a season it was. Kane came through the Spurs academy and one could say he owed the club a certain degree of loyalty, but we know that there is precious little of that in soccer today. Kane scored 21 league goals and 31 goals in all competitions last season, leading him to be linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
17 Yannick Bolasie - Crystal Palace
Yannick Bolasie made some impact at Crystal Palace last season. A pacey and tricky winger, Bolasie has really emerged as a top class winger, when previously Wilfried Zaha was the star man for the Eagles. Bolasie spent a number of years in the lower leagues, rarely looking exceptional, but has flourished in recent years, and following interest from some of Britain's top clubs, Alan Pardew stuck a $40 million price tag on his head.
16 Andrea Pirlo - New York City FC
Andrea Pirlo may be approaching the end of his career, but his playing style is such that it doesn't really matter. Pirlo has always been a ball-player and mover, and never a runner, and at 36, he is still a fantastic player. As a deep-lying playmaker, Pirlo is probably the best player in the MLS since joining this summer, and U.S. soccer fans can expect to see him control many games, dictating play and springing passes out to either flank for New York City, a side that - in reality - he is simply too good for.
15 Wesley Sneijder - Galatasaray
Wesley Sneijder was quite rightly considered to be one of the finest players in world soccer back in 2010, after he was arguably the star performer at the 2010 South Africa World Cup. Sneijder had the pick of any team in the world at the time, just as he had after impressing at Ajax, but by 2013, his stock had significantly dropped. He still could of moved to one of the game's superpowers, but instead he headed to Turkey and Galatasaray, a league and club he is simply far too good for.
14 Yohan Cabaye - Crystal Palace
Given Yohan Cabaye's impressive form and Newcastle United's policy of selling their best players, it came as little surprise when the playmaker swapped Tyneside for the City of Love and joined the rising European superpower of PSG. The move didn't quite work out for Cabaye though; the rise of Marco Veratti and the presence of the likes of Thiago Motta, Lucas and Blaise Matuidi meant Cabaye became expendable this summer, and most anticipated a move to another Champions League side. Arsenal, Tottenham and others were linked, but Cabaye linked up with his old manager Alan Pardew at Palace, and became a real coup for the Eagles.
13 Antonio Candreva - Lazio
Since the retirement from international soccer by Andrea Pirlo, many would consider Antonio Candreva to be Italy's best player right now. He has been linked with moves to Chelsea, Liverpool and PSG, but right now the right-sided player appears to be content at Lazio. Candreva has been a Lazio player for three years and has played over 120 games for the club, in which time he has won just one Coppa Italia.
12 Julian Draxler - Schalke
Julian Draxler is one of the products of the seeming conveyor-belt of German talent. The 21-year-old is an exceptional midfielder, who has all the tools to become a real star of the world game. Schalke have an excellent pedigree for bringing through youth, and Draxler is no different. The playmaker has repaid the club's faith in him by staying at the club for this long, but one expects a move is imminent for one of the game's finest prospects.
11 Carlos Tevez - Boca
Carlos Tevez was arguably Juventus' star player in last season's superb Champions League run, which saw the Italian champions restore some pride to Italy, with Serie A having struggled to compete in Europe since Inter Milan won the tournament in 2010. After 39 goals in 66 games at Juventus, Tevez had the pick of almost any team on the planet when the summer came about, but he chose to leave Europe and return to his former club and the side he supported as a boy, Boca Juniors. The Argentine side were unsurprisingly delighted but Tevez's departure is a huge loss to European soccer.
10 Stewart Downing - Middlesbrough
Rather like Tevez, Stewart Downing chose this summer, at the age of 31, to his first and hometown club, Middlesbrough. Downing was excellent for West Ham last season, finishing as one of the top assisters in the Premier League, joint with Alexis Sanchez and Oscar on eight assists. Following last seasons form, Downing could have walked into half the sides in the Premier League, but chose to drop down to the Championship with Boro; although he was given the assurance of a four-year deal.
9 Bojan - Stoke City
Former Barcelona wonderkid's career was on a downside after a series of injuries and failed loan moves, and his move to Stoke in 2014 highlighted his fall from grace. The move was a risk for both Mark Hughes and Bojan, but one that has paid off for both parties. Bojan looked excellent until his injury at Christmas time last year, and will return this September. If Bojan picks up where he left off, he is unlikely to be a Potter much longer, and Stoke will most likely see a huge return on their investment last year.
8 Kevin De Bruyne - Werder Bremen
Despite making a $17 million profit, Chelsea may well be regretting their decision to let go of Kevin De Bruyne. The plethora of attacking midfielders at Stamford Bridge made it incredibly difficult for De Bruyne to break into the first team, but he has proven to be a revelation at Wolfsburg. They may have finished second in last season's Bundesliga, but they will still do well to retain the services of De Bruyne, who has been linked with a big money move to Manchester City.
7 Sebastian Giovinco - Toronto FC
Sebastian Giovinco became the best paid Italian soccer player in the world when he joined Toronto earlier this year. The man known as the atomic ant due to his diminutive stature and explosive turn of pace is clearly still good enough to be playing in one of Europe's major leagues. He has scored 16 goals in 22 games for Toronto, despite playing off the forward line, rather than as an out-and-out striker, showing that he is too classy to have dropped down a level at the age of just 28.
6 Asamoah Gyan - Shanghai SIPG
Asamoah Gyan is reportedly now the third best paid player in the world, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, having signed a contract worth $355,000 a week this summer. Gyan joined Chinese side Shanghai SIPG, and one suspects his motives may have been partly to do with that wage package. Gyan impressed in Italy, France and England, having a particularly impressive 2010 World Cup, but joined Al Ain in 2011, where he scored 113 goals in 104 games, and outclassed the league. After four years in the UAE, Gyan has joined the equally poor Chinese league and is still far too good for the team he plays for.
5 Charlie Austin - QPR
QPR appear determined to hang on to Charlie Austin this summer, and who can blame them as they look to make an immediate return to the Premier League. Austin was playing in the English non-league, playing part-time as he worked as a builder not long ago, but now he is one of the most coveted strikers in England and on the fringes of the national team. He scored 18 goals last season, more than Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard, and behind only Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa and Harry Kane.
4 Samuel Eto'o - Antalyaspor
At 34, Samuel Eto'o is clearly no longer one of the best strikers in the world. However, he could still have done a lot better than newly-promoted Turkish side Antalyaspor. In his five years at Barcelona, Eto'o was consistently one of Europe's top marksmen. Antalyspor were only promoted from the Turkish second tier last season and have a capacity of only 7,000. For some perspective, Samuel Eto'o has eight million social media followers, while Antalyaspor have less than 250,000.
3 Fabrizio Miccoli - Birkirkara
Not too dissimilar to Eto'o, in that Fabrizio Miccoli is not getting any younger, but he could still play for a much better team that Maltese minnows Birkirkara. The Maltese club, who finished third last season, play in a ground with a capacity of 2,500. The former Italy international joined Birkirkara this summer, looking rather rotund in his signing pictures. You wonder if he could have secured a spot in a higher league.
2 Daniel Agger - Brondby
Daniel Agger joined Liverpool from Brondby in 2006, aged 21, after impressing in his native Denmark. He established himself as a very solid Premier League defender for the Reds, and most would say he was far more accomplished than his central defensive partner Martin Skrtel; there was some surprise then when Agger returned to Brondby in 2014 at the age of 29. At 29, the defender had a lot of top flight soccer left in him, but you have to respect his decision to sacrifice his earning's to return to his hometown.
1 Phil Younghusband - Loyola Meralco Sparks
Phil Younghusband was the top scorer in Chelsea's academy for consecutive seasons, and was touted as a future star. As is so often the case though, one of Chelsea's youth products struggled for game time. In 2011, instead of joining another English side, Younghusband and his brother joined Loyola Meralco Sparks in their native Philippines. However romantic it may seem, the league is a shocking one, and two talented young players should be more ambitious. Younghusband has scored 76 goals in 50 games for the club, showing his class is far beyond that of the league and his team.
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