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FourFourTwo's water-carrying XI: 11 quietly-brilliant stars who never really got the credit they deserved

Guti, Real Madrid
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Alan Kennedy (LB)

Kennedy received a throw-in from namesake Ray on his chest, burst into the Real Madrid box and fired Liverpool to their third European Cup triumph

It’s all the more memorable when the unsung hero has his moment in the sun. Kennedy was in the all-conquering Liverpool team of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but Alan Hansen, Phil Thompson, Mark Lawrenson and Phil Neal were stars that shone brighter. Mick Mills and then Kenny Sansom kept Kennedy out of the England side, meanwhile, but the left-back played 251 times for Liverpool between 1978 and 1986, and won 14 major honours.

And who could forget that moment in the Parc des Princes, in May 1981? Kennedy received a throw-in from namesake Ray on his chest, burst into the Real Madrid box and fired Liverpool to their third European Cup triumph. Nicely done.

Alan Ball (RM)

Ball created six chances, played 49 successful passes, won five free-kicks and took two shots

Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick in 1966, and Martin Peters notched another. Nobby Stiles was a terrier in the middle and the Bobbys, Moore and Charlton, provided grace and poise at both ends of the pitch.

It might come as a surprise, then, that when Sky Sports pundits analysed England's 1966 World Cup final defeat of West Germany last summer, Ball was chosen as man of the match. The Three Lions' youngest player on the pitch created six chances – including the assist for Hurst's controversial second goal – played 49 successful passes, won five free-kicks and attempted two shots. The 21-year-old started on the right of mdifield, but tucked into central positions and even popped up on the other flank when necessary.

"Ask any of the players that day who was their man of the match and they would all say Bally," Hurst later asserted. Enough said.

Alan Ball

Ball was an integral part of England's World Cup-winning side in 1966

Guti (CM)

The midfielder was shuffled around the side depending on the fitness of others, but he never kicked up a fuss

A team full of galacticos needs a water carrier more than most, and when Real Madrid tried to squeeze Zinedine Zidane, Raul, David Beckham Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos into the same starting XI, Guti became even more important.

The midfielder was shuffled around the side depending on the fitness of others, but he never kicked up a fuss and continued to perform in a multitude of roles. The Spaniard most often played at the base of midfield, particularly after Claude Makelele was sold to Chelsea ("Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?" Zidane famously quipped after the sale), and ended his career with almost 550 Madrid appearances. The stars came and went at the Bernabeu, and Guti outlasted them all. 

Steve McManaman (CM)

When Madrid signed Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo in the early 2000s, McManaman reinvented himself as a hard-working midfielder

It’s not often that a player is the star man at one club and the water carrier at another, but that’s what happened to McManaman when he joined Real Madrid.

Liverpool looked to make the most of his creative talents in Roy Evans' 3-5-2 formation, but in Spain the same player was labelled the 'postman' because he liked to carry the ball long distances before passing it on to one of his team's bigger names.

In order to survive when Madrid signed Zidane and Figo in the early 2000s, McManaman reinvented himself as a hard-working central midfielder who could deputise in other areas of the pitch if needed.

Steve McManaman

McMananaman adapted his game after Madrid brought in Zidane and Figo