Premier League clubs broke the record for the most expensive defender in football history twice within the last three years. Liverpool paid a whopping £75 million to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton before Manchester United splashed £80 million on the acquisition of Harry Maguire.
The aforementioned transfers are strong proof that the value of defenders has skyrocketed in the Premier League in recent seasons. But what happened to the players who impressed at the back in prior seasons of the English top flight?
The success of players like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and John Terry could influence many to conclude that great defenders deservedly rose to prominence. However, a closer look at the subject reveals a number of players failed to get the plaudits they merited despite their brilliant displays at the back.
On that note, we've decided to take a look at the 5 most underrated defenders in Premier League history.
#5 Pablo Zabaleta
This is one of the few names that can't be ignored on this list. Pablo Zabaleta played at an impressive level during his time in the Premier League. However, due to some incomprehensible factors, the defender didn't earn as much respect as he should.
Zabaleta joined Manchester City from Espanyol in an €7.5 million transfer in the summer of 2008. He spent nine years at the Etihad Stadium before leaving for West Ham United on July 1, 2017.
He made 303 appearances during his time in the Premier League, scoring nine goals and setting up 21. He also claimed the league crown twice with Manchester City, playing influential roles in both triumphs.
#4 Branislav Ivanovic
Former Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic is another defender whose efforts went below the radar in the Premier League. The Serbian spent nine years at Stamford Bridge, where he formed a rigid backline alongside players like John Terry and Ashley Cole.
While his colleagues were often praised for Chelsea's defensive prowess, Ivanovic rarely made the headlines. Yet his performances for the Blues were equally impressive.
The Serbian played an influential role in all three Premier League crowns he won at Stamford Bridge. He concluded his spell in the English top flight with 22 goals and 23 assists in 274 games across stints with Chelsea and West Ham.