Ask any football fan to name the best defensive midfielder of the past 15 years and they’d likely say Claude Makelele or Sergio Busquets. Some though may say Esteban Cambiasso.
Those people will remember fondly a man who played for the likes of Real Madrid and Inter Milan, the latter more famously than the former.
They will also remember a player who was crucial to both teams success during his time there, again more so in Milan than Madrid.
And for those that don’t rate him as highly, a look at his career should quickly change their opinion.
Esteban Cambiasso retiring. One of the most underrated players of all time. Could still do a job as Argentina’s DM. Legend of the game.
— RG (@registability) September 8, 2017
The beginnings of Cambiasso’s career were far from simple. Having come through at Argentinos, the club famous for producing Diego Maradona, the pressure was on from an early age.
At just 15 years old he joined Real Madrid, making the move to Spain amid a lot of hype. It would be hype he would struggle to live up to and force him back to Argentine just two years later.
Spells with Independiente and then River Plate followed before Madrid came calling again, with success coming more easily than it had before. Cambiasso would help the Spanish giants to four trophies in two years, including a La Liga success and the UEFA Super Cup.
The love was never forthcoming in Madrid, though. While the Madridistas appreciated his abilities the adoration was never there, certainly nowhere near the levels Makelele received. It became a bigger headline when he was out of the side than when he was in it.
“I won the treble with Cambiasso. He belongs to my golden team at Inter. He is one of the players who means a lot to me.” – Jose Mourinho
Cambiasso knew it and so he moved to Italy with Inter Milan. It was here that the adoration and attention he deserved would come, with the 2009/10 treble under Jose Mourinho being the pinnacle.
Cambiasso was the key man in a team that dominated Italy and Europe under the Portuguese manager’s guidance. His hunger, determination and tactical discipline were vital and allowed the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Ricardo Quaresma and Samuel Eto’o to flourish. Without him there, it is hard to imagine the success would have been as tangible.
In 2014 his time at the club would come to an end but his legacy was among the best. In 420 games, he’d won 15 trophies, including their first European success in 45 years.
The fact that in the three years since his departure, Inter Milan have finished 8th, 4th and 7th should not be overlooked. He left a hole and it still shows to this day. Sure, there were bigger issues that have caused their fall but letting Cambiasso go remains a poor choice.
— Nathen McVittie (@nathenmcvittie) September 8, 2017
His decision to join Leicester City next was a clear indication of the kind of player that Cambiasso was. With offers from MLS and Qatar, he could have taken the easy route.
Instead, he chose the Foxes and despite a complete change of scene, the commitment to the cause was still 100%.
That year he proved to be the driving force behind their remarkable, last gasp escape from relegation. It was that escape that was one of the driving forces behind their title success the following year. A quick Google search will find love letters a plenty from the Leicester faithful. There are not many players who get that after just one year at a club.
Two years with Olympiakos followed his time with the Foxes and once again, titles followed. Two in two years in fact. Not a surprise, given Olympiakos’ dominance in Greece but notable nonetheless.
🏆 La Liga
🏆 UEFA Super Cup
🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆 Serie A
🏆🏆🏆🏆 Coppa Italia
🏆🏆 Greek titles
Esteban Cambiasso hangs up his boots after 21 years. 👏 pic.twitter.com/tWAA31k6nT
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 8, 2017
Many will overlook Cambiasso when compiling a list of the best midfielders. Ask anyone who has worked with him, or played alongside him, though, and it will be an entirely different story.
Over the last 15 years, there were few better defensive midfielders than Cambiasso. His 21 winners medals are a testament to that.
The fact that his retirement is flying under the radar shows he remains one of the most underrated players of all time.