In the last decade he is the only player to win the FWA footballer of the year, while playing for a club that didn't finish in the top 4, let alone getting it while playing for a club that got relegated. He was also selected by fellow professionals in the PFA team of the year last season.
I think in some ways the accolades have probably made some think he's an over rated donkey, as he rarely tries too much flash stuff. Football is more than being able to spray 60 yard balls or skin 3 people and he works smart, as well as hard. It's one thing to say to someone to do the simple things well, but very few players manage to do anywhere near the level he does consistently.
No one has said he is world class, but in terms of English defensive midfielders, it's hard to name many better. Having said all that, I wouldn't be that excited about getting him as he is on a decreasing curve with age, plus his wages. But the idea that is 'limited' or just average with a good work ethic are not accurate.