A defensive midfielder is a tireless precise engine working every inch of the field. Their versatility, timely anticipation and stamina enables them to dictate the tempo of the game. They work from defense to attack with clinical passing and typical tackles. The most important part of the modern game yet sometimes not praised.
The defensive or holding midfielder is a vital and focal point of any team that strives to win trophies in any continent. Many have graced the role and leave a legacy behind and many more have come to change the view of the role in relation to the modern game.
More importantly, many players have changed their position and excel in any which they find themselves, while some have struggled to explode to the star they were touted to be early on in their career. However, the role can either make a team flourish or doom the team.
Furthermore, Liverpool are 5/4 favourites to win the EPL this campaign according to SportsbookReview, and the acquisition of Thiago Alcantara would be a pole factor to the Anfield club this season as they embark on a mission to reclaim the most prized English top flight football competition gong they won for the first time in 30years last season. More also, the procurement of the Spaniard by the Red is a vital point to the importance of the defensive midfielder role in a team that wants to win.
Below are the 10 defensive midfielders that are currently making the wave in the world of football.
Mikel Merino – Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad has played scintillating football since the beginning of last campaign, entertaining the San Sebastián faithful week in week out. Mikel Merino has been integral to La Real’s recent success, pulling the strings from the heart of midfield. Today, the Spaniard is one of the most sought-after midfielders and is now looking to take the next step in his career for both club and country.
When Merino was at Newcastle, he would’ve struggled to make the top 250 defensive midfielders in the world, let alone one of the top 10. But, he has transformed since his move back to Spain with Real Sociedad and still just 23, he is on his way to becoming a truly world-class talent.
Marcelo Brozovic – Inter Millan
Arguably one of the surprise packages of Serie A since last season, Marcelo Brozovic has been a phenomenon at the heart of Antonio Conte’s Inter revolution. His technicality, vision and composure has enabled the likes of Sensi, flourish beside him. Although, the Croats is capable, accomplished midfielder, but in dropping back to play as the deepest of the Nerazzuri’s midfield three, he has shown he can do it all, going from a peripheral figure to a crucial one. Only few in his role can boast to challenge the Croatian right now in Italy.
Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City
When the French holding midfielder, N’golo Kante left the King Power Stadium in 2016, the void of filling the role was in shambles when the English holding midfielder, Danny Drinkwater took up the mantle of shielding the Leicester backline.
However, the near-impossible task of replacing N’Golo Kante was made easy by the Nigerian as the 23-year-old holding midfielder didn’t disappoint and has gone from strength to strength since his arrival at the King Power Stadium. Many Foxes fans even rate him higher than their former French star.
That’s thanks to another stellar season under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, with Ndidi’s 128 league tackles for the campaign just one behind Aaron Wan-Bissaka at the very top. Playing in Belgium for Genk just a few years ago, he’s now reportedly wanted by many top clubs in England and Europe.
Rodri – Manchester City
At 24, the Spaniard is certain to command the midfield for another decade. Rodri is one of the foremost midfielders with overwhelming ball recovery, with an impeccable passing accuracy and rarely loses possessions. But his aerial duel winning stats and his ability to pounce on loose balls made Manchester city to cough out the exuberant fee in order to lure him to Etihad stadium for his service.
Man City needed a replacement for the aging Fernandinho, but nobody could have predicted that they’d find the perfect one so quickly. Spaniard Rodri made an immediate impact upon arrival, filling the Brazilian’s shoes effortlessly.
With a slick range of passing, a footballing brain and the build to easily brush aside any oncoming attackers, the 24-year-old has perfectly fit into Pep Guardiola’s system. A 93% pass success percentage across the league and Champions League epitomizes his composed approach to the game.
Idrissa Gueye – Paris Saint Germain
A Ligue 1 winner with Lille a decade ago, the Senegal international’s energetic performances came to real prominence during his three-year spell at Everton. His debut campaign at Goodison saw him claim the most tackles in the league, while also making the highest number of tackles and interceptions across Europe’s top five divisions in 2016.
The Toffees couldn’t persuade their star man to stay, and he’s now more than holding his own amongst all the talent in the world in Paris, among the star studded PSG team that reached the final of the UEFA Champions League in Lisbon.
Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor at Bayern and German national team Joshua Kimmich has perfectly slot into the defensive role and exploded under the guidance of Hansi Flick into one of the best defensive midfielders across the globe.
Although many players have made the switch from full-back to defensive midfield over the years, none have done it quite as naturally as Kimmich. His passion, bravery and comfort on the ball helped ease the Bavarians to another treble title, with six goals and 13 assists in all competitions in the last campaign is a phenomenal record. At 25, he is already a well-established figure at Bayern and for the German national team, with his progression certain to have no limits for both club and country in the near future. He’ll be one of the world’s best anywhere on the pitch very soon.
Fabinho – Liverpool
Obviously, Fabinho is not a regular Brazilian footballer, but one that Liverpool fans have come to love and adore despite him only joining the club in the summer of 2018. A few world-class goals have helped increase his already-glowing stock at Anfield, as he helped the Reds to their maiden English Premier League title in his second season despite losing out to Manchester City in his first.
With Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold constantly bombing forward, it’s Fabinho who is often tasked with staying back to pick up the pieces. With aggression, cunning and sheer hunger to win the ball for his time, the 26-year-old is the perfect man for the job.
N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
The Premier League hasn’t seen much of the lively French midfielder in this campaign and last one, but when he’s on the pitch doing what he does best, there is rarely anyone better than the 29-year-old France international. Breaking up the play comes naturally to the gifted and much-loved Parisian. Non-stop running with and without the ball is a real asset for any team, but with Chelsea going through major reconstruction under Frank Lampard, it’s hard to know where Kante’s future lies, but on his day, he is arguably the best in the role which in turn has helped him win the best player in the EPL.
Sergio Busquet – Barcelona
With many laurels, awards and trophies, both on international and club level, Sergio Busquet Burgos had certainly won it all in the world of football. The Spaniard’s tenacity, simplicity, panache, vision and ability to read the game well had made him flourish since he broke out in 2008 under the guidance of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
The Spaniard knows his worth in an attacking team, and takes ball possession to a whole new level. A 90% pass success rate across all competitions this season typifies the 32-year-old’s accomplished nature.
An experienced player who has made the defensive midfield role his own over the years, largely down to his no-nonsense approach and a strict reliance on defensive duties above all else.
Casemiro – Real Madrid
Real Madrid dominance in the UEFA Champions League winning back-to-back-to-back the most coveted club cup competition. But it was Casemiro that provided the basis for the Madrid team to flourish. Despite his defensive duties, the Brazilian always found a way to score important goals to ensure that Los Blanco won consecutively.
Moreover, the 28-year-old Brazilian is a complete defensive midfielder, and a mainstay in an ever-changing team under Zinedine Zidane. The Brazilian even chipped in with four goals and three assists as Madrid regained their crown from rivals Barcelona last season. A serial winner with Real Madrid, and certain to go down as a legend in the Spanish capital thanks to his continuous dominance in the heart of a hugely talented midfield. And he’s still only 28.