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Football News: World's Best Central Midfielders?

World's Best Central Midfielders?
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World's Best Central Midfielders?

I thought about this for a while and decided to split attacking midfielders apart from the rest. I did not feel the need to break it down any further, as holding, defensive, box-to-box etc just because it is too much messing around to sort them out. So here is the players I think belong in the list for varying reasons:


Paul Pogba - Manchester United

While the Man Utd midfielder has yet to hit the heights expected of him by some, I still feel he deserves inclusion, despite the flaws in his game. Pogba has yet to really take games by the scruff of the neck, as was expected in England when he returned to United from Juventus, but that is not his game. He never seems hurried and so can often be accused of not trying, but it is just the way he plays. Pogba's stride is long and loping, he eats up the ground without looking like he is moving fast at all. He certainly does his fair share of breaking up play though.

On the ball he will mostly keep it simple, then, out of nowhere, he produces a piece of sublime skill that can change a game. I have heard that used as a criticism of him, that he only does those pieces of skill in flashes, rather than all the time. Personally I think that is a good thing, as he keeps the opposition guessing and it keeps the flicks etc effective. You never know what he will do when he gets the ball, what you do know is that he is capable of shooting from almost anywhere, playing long balls or just running past the defence. That makes him a dangerous player to face.


Koke - Atletico Madrid

Hard working, skilful, good passing range and vision, Koke is an excellent player, though I was not sure whether to include him as a wideman or attacking midfielder. I have seen him play all 3 roles in the team and play them well. I do feel he is at his best in the centre, where he can be constantly involved in the play.


N'Golo Kante - Chelsea

No list of best central midfielders could possibly be complete without Chelsea's Kante in it. Like Claude Makelele before him, Kante has changed the game of football and the way a midfield plays by just being so much better at what he does than those around him. Unlike Makelele, he has not created a whole new role in a team, but he has changed the way people think of a central midfielder. There are people who argue he is a defensive midfielder, which, to a degree he is, but he is so much more than just someone who breaks up the play.


A lot of people believe he just runs around a lot and that is it, but you do not become the foundation stone of two Premier League title-winning sides by running around aimlessly. Kante also does as much running in support of his team's attacks as he does defensively, giving a feeling, when you watch him, of him being everywhere at once. He is not the greatest player on the ball, though he is very good and getting better, but his work off the ball is so much better than anyone else in the game. It is not for nothing that Leicester City used to say of their midfield that they put Danny Drinkwater in the centre and then played Kante both sides of him!


Marco Veratti - Paris Saint-Germain

Veratti is someone that cannot be left out, on his day he is an incredible player, hard working, excellent technically and with a great range of passing and the vision to spot where the pass should go. One thing I have noticed is that he always seems to be doing everything at pace, when he is playing well, there is no slowing things down and searching out a pass. Veratti gets the ball and immediately he does something, whether it is charging forward or pinging the ball to a teammate, it is all done in a rush when he is on his game. That allows no time for opponents to set up and adjust.


Luka Modric - Real Madrid

Modric is a midfielder of the Rolls-Royce kind, the type that glides over the ground rather than runs. He has the skill to slalom through challenges, has excellent close control, a lovely touch on the ball and a good range of passing. He has become the fulcrum of the Madrid midfield since joining from Spurs. It is not just ability that makes him one of the best, it is hard work, as he looks like he is strolling through the game when on the ball but he will always work back and help to protect the defence when his team lose possession. Modric is not a hard tackling powerhouse, but he does harry and press opposing players extremely well.


Radja Nainggolan - AS Roma

How good could this lad be if he did not have such a wild lifestyle and smoke heavily? He is a powerhouse of a midfielder, with great ability to play too.


Miralem Pjanic - Juventus

The one who usually goes under the radar, but I like what he brings and he may be a little less high profile than his team mates, but I think he is a better player than Sami Khedira. However Pjanic does not get in the box as much or look to get on the end of chances, he tends to remain in place holding the midfield together when the others dash forward.


Thiago Alcantara - Bayern Munich

It was a surprise when Thiago left Barcelona to move to the Bundesliga but it seems to suit him. He has developed into a player in his own right, rather than being shoehorned in as the replacement for Xavi he has been earmarked as in Spain.


Saul Niguez - Atletico Madrid

His star had waned over the last few seasons, after he took a knock during a Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen in early 2015. Saul suffered a kidney problem which say him play through pain and having to have a catheter inserted, which left him peeing blood after after training session and match. While he still performed at a high level, just not at as high a level as expected and, with the injury not made public, people just assumed he was not actually that good. Now his health is restored the Atleti midfielder is playing with the drive and determination that won him the move to Madrid in the first place.


Arturo Vidal - Bayern Munich

Vidal has been a driving force at every club he has been at, as well as for his country. The Chilean is an outstanding box-to-box midfielder, who gets up and down the pitch, winning possession and has the quality to be a big part of the possession game as well. He is a destroyer who can create, with a knack for scoring the odd goal too.


Nemanja Matic - Manchester United

It is easy to make a case for Matic, you only have to look and see the difference he has made to Man Utd's performances and results this season. Watching him play only reinforces what a quality player he is when he is on his game. There is more to him than protecting the defence behind him though, he is a very good passer of the ball.


Blaise Matuidi - Juventus

Matuidi is what a friend of mine used to call 'an engine', not quite at the level of Kante, but he does put himself about tackling, chasing, harrying, winning the ball back. On the ball he has some genuine quality, though it is not his strongest suit.


Steven N'Zonzi - Sevilla

The French midfielder has come a long way in recent years, from his days when he was seen as a gangly player who looked a bit awkward and was awkward for opponents to play against. His time in English football never really saw him get the respect he deserved for his ability. N'Zonzi does have a knack for stretching out his long legs to nick the ball away from a surprised opponent, who thought they had safe control of the ball, but it is his runs on the ball, where he uses that attribute to leave an opponent behind when they try to nip in and win the ball, are one of his main skills.


Naby Keita - RB Leipzig

People kept telling me he was just like watching Kante when they were raving about him last season, but I disagree. While he does have that same astonishing energy and workrate, Keita is a much more forward minded player. Yes he gets back and breaks up play, but his true skill is what he does on the ball, though he has a tendency to look for a killer ball a bit too much in my opinion. Added to his ability to run with the ball, which he is always looking to do, Keita is a special talent.


Julian Weigl - Borussia Dortmund

His performances, that I have seen anyway, this season have seen him deserve inclusion. He has been a big part of Dortmund's team and it can only be a matter of time before Bayern come calling.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic - Lazio

A young midfielder who has half of Europe interested in acquiring his services, with good reason. One of the best midfielders in Serie A currently.


Franck Kessie - AC Milan

He is currently at Milan on a 2 year loan deal with an obligation to buy from Atalanta, due to FFP rules limiting Milan's spending in the summer. A real force to be reckoned with in midfield when at Atalanta, Kessie is a star of the future.


Mousa Dembele - Tottenham Hotspur

Dembele is very reminiscent of the player he was bought by Spurs to replace, Modric, though he is less attack minded than the Croatian. He has that same ability to glide over the ground, past players with ease and pick a pass, but more strength and better tackling.


Adrian Rabiot - Paris Saint-Germain

Rabiot has spent his career, so far, with PSG, but has talked up his desire to play in England. I am sure there will be no shortage of takers!


Onyinye Ndidi - Leicester City

Not quite at Kante's level, but he is the replacement for the Frenchman in the Foxes' midfield. He does have a better shot on him though than the man he replaced.


Mario Lemina - Southampton

It was a big surprise that he was sold by Juventus, though he had only been on the fringes there, his quality is such that it feels like a mistake to let him go. Lemina is not afraid to get stuck in and can protect a defence very well, but it is his creativity that is his strongest feature. I am not sure Saints are getting the most from him yet, but he still stands out as the best player in the team, in my opinion.

For my top ten of midfielders, this podcast explains my choices, though it was really difficult picking an order!


Honourary Mention: Tom Davies - Everton

This one is more of one for the future, despite being badly used this season by manager Ronald Koeman, who uses him just about anywhere but his best position in the centre. However, despite this, he still stands out a mile when he plays for the Toffees. If he achieves his potential, he is exactly what England need, a truly quality player.

Written by Tris Burke October 09 2017 10:50:51