One of the most underappreciated positions in football is the defensive midfield role. While growing up, it is seen as a position the team can fix anybody in and just block any shot coming from the opposition before it gets to the defenders. This is a very wrong assumption as it has been seen lately.
The role of a defensive midfielder is more than what is assumed to be. It encompasses everything a midfielder should be.
It is the link between defense and attack. It covers the whole length of the field. This is why everyone that plays the role should be given special recognition. We will be highlighting some of the best players that currently play in that position.
- Arturo Vidal
When a player is so versatile that he has made a role for himself in a position that he is not his natural position, he should be given some respect. Vidal is known more as a box to box midfielder. He has, however, excelled excellently well in this position and has made it his own. He dictates the tempo of the game from deep on the field playing this role and has done it without any fuss.
- Declan Rice
Relatively unknown some years ago, Declan Rice has now grown to become a midfielder that represents the England national team. His ability to control the game while his team is under pressure and also contribute to attack is a feature that makes him be on this list.
After he was released by Chelsea at an early age, Rice might not have been seen as a player that ill progress to become who he is today. He is now a commanding force in the West Ham team and one of the first names to make the team selection every match day just at the age of 20.
When Jorginho was first known at Napoli, he was like a new Sergio Busquets in modern-day football. His style of play and vision on the ball was top quality.
This was why it was the first decision Maurizio Sarri made when he became Chelsea coach- signing a player he managed at Napoli. He is so key to the way Sarri plays his game and has also become a key member of Frank Lampard’s team.
It is understandable that many would have to love Kante at the base of the team for Chelsea but what he brings to the table is far more than just defending but also creating chances for the team. It is a reason Pep Guardiola wanted him to replace Fernandinho in the first place.
- Idrissa Gueye
Mid-table clubs across Europe have a way of chunning out midfielders that are top quality and go into top clubs to become an instant hit. Idrissa Gueye was one man that covered so many flaws at Everton last season but got little recognition for doing so.
He was able to get a deal to PSG and he starts for the Paris side. This is how good he is. The 29-year-old Senegalese was able to justify the £30m PSG paid for his service and will continue to show that he is a quality midfielder.
When Pep could not get Jorginho in his first ask, he finally went for Atletico Madri’s Rodrigo. The 23-year-old Spaniard has been a key factor at Atletico Madrid and everyone could see how the Madrid club was compact with him in the midfield. It was common sense for Man City to splash €70m on him to replace the aging Fernandinho.
His strength lies in his ball recovering ability. He does it effortlessly because he has mastered the act of capitalizing on loose balls. His tackles and aerial dual win ratio is one of the best in the game and has slotted into the City team easily.
- Wilfred Ndidi
After Leicester City sold Ngolo Kante, finding a replacement didn’t come easy but when they finally signed Wilfred Ndidi from Genk in the winter of 2017, he was the perfect match for the team. The Nigerian is rated as the most in-form defensive midfielder in the Premier League right now. His statistics and contribution to the team as a whole leaves jaws dropping.
A total of 69 and 43 tackles and interceptions respectively ranks as the best in the league. He has also contributed two goals so far this season to his team. He is just on another level at the moment.
He needs no introduction as one of the best midfielders in the game currently. He made his name during Zinedine Zidane’s first reign despite joining Real Madrid since 2013.
He has been an integral member of the Real Madrid title-winning squad and even scored a screamer in the Champions League final against Juventus in 2017. He is also a key member of the Brazil national team that won the Copa America this year.
- Frenkie de Jong
When he was at Ajax, everyone saw a player that was a superstar for the team in a few years’ time. He proved everyone wrong that he wasn’t a player for the future a player for now and the future.
He was very key for Ajax’s run to the semifinal of the Champions League last season. Joining Barcelona was also a very great move for him as his style of play suits the Catalan giant.
The 22-year-old special attribute includes his passes from deep positions and creating chances from the eye of the needle when everyone never sees it possible.
De Jong’s ability to dictate the pace of the game despite being a defensive midfielder has shown why Barcelona was keen on getting him to replace Busquets’ boots. Even if £70m looks much, it is a decent fee for today’s market valuation for a player of his ability.
When he joined Liverpool, he didn’t start well as many felt it was a waste of resources to sign him and his success at Monaco was a fluke.
He has proven doubters wrong and now commands a starting shirt at Liverpool. His presence in the middle of the park for the Reds gives assurance about everything you want. He is a good passer, tackler and shooter. He is everything in one.
- N’Golo Kanté
He is easily the best player at Chelsea and arguably the most important player in the title-winning team of both Chelsea and Leicester City the last time either side won the league. He has grown to become not just a good tackler but also a very good passer of the ball.
One quality that he has added to his game is goal scoring and he does this to help his Chelsea side win matches when they are in tight situations. He was very instrumental in France world cup win in 2018.