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Top 10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World (2024)

Defensive midfielders often don’t receive the praise they deserve, frequently getting lost in the mix with other midfielders without precise acknowledgment. However, outstanding talents from previous generations, such as Gennaro Gattuso, Claude Makalélé, Edgar Davis, Didier Deschamps, Roy Keane, Alex Song, Sergio Busquets, and John Mikel Obi, have brought well-deserved recognition to this role. N’Golo Kanté has elevated this position further, becoming one of the most effective ball-winners and anchors in the history of the game.

What does a defensive midfielder do?

A defensive midfielder shields the backline, supports the midfield, and recovers possession from the opposition. This position demands high stamina as players need to cover large areas of the pitch, defending and initiating attacks. The role involves disrupting opponent plays and facilitating counterattacks.

Here are the ten most outstanding defensive midfielders worldwide, listed in no particular order.

1. Rodri

Rodrigo Hernández Cascante shone as a defensive midfielder under Diego Simeone’s guidance at Atletico Madrid. Having played for Villarreal and Atletico, and now a key figure at Manchester City, Rodri’s skills are well-proven. At 27, his two-footed play, game intelligence, and passing precision (over 90% accuracy) make him a central figure in City’s lineup, contributing significantly to their recent UEFA Champions League victory. His physical prowess is notable in both ground and aerial duels.

2. Aurélien Tchouaméni

The young Frenchman made his mark at Real Madrid, leading to the departure of seasoned players like Casemiro. Tchouaméni excels at defending and intercepting, with a robust presence in midfield battles.

3. Declan Rice

After a stellar performance at West Ham and the World Cup with England, Rice moved to Arsenal in a record deal. Known for his tackling, aerial abilities, and leadership, Rice continues to excel as a defensive anchor and deep-lying playmaker for Arsenal.

4. Joshua Kimmich

Originally a fullback, Kimmich’s transformation into a defensive midfielder at Bayern Munich showcases his adaptability and prowess in midfield control, consistently performing at high levels against various opponents.

5. Granit Xhaka

Once underappreciated at Arsenal, Xhaka has become indispensable at Bayer Leverkusen, helping them win their first Bundesliga trophy. His robust playstyle and versatility allow him to cover vast areas effectively.

6. Casemiro

Transitioning to the Premier League at 31, Casemiro left a decade-long impactful tenure at Real Madrid for Manchester United. Known for strong tackling and clutch goal-scoring, he’s demonstrated longevity in top-form, adding flexibility and defensive acumen wherever he plays.

7. João Palhinha

Known for his aggressive tackling and ability to disrupt plays, Palhinha has become a key figure in midfield, recognized for his tactical discipline and ability to control the game’s tempo.

8. Manuel Locatelli

Representing a new generation of Italian defensive midfielders, Locatelli’s playstyle at Juventus mirrors that of Andrea Pirlo, with excellent vision, passing, and defensive skills that confirm his world-class status.

9. Stanislav Lobotka

Key in Napoli’s recent Serie A victory, Lobotka’s defensive skills often go unnoticed but remain integral to his team’s success. His game awareness and tactical intelligence make him a standout in defensive midfield roles.

10. Sergio Busquets

Though in the twilight of his career with Inter Miami in MLS, Busquets’ impact as a defensive midfielder remains unmatched. His tenure at Barcelona left a legacy of tactical brilliance and midfield dominance.

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