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Who ranks among the best defensive midfielders in the world?

Joshua Kimmich and Rodri top the list for the best defensive midfielders in the world in 2023.

Defensive midfielders are some of the most underappreciated players in the game. Part of the midfield, their roles often remain vague given the sheer number of tasks they have to undertake. Not only do they need to hold their positions, be athletic to cover counterattacks, and put in tackles to recover possession but defensive midfielders also need to be great on the ball.

They are also tasked with progressing the ball forward to the advanced midfielders or the forwards in the final third of the pitch and they have to be great passers in order to break defensive lines and find the wingers. All of these roles need to be performed at the same time which also means that defensive midfielders are some of the most intelligent players in world football.

But who are the best defensive midfielders in the world in 2023? Let’s discuss:

Best defensive midfielders in the world: Top 10 list

Player Club Country Age
Joshua Kimmich Bayern Munich Germany 27
Rodri Manchester City Spain 26
Casemiro Manchester United Brazil 30
Marco Verratti Paris Saint-Germain Italy 30
Marcelo Brozovic Inter Milan Croatia 30
Aurelien Tchouameni Real Madrid France 23
Declan Rice West Ham United England 24
Enzo Fernandez Benfica Argentina 22
Bruno Guimaraes Newcastle United Brazil 25
Sergio Busquets Barcelona Spain 34

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich and Germany

Joshua Kimmich is one of the best defensive midfielder in the world and he is an extremely versatile player. While he had started his career at right-back, Kimmich has slotted into the midfield seamlessly and is now the heartbeat of the Bayern Munich. Few players in world football progress the ball as much and as consistently as Kimmich does for Bayern and Germany and he is a world class passer of the ball as well.

Add to that, his defensive abilities and knack of sensing danger from his experience of playing as a full-back and you have a complete defensive midfield package who forms the basis of Bayern’s dominance in the Bundesliga and even in Europe.

Rodri, Manchester City and Spain

While his first season at Manchester City was a little underwhelming, Rodri has quickly become the fulcrum of Pep Guardiola’s side and is the beating heart of that City setup. Rodri is by far the best in his position in the Premier League and is one of the most consistent players in the world.

Rodri is fast, accurate with his passing, knows how to hold a high line, has a great sense of positioning, and more importantly, is an expert at snuffing out danger and shutting down counter-attacks. He has transmitted security to the Manchester City midfield and Spain have found a successor to Sergio Busquets in Rodri.

Casemiro, Manchester United and Brazil

Many people expected that the heydays of Casemiro would be behind him given that he left a Champions League-winning Real Madrid side to join a then-scrappy project at Manchester United. However, that gamble is starting to pay off as Casmeiro has taken to life in the Premier League extremely well. He has been at the helm of affairs for the United midfield and has dictated play in the middle of the park.

Also Read: Champions League winners list

As far as midfield destroyers go, Casemiro is untouchable. Few forwards have known to get the better of him on a consistent basis and he has also been one of the most consistent players in his position on the planet for the last decade.

Marco Verratti, Paris Saint-Germain and Italy

While many people consider that the best days of Marco Verratti are behind him and that injuries and absences have significantly impacted his career, the Italian midfield maestro continues to weave his spell of magic on the biggest stages possible. He had made more tackles than any other player in the Champions League last season and it is a testament to his no-nonsense defensive qualities.

More importantly, though, Verratti is one of the most press-resistant midfielders that the world of football has seen in this generation and he is an excellent ball progressor. He also commands a beautiful right foot and uses it to spray passes to all corners of the park and penetrate the final third. Verratti, when on song, is a joy to behold.

Marcelo Brozovic, Inter Milan and Croatia

If Marco Verratti is a delightful charm in the middle of the park, then Marcelo Brozovic is a bringer of chaos who is a master of the dark arts and is one of the 10 best defensive midfielders in the world. Brozovic is also the best in Italy’s Serie A and is mostly underrated because his game is so simple.

The Croatian is a workhorse and athletic beast in the middle of the park and he covers more ground than anyone else. Brozovic is also not scared of flying in to challenges or putting his leg in to make crucial interceptions but he is also a wonderful ball progressor and has great passing abilities.

Aurelien Tchouameni, Real Madrid and France

While replacing the leadership abilities, dependability and consistency that Casemiro brought to Real Madrid’s midfield is no easy task, the European champions have gone about business pretty effectively. Although Aurelien Tchouameni was always recognised as a gem with great potential, Madrid were quick to shell out the big bucks for him and brought him to the Santiago Bernabeu for a sum of €80 million this summer.

It is with Madrid that Tchouameni has taken his game to a whole new level and is quickly justifying his price tag. He was also in great form for his country at the World Cup and any doubts of his talent are starting to disappear into thin air.

Declan Rice, West Ham United and England

The captain of West Ham United, Declan Rice is indispensable to the England setup and is one of the most coveted players in the country. Rice has improved his game at a phenomenal rate and has quickly become a pillar in the squad for West Ham who are starting to become regulars on the European stage.

He has been in tremendous form in the league over the last few years and topped the Premier League charts for ball carrying, while also ranking highly for duels and possession won. The 24-year-old has a strong and intimidating presence in the middle of the park and Rice also possesses the technical qualities to back that up.

Enzo Fernandez, Benfica and Argentina

Elected the best young player at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar after leading Argentina to the coveted trophy, Enzo Fernandez has quickly become the most in-demand defensive midfielder in the world. The 22-year-old burst on to the scene this season with his ruthless displays in the Champions League with Benfica and earned a call-up to the Argentina World Cup squad.

Also Read: How many times Argentina won the FIFA World Cup

While he was on the fringes of the team before stepping into Qatar, he became an indispensable part of Lionel Scaloni’s setup during the tournament and started in every knockout game and managed to impress immensely. Chelsea have been eyeing Enzo Fernandez’s release clause for a while and it won’t be surprising to see him join a big European club in the summer as one of the most talented young midfielders in the world right now.

Bruno Guimaraes, Newcastle United and Brazil

Bruno Guimaraes had become a star during his time with Lyon but outside of France, he remained largely underappreciated. That changed when he decided to join Eddie Howe’s exciting project at Newcastle United this summer and Guimaraes has become of the heartbeat of their midfield.

His start to life at Tyneside was slow, but he has been an integral cog for his team. Even at the World Cup, Brazilian head coach Tite was criticised for not utilising Guimaraes enough and only bringing him on as a substitute. The 25-year-old also has a lot of room for improvement and is only expected to get better.

Sergio Busquets, Barcelona and Spain

Once the gold standard for a defensive midfielder in the modern game, Sergio Busquets’ best days are well behind him and the lanky Spaniard is entering the twilight of his career. While his legs and body are no longer able to keep up with the pace and intensity these days, his brain, vision, clarity of thought, ability to turn quickly, feint and break lines continue to remain world class and the Barcelona captain still features heavily in Xavi’s plans.

Busquets put on a great show, dictating affairs from deep midfield against Real Madrid in the recent Spanish Super Cup final. Having won everything in the game from the Champions League to the World Cup to La Liga, the Spaniard may soon be seen playing outside Europe where he tends to finish his career. However, he will always be one of the greatest defensive midfielders of the game.


Who are the best defensive midfielders in 2022?

Rodri, Joshua Kimmich, and Casemiro are the best defensive midfielders in the world in 2022.

Who is the most exciting young defensive midfielder in the world?

Enzo Fernandez is by far the most exciting talent to be recognised as the best young defensive midfielder in the world.

How is a defensive midfielder different from a defender?

In a football game, a defensive midfielder plays just ahead of the defenders and acts as the bridge between the defence and the advanced midfielders or forwards.


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