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​The 10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World Right Now, Ranked​

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​The 10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World Right Now, Ranked​

Football's unsung heroes are the defensive midfielders or CDMs if you're a FUT player. Sitting ahead of the back three or four, clearing up the mess, taking out the trash and basically doing the dirty work before moving the ball to the creative players.

There may never have been a crop of holding midfielders as good as the one we have now - most on our list can also play further up the pitch or even at the back.

Here we pick our top 10 defensive midfielders in the world. We've used a number of stats from last season to quantify our rankings, as well as a player's overall contribution to the game in recent times. So who makes it into our top 10?

All stats come from WhoScored.com and are correct as of the publish date.

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Other Articles In This Series:

10) Sergio Busquets

2020/21 Season Stats:

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  • 32 appearances
  • 0 goals
  • 5 assists
  • 91.3% pass success
  • 1.8 tackles per game

Rumours of Sergio Busquets' slowing down were firmly put to bed at Euro 2021 as the 32-year-old put on a masterclass of midfield play. A positive coronavirus test forced him out of the first two games, a goalless draw with Sweden and a 1-1 stalemate with the Poles. On his return, he earned man of the match honours as Spain crushed Slovakia 5-0 and repeated the feat pulling all the strings during the 5-3 Round of 16 victory over Croatia.

sergio busquets
sergio busquets

9) Declan Rice

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2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 32 appearances
  • 2 goals
  • 1 assist
  • 88% pass success
  • 1.8 tackles per game

One aspect of Declan Rice's game is his ability to run. And run. And run. The West Ham star covered 324.6km in the Premier League last season, good for fourth in the league. But it's his penetration and confidence with the ball that have evolved under David Moyes. At Euro 2021, Rice started every game in the holding midfield role for England on the way to the final, making concerns over Jordan Henderson's fitness irrelevant. Just 22, the future is bright for the hard-working Hammer.

declan rice
declan rice
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8) Frenkie de Jong

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 35 appearances
  • 3 goals
  • 4 assists
  • 91.9% pass success
  • 1.2 tackles per game

When you've drawn comparisons to the likes of Xavi and Franz Beckenbauer, you know you're doing something right. That's the case for Frenkie de Jong, who followed Dutch greats such as Frank de Boer and Johan Cruyff through the Ajax to Barcelona pipeline. In his second season at Barca, the 24-year-old grew in influence, especially after a formation switch in January, which allowed him to bring his passing ability to the fore. He finished fourth in pass success in La Liga among players with more than 20 appearances despite a stint at centre-back in place of an injured Gerard Pique.

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frenkie de jong
frenkie de jong

7) Marcelo Brozovic

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 29 appearances
  • 2 goals
  • 6 assists
  • 89.6% pass success
  • 1.6 tackles per game

While Antonio Conte's Inter Milan returned to the top of Serie A in 2020/21 for the first time in a decade, his switch of Marcelo Brozovic to a holding role may have been the coach's finest masterstroke during his time at the club. The 28-year-old, who has been suggested as a partner for Paul Pogba in the Manchester United midfield, is blessed with the stamina to run all day and was one of Croatia's stars on their way to the 2018 World Cup final in Russia.

marcelo brozovic
marcelo brozovic

6) Wilfred Ndidi

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 25 appearances
  • 1 goal
  • 4 assists
  • 86.9% pass success
  • 3.7 tackles per game

Perhaps the most underrated member of this list, Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi was tasked with the impossible - replacing N'Golo Kante when the latter was sold to Chelsea in 2016. The Nigerian has ploughed his own path and led the Premier League in tackles last season as the Foxes missed out on Champions League football, but scooped an FA Cup victory. The powerful 24-year-old made his debut at 18 for Nigeria and he has since appeared 40 times for his country.

wilfried ndidi
wilfried ndidi

5) Fabinho

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 28 appearances
  • 0 goals
  • 0 assists
  • 90.3% pass success
  • 1.9 tackles per game

Another player impacted by the injury of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho was perhaps the most instrumental performer in the revival of Liverpool's 2020/21 season. Initially employed as van Dijk's replacement while injuries laid waste to the side's centre-backs, his switch back to defensive midfielder late in the season saw the Reds regain their title-winning mojo and complete an unlikely run to third.

fabinho
fabinho

4) Casemiro

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 32 appearances
  • 6 goals
  • 4 assists
  • 83.9% pass success
  • 2.5 tackles per game

Despite a disappointing season in Zinedine Zidane's final year as Real Madrid boss, Casemiro stood tall. Joint fifth in La Liga in tackles, the Brazilian's strength and work-rate ensure he's the protector of the Real defence.

casemiro
casemiro

3) Rodri

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 31 appearances
  • 2 goals
  • 2 assists
  • 91.3% pass success
  • 2.1 tackles per game

The world's most expensive defensive midfielder when he joined Manchester City from Atletico Madrid in 2019 (£56.4million), Rodri provides the platform from which City's wealth of attacking options take flight. The Spaniard's positioning rather than his tackling prowess deters opponents' passes through the lines. When he's on the ball, he's one of the Premier League's most gifted passers.

rodri
rodri

2) Joshua Kimmich

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 25 appearances
  • 4 goals
  • 10 assists
  • 86.3% pass success
  • 1.5 tackles per game

The driving force behind Bayern's treble in 2019/20, Kimmich is perhaps 1a to Kante's top-ranking. Sixth in the Bundesliga in assists, the 26-year-old's versatility is a key weapon in his armoury, having moved from right-back to midfield, not unlike German great Philipp Lahm. Described as a "mentality monster" by outgoing Bayern manager Hansi Flick, Kimmich's aggression belies his 5ft 10in frame, while his passing range and football intelligence are second to none.

joshua kimmich
joshua kimmich

1) N'Golo Kante

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 24 appearances
  • 0 goals
  • 2 assists
  • 86.5% pass success
  • 2.6 tackles per game

If this list was just midfielders, N'Golo Kante would still be top-three, but as a gameplan-wrecker the Chelsea player is without peer. A Premier League winner with Leicester, World Cup winner with France and Champions League winner with Chelsea - success follows him wherever he goes and it's no coincidence. Injured under Frank Lampard, the 5ft 6in ball of energy was rejuvenated under Thomas Tuchel, allowing his dynamism to drive the Blues to an FA Cup final and European glory.

If you enjoyed this article, read another in this series: the best strikers in the world right now.

n'golo kante
n'golo kante

Image Credits: PA

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

Topics: Rodri, Joshua Kimmich, Casemiro, N'Golo Kante

Colin Hubbuck
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