These are the Five Best Defensive Midfielders in the World

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I was going to write a “who will Manchester United buy this summer” post, but there are plenty of those already trending online. I do think they need a true holding midfielder. Paul Pogba could be great if he had a disrupter next to him that gave him the freedom to create. Which got me thinking: “who are the best CDMs or number 6s in the world?”

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Claude Makélélé wants to call it the “Kante position”, making N’Golo Kante the early favorite as the best defensive midfielder in world football. He was a big part of Leicester City’s once-in-a-lifetime league title and he followed that up by winning it again with Chelsea. He ended the 2016/17 season by winning all the important acronym-friendly Best Player of the Year awards. The PFA (Professional Footballers Association), the FWA (Football Writer’s Association) and EA Sports all handed him trophies. The diminutive frenchmen is redefining the position by covering more ground and making the “easy ball” look like brilliant midfield play. He was also named Premier League Player of the Year.

Casemiro is the next great Brazilian midfield pillager. Dunga, Mauro Silva, and Gilberto Silva came before him, and now Casemiro is taking us back to the future with a classic take on how to play in the middle. The Real Madrid revelation is a hard worker with a prototypical South American-way of controlling the ball and dispossessing opponents. It’s no wonder that a blue-collar manager like Rafa Benitez rated the ex Sao Paulo man so highly. And now he’s one of Zidane’s most valuable players.

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Radja Nainggolan is the heavy-metal version of the “Kante position.” The bombastic Belgian loves a hard tackle and gets forward quickly on the counter. Technically very skilled, Radja always seems to be linked to the Premier League, so it’ll be interesting to see if AS Roma’s new sporting director Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo (Monchi to his friends) views Nainggolan as an asset or a number. Radja Nainggolan admitted recently that he likes a cigarette with his post-game beer. He must have lungs of steel.

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The first touch and elite technical skill of Nemanja Matic are world-class. The 6’4″ Serbian leftie is a highly-graded holding midfielder that complements Kante perfectly at Chelsea. He’s a big presence in the middle with big-time responsibilities as a tackler when they defend, and as a key distributor when they attack. Jose Mourinho absolutely loves him, so don’t be surprised if Matic’s name is on the Special One’s wishlist.

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Arturo “El Rey” Vidal was Pogba’s mate in Turin. They were part of a star-studded Juventus midfield that included Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Kwadwo Asamoah. The Chilean and Bayern Munich star is a total footballing warrior that brings attitude and moxie to the modern DM role. And he score, too. Always dangerous in the box on set pieces and from distance in possession, Arturo Vidal is a player that any team in the world would love to have.

But what do you think? Are these the Top 5 defensive midfielders today? Let me know in the comments.









2 thoughts on “These are the Five Best Defensive Midfielders in the World

  1. Depending upon how we define “defensive midfielder” I’d add Ander Herrera. He’s adapted to the Prem so well. Absolutely United’s player of the season. Big reason they won two major trophies and are back in the Champions League. I’d say he’s more of an old school type number 8 than a 6. But I think Vidal and Nainggollan are also more box-to-box type players. If we’re including deep-lying playmakers, I think we have to add Busquets and Toni Kroos to the mix. Both can orchestrate play from deeper positions. I’d take either one of them over Matic any day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The DM position has definitely evolved, you’re right. And I agree with you –Herrera has morphed himself into a classic DM with modern box-to-box skills.


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