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The Five Best Central Midfielders In World Football

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Situated in the heart of every great team is always a truly special central midfielder who is capable of taking matches by the scruff of their neck and dominating them.

Some midfielders are specialists in the holding role, others have an uncanny knack of scoring goals but every so often a player comes along that can excel in all areas. A prime example of this particular species has to be this week’s ArsenalFCBlog’s interviewee Cesc Fabregas.

To accompany this excellent exclusive interview I thought it would be fun to run the rule over the game’s finest all-round midfielders. Here’s my personal top five, as of today…


1 – Andres Iniesta

Suddenly the apple of everyone’s eye after a number of years striving to impress the masses, Barcelona’s wonderfully gifted midfielder is now a complete player. Strictly speaking he’s not utilised as a straight forward central midfielder too often by club or country but that doesn’t mean he’s not the best in the business.

When utilised as a holding player for Barca, Iniesta’s anticipation and awareness allowed him to win possession of the ball more than any other player in La Liga. The statistics proved it. When deployed as a free spirit in the centre of the park the diminutive 25-year-old uses his slight frame, fluid movement, skill, poise and passing ability to destroy the opposition to great effect.

Iniesta is the quiet man of Spanish football but he knits everything together perfectly. He can score goals, he keeps possession better than anyone else and he can also defend. It’s criminal that Andres Iniesta isn’t widely regarded as the world’s best midfielder, because that’s exactly what he is.

2 – Steven Gerrard

steven gerrard 150x150 The Five Best Central Midfielders In World FootballA better talisman you will not find on the planet. It’s not easy to find any faults in Gerrard’s make up as he is strictly speaking a perfect specimen of the modern day footballer; tall, powerful, fast, a fine tackler, hard working, technically brilliant and a scorer of goals. On top of all that he also happens to be one of the most inspirational players of his generation.

The only fault I can see is Gerrard’s perceived lack of application towards international football. He seems all too happy to take a back seat at times for his country, playing with a slight inhibition compared to when he’s wearing the red shirt of Liverpool. He’s still one of the most dangerous players in the world though, whoever he’s playing for.

3 – Xavi

xavi 150x150 The Five Best Central Midfielders In World FootballA big game playmaker who rises to the occasion every time he needs to. Essentially a holding midfielder Xavi is actually much more than that. His movement and passing are so slick that he’s almost untouchable in possession. He’s even better than Paul Scholes was at his peak and that is some accolade, as I was a massive Scholesy fan!

At 29, he is now a mature footballer but there are no signs of him being on the slide. This guy treats the ball as if it’s his friend and you have to put him up there with the world’s best.

4 – Cesc Fabregas

fabregas 150x150 The Five Best Central Midfielders In World FootballIt shows how good Spain are for Cesc to be ranked their third best midfielder! He would be number one in almost every other country. I’ve seen this guy play numerous times in the flesh and he rarely fails to shine.

What impresses me most about the Gunners skipper is his mature decision making and effortless movement. Always moving, always wanting the ball, and always looking to create a goalscoring opportunity, he makes things happen all the time. Luis Aragones’ deployment of Fabregas as a second striker also proved that the youngster can every bit as good in the final third as he is in the middle.

5 – Daniele de Rossi

daniele de rossi 150x150 The Five Best Central Midfielders In World FootballThe Italian ‘Gerrard’ is a player that’s about to become a world famous name in my opinion. The 2010 World Cup will be his big chance to shine and I fully expect him to be one of the stars of the tournament.

He’s only 26 but has already amassed 50 international caps and he is the main man for the Azzuri. Freed from the defensive duties that restrict him at Roma, De Rossi is a much more potent attacking force at international level. His drive and all-round ability mark him out for me as the next big thing.

Also I’d like to give special mentions to Lampard, Essien, Alonso, Pirlo, Dzagoev, Senna, Cambiasso, Sneijder, Mascherano, Schweinsteiger and Lucas (sorry, I’m kidding there!).

That’s my view but feel free to disagree and suggest your own alternatives! Let’s discuss…

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Comments (51)

  1. was alright till u mentioned Lucas i mean even Denilson would be obviously a better player than he is right now

  2. i think xavi is the best central midfielders in the world…he also nominated as the best midfielders in europe..

  3. iniesta is more than the best CM in the world,he is the world no.1 full stop.its a real shame he wont get the official recognition for it though.

  4. I’m just waiting for the inevitable people who will come up and say ‘But Lampard is better then Gerrard!!!’

  5. Seems about right, I’d mention Fletcher and Gourcuff also.

  6. i think Essien deserves to be in the top 5 , lets be honest, would you rather have him or de rossi in your team? hes an absolute tank defensively and offensively and does everything

  7. But surely Lampard is better than Gerrard! :)

    And no Ryan Giggs….really!!

    Good to see Duffman90 back though!

  8. I have to agree with Lee, Essien is by far the better all round midfielder in comparison to De Rossi.

    Iniesta and Xavi arguably have the consistency for their club and country to be 1 and 2 but Gerrard on form is unplayable. Lampard deserves a mention for his goal scoring but defensively he leaves much to be desired. The odd foul and a few yards tracking back does not a good defensive midfielder make!

    Also, watch this space for Ricardo Montolivo of Fiorentina (my tip for surprise of the Champions League this year), who is sure to carry the Azurri’s expectations along with De Rossi once the world cup rolls around…

  9. “It shows how good Spain are for Cesc to be ranked their third best midfielder!”

    No, it shows how good Barcelona and their youth system is to have Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregasc in this line up. There is a style of play (clinical one touch football and precision like through balls) that is unique to Barcelona and the players in their cantera (youth system) are brought up on this. When you see Xavi and Iniesta it’s shades of Guardiola, Bakero and Laudrup of the early 1990s. This is not “Spanish” rather the Spanish national team are fortunate to have these three players at their disposal.

  10. for everyone here.
    No. 1 in da world is Steven Gerrard is
    da best in da world.dats why every single clubs has tried
    to sign him

  11. I think Lassana Diarra deserves to be in the top 5

  12. Good list. Hard to argue with your choices, but narrowing down the list to 5 is extremely hard. But I’d say your top 3 (Iniesta, Gerrard, Xavi) should def make any top 5 list. You mentioned others like Essien and Lampard… there’s a number of guys who could battle for those last two spots… esp since you can define the position in so many ways…

  13. I think Marco Cena and Alonso would be in the top five.They deserve it.

  14. Thanks guys. Essien was close I have to say but he’s not been quite as influential as usual so far this season…

  15. I agree 100%
    Iniesta was the best last seson, not the best mid, but the best player, He made all the matches in the league, the cl, and the cup, truly incredible season, but as always the awards will go to messi who sees only himself and loses the ball all the time

  16. No. 1: Iniesta
    No. 2: Gerrard
    No. 3: Xabi Alonso
    No. 4: Fabregas
    No. 5: Essien

    of course, Lampard, Xavi, Pirlo, De Rossi and Lassana Diarra deserve to be mentioned too.

    Otherwise other great central midfields like Ballack, Deco, Makelele, Vieira, Scholes could make it here, but they are sort of ‘the past’ already.

  17. Dzagoev better than say, Pjanic? Schweinsteiger is a joke to right?

  18. Ever since the Euros and the Triple everyone is suddenly in love with Catalonian playmakers.

  19. I think Iniesta is the best midfielder follow by Xavi, Fabregas, Xavi Alonso and Essien.

  20. I’ve been a Liverpool fan all my life, I love Stevie, but to put him ahead of Xavi is daft. All the things you say about Gerrard may be true and most of those can be applied to Xavi as well. But Gerrard cannot dictate the pace of the match, or control possession and attack, the way Xavi can, and does, match after match for both club and country. It would also be hard to find a player more consistent which is a rare gift in itself!

    Gerrard seems to come up with a few more tricks every season, so who knows what is still in front of him. But right now? Iniesta, then Xavi without a doubt, and there are a lot of fair points here about how to sort the next three.

  21. I’m from Barcelona and a FC Barcelona fan. The best midfilder in the world is Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona), of course, the second is David Silva (from Valencia CF) who is a kind of lefty Iniesta. Third Xavi Hernandez (FC Barcelona), fourth Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Fifth Andrea Pirlo (AC Milano)… after that Deco (Chelsea). They are much better than the others. Gerrard follow them

  22. Seriously, Daniel Chung sounds like either a monumentously ignorant and blindly infatuated glory-hunter or perhaps an incredibly arrogant Catalonian.
    Really? One-touch passing and precision through-balls are unique to Barca? Give me a break. That’s what every single team strives for. Just because Barca produces three great midfielders in a row doesn’t mean that they single-handedly invented good football. Seriously.

  23. A timely article for Fabregas. 4 weeks ago his play was not of this rating. And I agree that Essien has not shown his top form as of late. Sometimes I think he is victim to his versatility as he often takes a supporting role to Lamps and Ballack who either lack the ability or discipline in the defending third.

  24. lampard is very good defensively, much better then many of the players listed in the top 5. he is also a great attacker.

    gerrad hasnt even played central mid for 2 seasons now and when he did he was suspect since hie ability to hold up and control play was never great.

    in terms of central midfielders i think xavi is the best, followed by iniesta and lampard equal second.

  25. 1 xavi – The best mid currently has everything compsure,skill,vision you name it please dont that away from him

    2 iniesta – showed the best potential so far after xavi,

    3 CESC – very strongst contender skill,composure lack of speed

    4 stevie Gerrard rises to the occasion has liverpool on his shoulders can defend and attack with great passes aswell

    5 essien the hard worker.

  26. yeah realy 2 Barcas? Really? Honestly people say “Barcca flogged united in the midfeild at Cl Final” It would ve been a diff story if Xavi(Flether) was suspened and Ineista (Carrick) had a broken foot jeez Carrick in form essien lampard and Why Cant a scot get best middy its not like tehere gonna win anything else lol and your missing a reall biggen : Timmy Cahill most headed goals in the epl and most goals for AUSTRALIA! from the midfield everybody F**k Barcelona

  27. I think Deco and Scholes at their prime were better than Xavi is now , and Fabregas , he gets outplayed by the likes of Carrick , Anderson , Fletcher , Lampard , Essien too many times to be there on the list. Iniesta is simply the best , what a player!

  28. did someone say darren fletcher as a candidate for best central midfielder in the world???

  29. gerrard is the best

  30. @McManus

    A name like Chung certainly couldn’t be mistaken as Catalan but if that’s what you’d like to conclude (and then make a commentary on “ignorance”) then be my guest.

    I am always amused by the term “glory-hunter” but my support for Barcelona has always traced back to the early 1990s (I guess I can be branded as a “glory-hunter” back then because that’s when Barcelona were as equally exceptional). No doubt that every team strives for that one touch football but not every team can execute it. Certainly Barcelona couldn’t the other night against Rubin Kazan, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Barcelona’s system has evolved around this philosophy. And I wouldn’t dare credit this to Barcelona. I would credit it to Cruyff and his days as manager and the way this philosophy was instilled at Barcelona and has been maintained since. Hence my conclusion that Barcelona (the club and not the city) has produced three excellent midfielders (one of them happens to be playing at Arsenal now).

    One last thing, if you want to point fingers at those who support Barcelona for last season’s endeavors, I would say that amongst the fans of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea there are equally guilty culprits.

  31. 1: Andres Iniesta no problem,

    2: Xavi close second,

    3: Andrea Pirlo for the simple fact that when he has a good supporting group he can hold the game up and control it just as well as anyone on the planet and did anybody see that goal from distance against Real Madrid in CL play. At his age to still be as effective and dominant is just awsome.

    4: Cesc Fabregas One of the best up-coming mid-fielders by far

    5: Alonso, Can anyone see how his absence has affected Liverpool this year. I mean I like Liverpool (But AC Milan are my team), but without Alonso they seem to lack a good bit in that midfield. Which brings me to my reason for not adding Gerrard. You get rid of Alonso and what has happened.

  32. For all I know, you could live in Catalonia, so I’m not going to judge you by your name.
    I can agree with most things that you have said, and really the only thing I originally took exception to was the notion that the aforementioned style of football is unique to Barca, a statemment which you seem to have retracted. Cheers.

  33. xavi definately the best…then iniesta, fabregas, gerrard, de rossi…spanish midfielders on top because of their great ball control n vision.

  34. riquelme

  35. lol, people saying alonso is better than gerrard.

    i would have diego ahead of cesc and essien ahead of de rossi.

  36. nice, they are really midfielders best on the world

  37. @ Dan & Elison

    Spot on. Alonso and Mascherano have spent the last few years covering for Gerrard’s positional deficiencies and poor possession. He’s another one of those England players who is overpaid and overrated. This is why he hasn’t shown up at international level, because the two most important things (positioning and possession) are his two worst attributes.

    Agree with the rest of the list but thought two out of Silva, Essien, Lampard and Pirlo should have been in the top 5 instead of Gerrard and De Rossi (he’s good but not top 5 yet).

  38. what a F…Lampard not in this list, what a bulls..t…i dont say that hes the best but sure he is the one in top2.

  39. I think the list is okay as per last season.

  40. well guys….i find the list very satisfactory except for one spot………the no.2 stevie g or frankie …….to argue about that i think lamps deserves the spot coz….if u observe his play or the way he leads the way to all chelsea goals thats fantastic..over the past five to six seasons for every 2 goals chelsea have scored he has his contribution in it in every possible way. even though he his not at his attacking best now as he was earlier he is the best when compared to gerrard.he plays a very unselfish game…the most important quality of a midfielder. when lampard attacks or defends he is at his best…so.. all !!!hail lampard!!!

  41. Steven Gerrard really deserve to among the best 3 midfielders because he is a good captain.

  42. 1,iniesta
    2,fabregas
    3,xavi
    4,gerard
    5,essien

  43. Iniesta is the king in barca midfilder h never gives away the ball cheaply he is my role model!!!!!!!!!!!

  44. Fabregas, 4th? I dont think so, 22 years of age, Arsenal captain. One of the best midfielders ive ever saw.
    Spain will win the World Cup this year, brilliant best midfield ever!.

  45. Xavi is the best hands down; not only in playmaking but controlling the entire flow of the game from the midfield. That’s the slight edge over Iniesta who is probably the better playmaker of the two, but doesn’t quite control the game as Xavi who does it superbly. After that, Gerrard on his game, is fantastic. So, the top3 really isn’t an argument.

  46. how has kaka not come up on this list? i mean i get it hes like an ‘attacking midfielder’ and he doesnt have the defensive skills that some of these players have… nor has he had his best form since going to madrid… but think of what he was doing just 2 or 3 years ago…. and i dont even like him!
    oh, and wayne rooney can play any position better than anyone in the world… if he was a central midfielder he would be the best

  47. Ronaldo??? he was the best midfielder last season and this season

  48. 1.iniesta
    2.cesc
    3.xavi
    4.essien
    5.alonso

    as simple as that.

  49. central midfielder being captain, passion for the game,scoring goals(beautiful one) and great talisman- steven G. full stop. no arguements. and always remain faithful.

  50. Everyone always puts Iniesta at the top but when it comes to all round midfield displays it has to be Xavi, his football brain is above any of the others.