Still no one better than the Xavi – Iniesta duo, the best central midfielders in the world. Infact, Spain and Barcelona send four players to this eight man list, probably explaining why they are so good, although this season Real Madrid seem to be the team to beat in the La Liga.

Joined by teammates Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas, Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso, Juve’s Claudio Marhcisio, Bayern’s Bastian Schweinsteiger and Tottenham’s Luka Mordic, here are the top 8 central midfielders in the world heading into 2012.

Note before we begin – Midfielders is a wide description. We’ve chosen those who play the central or defensive role, while leaving the attacking midfielders, those who hardly do anything regarding defending, to another category,which will be something along the lines of Best Non-Striker attacking players in the game.

Number 8 – Claudio Marchisio, Juventus & Italy

At 25, five years after becoming a permanent fixture in the Juventus lineup as La Vecchia Signoraת Marchisio is finally becoming all the things Juve fans hoped we would be. More than just a worker in the midfield, finally given the room and space to exploit his talents after the brilliant signing of Andrea Pirlo. More importantly? Clutch, big goals, that come with confidence and a sense that he’s the man that needs to score these goal, like the one against Inter or the brace against Milan.

Number 7 – Sergio Busquets, Barcelona & Spain

The usual Busquets pose

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Someone needs to be the bad guy and the dirty man on a team full of finesse and technical quality, and Busquets fits that roll perfectly. But behind all the acting and injury feigning, Busquets is one of the best anchormen in the game, with the ability to play as a centre back crucial for Barcelona to execute their attacking game plan. He was brilliant with Xabi Alonso in the middle for Spain in the world cup and has just gotten better since.

Number 6 – Luka Modric, Tottenham & Croatia

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When they talk about the 50-50 midfielder, Modric is probably the perfect example. It was a summer full of turmoil for Modric and Tottenham, as the Croatian seemed intent on leaving Spurs to the richer pastures of Chelsea, but eventually stayed, and I don’t think he has regretted the decision. Tottenham certainly haven’t, with Modric playing the best football of his career alongside Scott Parker, actually keeping Spurs within distance of a title challenge. He’s not one for goals like initially though of when he arrived from Zagreb, but I don’t think anyone has regretted the big splash of cash on the tiny midfielder.

Number 5 – Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona & Spain

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There are more than a few reasons Barcelona and Spain have been so successful in the last few years. Looking at Barca’s midfield this season, despite currently lagging behind Real Madrid in the La Liga table, answers quite a few of them. Cesc Fabregas finally arrived to play for the team he grew up in, playing somewhat of a different role than he did in Arsenal. Scoring and free movement seem to be a bigger part of the game for him now, which he is enjoying, scoring 8 goals for Barca in the league up until now.

Number 4 – Xabi Alonso, Real Madrid & Spain

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Maybe the best long passer in the game, Xabi Alonso continues to be vital in Real Madrid’s set up as they lead the league in Spain, now 5 points ahead of Barcelona according to the recent count. His ability to dictate pace, defend and pass the ball as good as anyone else in the world except for one chap who plays for Barcelona with his long range ability which he hardly uses still hasn’t won him a league title. Champions League? Yes, and he’s looking for another one.

Number 3 – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich & Germany

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The problems Bayern had during Schweinsteiger’s injury period signifies just how important he has become for them, and just how good he is. The 27 year old, with 90 caps for the national team, has turned into one of these perfect midfielders, by his ability to defended, pass, support the attack and of course his fantastic long range shooting. Vice captain of the Bavarian club, 2012 could be huge for him with aims of winning back the league title, making a deep run in the Champions League and finally winning something with the national team all within reach.

Number 2 – Andres Iniesta, Barcelona & Spain

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Every now and then, someone says Iniesta is the real star of this Barcelona side, and its best player. I can’t agree with that, Iniesta isn’t consistent enough. But, when he’s good, there’s no one quite like him. The specialty is the creativity, originality and ability to surprise when with the ball. Be it by passing or always a creative way of doglegging his marker, Iniesta’s real worth is in his clutch ability, with two goals for Barcelona (UCL semi final in 2009) and for Spain (World Cup Final) that will never be forgotten.

Number 1 – Xavi, Barcelona & Spain

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Playing in his 14th season with Barcelona’s senior club, Xavi’s title list is this: Six La Liga titles, three Champions League titles, 2 UEFA Super Cups and 2 Club World Cups. Simply a machine in the middle of the field. Hardly making anything resembling a wrong decision, a bad pass or actually putting in an effort not needed. At one point or another, he will start to slow down, and he’ll be impossible to replace.