We carry on with our best in the world by position, reaching the midfield. Now, central midfielders can be divided into many groups, and it’s pretty much like in music, where anyone can call anything by this new sub-genre kind of name like power-pop or pop-punk and all kind of BS. But a CM, whether he’s a more defending type, or a 50-50, or a box to box midfielder, or an attacking one or a deep-lying play-maker, is still, a central midfielder. Because there are so many variations of the position, we decided not to rank them, but just give you our top 10 central midfielders in the world today.
*For our previous installments – Best Goalkeeper, Best Centre Backs, Best Full/Wing Backs.
Xavi, Barcelona & Spain
It took the man Xavi replaced in Barcelona’s midfield, Josep Guardiola, to become Barca’s head coach in order for Xavi to truly become a super play-maker, maybe the best in the world. The last two seasons have been amazing for the Catalan player, excelling in Spain’s triumph in the 2008 Euro and winning the Player of the Tournament award and being right in the center of things during Barca’s record breaking year in 2008-2009, finishing third in most major player of the year awards for 2009. He was also led the La Liga (20) and the Champions League in assists last season.
Andres Iniesta, Barcelona & Spain
The second side to Xavi, and the two do seem at times like a two-headed monster, dominating the midfield with ease, flair and grace. Iniesta is an attacking midfielder who pretty much roams freely around the pitch, and it seems that since the 2008 Euro, the softness that seemed to limit his game evaporated, with Iniesta looking at times like the best player in the world. He won the Best Spanish Player of the Year for his performances in 2009. With that said, his goal against Chelsea in the Champions League Semi Final is his most memorable moment for the ending year.
Xabi Alonso, Real Madrid & Spain
Sometimes, you need a player to go away to understand how good and important he was for you. As Steven Gerrard said about a month ago, he was crushed by Alonso’s departure to Madrid, which downgraded Liverpool from being on the brink of winning the Premiership to a Champions League contender at best. Alonso is what you’d call a deep lying midfielder, and when you put him alongside a leg breaking DM that frees Alonso to more attacking duties, his fantastic vision, passing ability and long range shooting. The Basque player might be a starter for most national sides, but he’s stuck in Spain, behind the likes of Xavi and Fabregas.
Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal & Spain
Another player born and raised in the Barcelona youth ranks, Fabregas is THE heart of Arsenal since Viera and Henry left, developing into one of the best players in the world. He broke out into the spotlight earlier then Wenger intended for him, but it was easy to see why very early on. With Arsenal’s lack of trophies in recent years it wouldn’t be wild guessing saying that Fabregas’ days with Arsenal are numbered, unless Wenger finally gives up on the whole “only young players” purchasing thing of his and finally brings a proven leading man to help Fabregas anchor Arsenal to it’s first league title since 2004.
Kaka, Real Madrid & Brazil
The first of the “New Galacticos”, Kaka has yet to show his full arsenal of abilities this season for Real, but Real Madrid, despite being very close to Barcelona in the La Liga, seems to still be looking for it’s identity and style due all the changes made in the club during the summer. Although Kaka does have his moments of brilliance at times, he flourishes when there’s more order and discipline in Real’s attacking plays, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, who pretty much flourishes anywhere and doesn’t really care what’s going on around him. When things do go the way he likes, Kaka’s passing and ability to control the pace of the game make him one of the best things to watch in football today. Maybe he’s saving his energy for the World Cup.
Michael Essien, Chelsea & Ghana
Like Xabi Alonso, Essien importance can be seen by the difference between Chelsea’s 2008-2009 season and this year. Yeah, they also had Scholari as manager to do some damage, but Essien’s absence in the middle of the park was probably Chelsea’s biggest problem last season. This season, despite recent mishaps in the league, the Blues are still on top of the Premiership, and Essien’s ability to be anywhere on the pitch, defending and attacking, is one of the main reasons Chelsea are leading the league. His absence will be felt very soon again, as he joins Ghana for the African Nations Cup.
Frank Lampard, Chelsea & England
Although a slight dip of form in this season for Lampard (maybe due to the formation change done by Ancelotti), Lampard is still one of the best midfielder in the Premiership and the world, ranking 9th on the all-time premiership scorers list and 7th in assists. Last season was maybe the best of his career, although Chelsea fell short of winning the title and the Champions League yet again. This year he has these long stretches in some matches where you feel his not even on the pitch, something that didn’t happen in previous years, but he still is very dominant in Chelsea’s attacking play most of the time, and his ability to shoot from almost anywhere without too much preparation and his fantastic passing ability make him a very dangerous player.
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool & England
Like Lampard, not having the best of seasons, as his whole club is. Gerrard has missed some games due to injury, but since his return he doesn’t seem like the player of ol’. Something is lacking, maybe passion, cause Gerrard, despite not looking like the most outgoing fella’, is driven by passion on the pitch. He’s Liverpool’s motor, engine and heart, no matter if Torres or Benayoun are on and in good form. Gerrard played more like a second striker last season which brought out the best of him and of Liverpool, but this season, due to the lack of someone who can actually build up plays from midfield, Gerrard needs to drift back to a more central role many times, which limits his game and hurts Liverpool. If Aquilani does become what Benitez believes he can be, there’s a good chance Gerrard and Liverpool will be getting closer to fourth place as the season progresses.
Diego, Juventus & Brazil
The fantastic Brazilian attacking midfielder, like Juventus, is having a pretty upside down kinda season. He started off brilliantly, scoring 2 goals against Roma in the Olimpico as Juve began with three consecutive wins. But since then, like the Bianconeri, his good has been mixed with a lot of bad, with his stat line currently sitting on 3 goals and 4 assists, not scoring a goal since November 7th. Maybe the win over Parma yesterday will kick-start Juve’s and Diego’s season, and he’ll start looking like the player he was in Werder Bremen, where he had 38 goals and 28 assists in three season in the Bundesliga, where he was, alongside Frank Ribery, the best player in the league.
Yoann Gourcuff, Bordeaux & France
Maybe the comparisons with Zidane were too early, but Gourcuff is undoubtedly the best player in Ligue 1 currently, as he leads Bordeaux to what seems like it’s second straight league title (9 points ahead of Lille after 19 matches) and a successful Champions League campaign, in which they finished undefeated. The upcoming World Cup in South Africa, where Gourcuff will play with the French team, will be a good opportunity if Gourcuff is on track of becoming a great player or just a good one.