The conventional defensive midfielder’s job hasn’t altered much in recent decades, but they’re certainly more regarded now.
Legendary defensive midfielder Claude Makelele was once the uncontested backbone of a Real Madrid club that won seven trophies in three years. The star’s brilliance, on the other hand, was subtle, virtually undetectable, and many thought he was useless to the squad.
Florentino Perez publicly mocked Makelele’s request for a raise and promptly transferred the legend to Chelsea, declaring “Makelele would not be missed.” For three seasons in a row, Real Madrid’s brilliant offensive fizzled, and the team failed to win a single championship. Los Blancos paid the price for Perez’s undermining of the defensive midfielder’s job with a barren three years.
Midfield engines are the most effective defensive midfielders. They continually cover huge areas, recycle possession during offensive, pursue attackers during defense, and anticipate the game to stop attacks and intercept passes.
Here are the top five defensive midfielders in the world right now:
Number 5: Declan Rice
The star of West Ham United is well-known for his ability to cover a lot of territory for the club.Last season, Declan Rice came in fourth place in the Premier League after traveling an astonishing 324.6 kilometers. Rice’s passing ability has also developed substantially in recent seasons, and England manager Gareth Southgate has taken notice: Rice started every game for the Three Lions in the 2016 European Championships.
Rice’s contribution to David Moyes’ side has been crucial to West Ham’s recent European and Premier League success. This season, the Hammers’ standout defensive midfielder has made 15 appearances, averaging nearly three tackles and two interceptions per game. His passing and penetration have improved as well, as he has three Premier League assists this season.
Number 4: Casemiro
Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Real Madrid has made substantial personnel changes, but the cog in the midfield has essentially remained the same: Casemiro. The workhorse has been a steady figure at the Santiago Bernabeu since joining the club in 2013, steering the side to four Champions League trophies and two La Liga triumphs.
Casemiro’s effectiveness in midfield balances the team: he supports the defense while also supporting the attack when he is able to get forward. The star is recognized for his tackling abilities, and this season in La Liga, he has averaging three tackles per game. Casemiro’s offensive production improved throughout Zinedine Zidane’s time at the club, and Madridistas will be looking for more of the same from Carlo Ancelotti.
Number 3: Rodri
Rodri’s style of play launched him into the spotlight at the Wanda Metropolitano, and the star has continued to amaze at the Etihad Stadium under Pep Guardiola. He possesses a world-class ability to recycle possession for Cityzens while anticipating the game and thwarting counter-attacks.
In nine Premier League games this season, the star has averaged 82 passes per game, and his defensive work rate in the Champions League has seen him make three tackles and two interceptions per game. Rodri was a key figure in Manchester City’s latest Premier League title triumph and back-to-back League Cup triumphs.
Number 2: Fabinho
Liverpool has risen from a mid-table club to a title challenger and a potential European champion under Jurgen Klopp. While goalkeeper Allison, star defender Virgil van Dijk, and crucial attacker Mohamed Salah have all received awards, Fabinho has been the driving force behind Liverpool’s rise to the top. The Brazilian international has led the Reds to three major titles since joining them in 2018.
Fabinho is left to hold down the defensive fort alongside the two center-halves because Liverpool’s full-backs overlap. The Reds generally hold and recycle possession more than most of their opponents because to his ability to read the game and anticipate passes. In the Champions League this season, Fabinho has approximately four tackles and two interceptions per game.
Number 1: Jorginho
When Jorginho was chosen to the Ballon d’Or shortlist, many people were taken aback. The Chelsea star was a member of Italy’s Euro-winning squad and had guided Chelsea to European domination in the Champions League. Jorginho is a defensive midfield maestro who wins the ball quickly and efficiently from deep. He is largely acknowledged as the conductor of the Blues.
Last season, Jorginho topped the Champions League in tackles and came in second in interceptions. This season, he has continued to shine, recording over three tackles and two interceptions per game. Over the course of seven games, he averaged nearly four interceptions per game, making a significant contribution to Italy’s Euro win. While he is unlikely to win the Ballon d’Or in November, his position on the list is a testament to his midfield excellence.