De Bruyne, Kroos, Fernandes: The world's 20 best central midfielders ranked

  • Kobe Tong

Kevin De Bruyne and Toni Kroos were playing football from a different planet this week.

The two midfield juggernauts produced stunning Champions League performances as Manchester City and Real Madrid swaggered through their quarter-final first legs with crucial victories at home.

As such, given De Bruyne and Kroos' absolute clinics in one of football's toughest positions, there hasn't felt a better time to put some of the world's best central midfielders under the spotlight.

Kroos and De Bruyne shine

And it's encouraged your humble GIVEMESPORT writer to risk his integrity and Facebook DM's by taking on the near-impossible task of ranking the world's 20 best centre-mids right now.

To do so, I'm calling upon 2020/21 performances as my predominant metric, while also turning to statistics, form in recent seasons and, well, how entertaining they are to watch where necessary.

And while there is no perfect way to categorise positions in the beautiful game, you can expect every iteration of a central-midfielder, shy of playing directly behind the striker, to feature here.


The world's 20 best midfielders

So, without further ado, prepare yourself to find out where De Bruyne and Kroos rank amongst the world's 20 best players in their position by checking out our top 20 down below:

20. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

Busquets might not be the omnipotent force of old, but he continues to offer the sort of metronomic passing and anti-pressing brilliance that makes Barca tick, ranking statistically in La Liga's top ten midfielders.

19. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

The human incarnate of the Duracell bunny, there's nobody in world football who mops up a midfield with tackles and interceptions aplenty quite like Kante, even if his best days at Chelsea are probably behind him.


18. Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig)

And speaking of energy... nothing tells you about Sabitzer's equality quite like the eye test because just five minutes of watching him live proves that he's the invention and fire behind so much of RB Leipzig's success.

17. Sergej Milinković-Savić (Lazio)

Standing at 6' 3", Lazio have a walking siege weapon in their centre circle when it comes to Milinković-Savic who, by our estimations, is the world's best midfielder when it comes to aerial dominance.


16. Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad)

A classy operator for the Copa del Rey winners, Merino has swapped flopping at Newcastle United to pulling the strings in La Liga and justifiably ranks as Europe's seventh-best midfielder this season.

15. Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)

Another season and another reminder that Verratti is one of the best midfielders in the business, effortlessly mixing physical excellence with a footballing virtuosity that makes the PSG heart beat.


14. Rodrigo de Paul (Udinese)

It's for good reason that Rodrigo has been linked to Liverpool recently because Udinese's stick of dynamite has ranked amongst Europe's best dribblers this season with a bagful of Man of the Match awards.

13. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Slowly but surely, we're starting to see the best of De Jong in a Barca jersey and although his talents might not materialise in the most explosive of ways, make no mistake that he remains one of the world's best.


12. Rodri (Manchester City)

The foundation upon which City have built so much of their success this season, Rodri was carved out of granite as the perfect Premier League player, ticking just about every statistical box you could imagine.

11. Fabinho (Liverpool)

It says everything about Fabinho's genius in defensive position that he's slotted effortlessly back into his preferred position after being forced to play at centre-back. For our money, he's Liverpool's player of the season.


10. Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool)

Scraping into the top ten on goodwill from last season, Thiago remains one of the world's most complete midfielders, even if his top-class ability has only shown itself in flashes at Liverpool.

9. Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid)

To be honest, Llorente could probably feature in a ranking of the best players in every position because Atletico's handyman - who boasts 17 La Liga goal contributions this season - is arguably the world's most dynamic player.


8. Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich)

An absolute Adonis in Bayern's all-conquering midfield, Goretzka is too often underrated amongst all the Bavarian brilliance, serving up a cocktail of five goals and five assists in the Bundesliga this season.

7. Casemiro (Real Madrid)

Statistically La Liga's best midfielder, Casemiro is one of the most underrated players of the last ten years and his Atletico Madrid masterclass in December was merely symptomatic of his stellar season.


6. Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)

A hot favourite for the Premier League of the Year award, Gundogan has been on the warpath this season with 12 goals proving the icing on a cake baked with superb assists and movement.

5. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

It has been brilliant to see Modric returning to the form that saw him win the Ballon d'Or in 2018 with some of his Champions League displays this season giving us reason to think that he possesses the best footballing brain in the sport.


4. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

The ultimate goal-scoring midfielder with 22 strikes this season, as well as 13 assists, Fernandes has taken the Premier League by storm with his go-for-broke passing and win-at-all-costs mentality.

3. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Fresh from tearing Liverpool to shreds, Kroos' status as the world's best when it comes to making a midfield tick is beyond reproach, consistently posting passing accuracy numbers that are beggar belief.


2. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

A jack of all trades and master of all of them, it's been astonishing to see Kimmich's transition from a right-back into an Inspector Gadget of talents at the heart of Bayern Munich's success under Hansi Flick.

1. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

I mean, who else? I'm won't even deign to talk about De Bruyne's statistics because you just need to watch the City star in action to see that he's the world's best midfielder, passer, crosser and creator.


Who do you think is top dog?

So, there you have it, we've staggered and stumbled our way through the impossible task of ranking some of the world's best midfielders and their wonderfully varying skill sets.

At the end of the day, there is only so much you can compare central players whose jobs differ to such a degree, but we hope you agree that we've celebrated a real range of midfield masters.

And while we're keen to hear your thoughts on how the world's best midfielders should stack up, be warned that I'm more than ready to die on the hill of De Bruyne being the undisputed number one.

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