Top 10: Central midfielders of the 21st Century

Published 29 Comments

Football News

Since 2000, we have seen some incredible central midfielders, each great in their own right, whether they were renowned for their crunching challenges to break down attacks or for dictating the pace of a match with their brilliant passing skills. 

Here, I take a look back at the greatest players to play in this position.

10. Cesc Fabregas

A hugely talented midfielder, Cesc Fabregas has been in the limelight since he moved to Arsenal as a 16-year-old. The Spaniard worked his way through the Gunners side and became their key player, inheriting the role of playmaker and eventually showing the capabilities of leading his side when he matured, becoming club captain. Now back at boyhood club, Barcelona, he has become the complete player and has fully established himself as an important member of both club and country.

9. Patrick Vieira

A true leader of men, Patrick Vieira is not only an Arsenal legend but a football icon. Tough-tackling, strong and tireless, the Frenchman is an iconic figure within the sport and sums up the old-fashioned type of footballer. He dragged Arsene Wenger's men to an unbeaten season, leading the team and scoring crucial goals as well as protecting the defence.

8. Xabi Alonso

Yet another product of a generation of pure midfield talent, Xabi Alonso has become an ideal midfielder since his time at Liverpool. Renowned for long-range goals for the Reds, not to mention his impeccable passing, he earned a move back to his native Spain after a £30m deal with Real Madrid.

Since his move, he has become an integral part of both Real Madrid's midfield and the famed Spain side, too. He is undervalued when alongside the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but is equally as impressive with his phenomenal ability to pass the ball to any area of the pitch he wants. Perhaps since the European Championships, Alonso has finally received the true recognition he deserves when playing for his country, and rightly so.

7. Bastian Schweinsteiger

Originally a winger, it is no surprise he was transformed into a central midfielder. Schweinsteiger really is the perfect player in his position - his nickname says it all, as he has been dubbed "the brain" of both Bayern Munich and Germany. It's no surprise he's received this title, as he controls the tempo of the match with an ideal range of passing, making the team tick, along with his traditional German flair and aggression. 

Ultimately, when Schweinsteiger plays well, his team does.

6. Frank Lampard

There is not much to say about Frank Lampard that hasn't already been said. A true professional throughout his whole career, and probably the most prolific central midfielder we'll see for a long, long time as he's now only two goals away from Bobby Tambling's Chelsea record.

The complete midfielder with an admirable work ethic, his goals are a bonus to a real team player. Proving he is still capable of doing what he does best at the top level as a 34-year-old is astonishing, and Chelsea will live to regret it if they don't offer him a new contract because there is no-one quite like the Englishman himself.

5. Steven Gerrard

Mr Liverpool himself, Gerrard has been through it all with his boyhood club and is probably the best player to ever grace the Anfield club.

Scorer of some wonderful goals, Stevie G also has a remarkable range of passing and a terrific engine to last 90 minutes most weeks. Though these abilities are brilliant, one that stands out above the rest is his excellent leadership qualities. Captain of the Reds since way back in 2003, he has pulled them through some tough times when they've been under-performing or lost other key players, and has shown highly respectable loyalty by rejecting moves to a host of top clubs to stick with his beloved Liverpool.

4. Andrea Pirlo

One of the greatest midfielders the sport has ever seen, not just in modern times. 

Whilst at AC Milan, Pirlo did not really get the plaudits he deserved. However, since becoming Juventus' star man, he has recovered his spectacular form and was instrumental in Italy's progress to the Euro 2012 final, where he rolled back the years to make world-class players - young and old - look like schoolboys and stare in awe of his fantastic match-controlling ability. 

A tremendous scale of passing technique, his set-play skills are equally as impressive and he is always a danger with the ball, no matter where he is on the pitch. Since his extraordinary displays for the Azzurri in last summer's showpiece tournament, he has received rave remarks from everyone associated with football - even if he is 33.

3. Paul Scholes

Described by many as the greatest midfielder of his generation, Paul Scholes really is a special footballer. 

Very quiet off the pitch, but not many are better than him on it. Scholesy is arguably the best passer of the ball there has ever been, and not only this, but his reading of the game is incredible. Being around for so many years it has only got better, and it seems as though he just knows what is going to happen before an attack is executed. 

Even at the age of 38, Scholes is able to control games and make opponents look silly, and he would still breeze into the England team. There really will not be any Englishman with technique like his again, and if a player was to come along who remotely resembles him, let's hope he doesn't go to waste on the international scene.

2. Xavi

A brilliant talent, Xavi epitomises everything a footballer should be: graceful in defeat (which he doesn't taste often), hugely respectful to colleagues and highly modest. 

Underrated in his early days at Barcelona, but by no means anymore. An unerring sense of vision, excellent awareness and to top it off, he has an almost unmatched ability to find his teammates.

Despite being 33-years-old, he remains the heartbeat of both Barca and Spain and makes the teams he plays in function.

1. Andres Iniesta

An absolutely marvellous footballer to watch and, for me, the best in the world on his day - which is most days. 

Iniesta has no doubt been blessed to be able to play such a talented Barcelona side, but if he wasn't amongst their ranks, they would unquestionably be a lesser side. 

A mesmerising wielder of the ball when dribbling, his technique is unmatched throughout world football, and despite his own astonishing gift, he is always the first to jump and praise his fellow peers. 

Although he has operated on the wing before, we have seen him take up the role as a playmaker where he also gets the chance to roam around the field, meaning he can create opportunities from anywhere. 

Probably my favourite player to watch, and easily one of the three best players on the planet.


DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE:

Xabi Alonso
Paul Scholes
Francesc Fabregas
Steven Gerrard
Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira

Article Comments

Read more

Report author of article

Please let us know if you believe this article is in violation of our editorial policy, please only report articles for one of the following reasons.

Report author


This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Want more content like this?

Like our GiveMeSport Facebook Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to Facebook, don't ask me again

Follow GiveMeSport on Twitter and you will get this directly to you.

Already Following, don't ask me again

Like our GiveMeSport Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to G+, don't ask me again