Kante, Fred, Fabinho: Who is the best defensive midfielder in the world?

Frequently the unsung heroes of many a successful side, the work done by defensive midfielders during the course of a match is considerable.

Playing the anchor role in midfield is no easy task. Not only do these lynchpins get through plenty of defensive pressing, but they are also often the launching point for a team’s attacks.

The finest operators in the position typically possess top-tier passing ability, both at short and long range, and also have an impressive ability to read the game.

These guys won’t usually grab too many headlines, but their contribution is, nevertheless, pivotal to the effective running of their side.

Seeking to determine who is the very best defensive midfielder on the planet right now, 90min.com recently ranked the top 25 players in the position – and you can check out their conclusion below.

Several of Europe’s top teams boast more than one entry in the list, demonstrating how crucial the role it is considered within elite squads.

The top 25 defensive midfielders in the world (as ranked by 90min.com)

25. Mohamed Camara (Red Bull Salzburg)

24. Edson Alvarez (Ajax)

23. Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa)

22. Ismael Bennacer (AC Milan)

21. Fred (Manchester United)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 04: Fred of Manchester United reacts during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on February 04, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

20. Fernandinho (Manchester City)

19. Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)

18. Marten de Roon (Atalanta)

17. Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)

16. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)

LEICESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 17: Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City in action during the UEFA Europa Conference League Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg One match between Leicester City and Randers FC at The King Power Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

15. Denis Zakaria (Juventus)

14. Idrissa Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain)

13. Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United)

12. Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain)

11. Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco)

10. Ruben Neves (Wolves)

9. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

VIGO, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 06: Sergio Busquets of FC Barcelona scores their team’s second goal during the La Liga Santander match between RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at Abanca-BalaĆ­dos on November 06, 2021 in Vigo, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

8. Jorginho (Chelsea)

7. Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan)

6. Declan Rice (West Ham United)

5. Casemiro (Real Madrid)

4. Rodri (Manchester City)

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 19: Manchester City player Rodri in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St. James Park on December 19, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

3. Fabinho (Liverpool)

2. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

1. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Ngolo Kante of Chelsea runs with the ball during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on September 22, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)


By 90min’s reckoning, the Premier League is the home of the most top defensive midfielders in the world, with 10 of chosen 25 currently plying their trade in the English top-flight.

This is particularly evident at the business end of the countdown with Premier League-based players accounting for three of the top five spots.

Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea currently occupy the top three places in the league table and it’s surely no coincidence that each has a representative close to the summit of this list.

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Combative midfielder Rodri missed just four games of Man City’s title-winning campaign last season – and has been one of the first names on Pep Guardiola’s team sheet this term as well.

Full of energy and always keen to recover lost possession, the 25-year-old Spaniard – who placed fourth on the countdown – has been an integral part of the Citizens success in recent times.

Elsewhere, third-placed Fabinho provides invaluable stability at the base of midfield for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: Fabinho of Liverpool celebrates following their team’s victory in the penalty shoot out during the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 27, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The Brazilian’s discipline in his role allows full-back duo Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold the freedom to sprint down either flank, safe in the knowledge that Fabinho is looking after matters in behind.

Top billing, though, goes to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.

Since arriving in England with Leicester City in 2015, the 30-year-old has won seven major honours, including the Premier League twice.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: Ngolo Kante of Chelsea fouls Andrew Robertson of Liverpool which leads to a yellow card during the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 27, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

It’s not by chance that this has happened, either.

We mentioned above that defensive midfielders can sometimes fade into the background, working tirelessly without truly getting credit for their contributions.

There’s little danger of this when it comes to Kante. A constant ball of energy, the diminutive French international is ruthlessly efficient when it comes to keeping tabs on opponents, but can seamlessly switch to providing attacking impetus when the situation demands it.

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His lung-busting runs from the heart of Chelsea’s midfield are a particular favourite among Blues fans.

You don’t earn the Man of the Match award in the Champions League final, as Kante did in 2021, unless you are exceptional.

A deserving occupant of the number one spot!

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