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)
20. Fernandinho (Manchester City)
19. Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)
18. Marten de Roon (Atalanta)
17. Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)
16. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
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)
8. Jorginho (Chelsea)
7. Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan)
6. Declan Rice (West Ham United)
5. Casemiro (Real Madrid)
4. Rodri (Manchester City)
3. Fabinho (Liverpool)
2. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
1. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
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.
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.
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!