We love the goals when we watch football. We rave about the victories and mesmerizing dribbles.
But often, we overlook the dirty ruggedness and toughness in the defense that powers the most exciting football styles we see from attacking teams.
There has to be that fulcrum in the middle – albeit less celebrated – that keeps every part of the team ticking. This is the defensive midfielder that connects the defense to the attack.
This article celebrates some of the best defensive midfielders in European football. Before we jump right into our compilation, if you need accurate betting predictions, feel free to check liontips.com/tips/efl-cup.
- Ngolo Kante (Chelsea)
Kante is arguably the best defensive midfielder on the planet. His exploits started back in his days with Leicester City, where he helped them win the English Premier League in the 2015-2016 season. He also won the Premier League best player of the season award.
The following year, Chelsea snapped him up, and he replicated the same form, also helping the Blues win the Premier League in his first season with the club.
Though a defensive midfielder, Kante is also a box-to-box player, running the length of the field whenever needed. His tackling and interception skills are superb, helping his team regain the ball and maintain possession.
Despite his small size, the 2018 world cup winner is not one to be bullied on the field as his work rate, even when one-on-one with an opponent, is top-notch.
In the just concluded season, Kante had an 87% completed pass rate and an 80% successful tackle rate, highlighting the importance of his presence on the field.
2. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
The Nigerian was brought in from Genk in the 2016/2017 season to fill Kante’s void after he left Leicester City for Chelsea that season, and yes, he did fill the void very well.
Ndidi has been very impressive upon his arrival at Leicester City, wasting no time securing a regular role for the squad.
If you want a player to pose as a stumbling block at the backline and also win the ball back, then Ndidi is the player to call upon.
The 26-year-old’s style of play is that of physicality, enabling him to perform his interception duties effectively. He also has an eye for those killer passes, averaging 81% completed passes in the just concluded 2021-2022 season.
3. Fabinho (Liverpool)
Fabinho arrived at Liverpool in 2018 when the club was engaged in a major rebuilding. Upon his arrival, the Brazilian fitted into Jurgen Klopp’s plans, steadily securing his position as a defensive midfielder in the team.
Fabinho protects the back, holding his position as others push forward. Besides, he is a smart player with an eye for a teammate in a good scoring position, sending the ball long across if need be.
In addition, he is always ready to strike those powerful shots at goal from a distance whenever the opportunity presents itself.
With Liverpool, Fanbinho has won all the major trophies that the club can lay its hands on, including the Champions League and the English Premier League trophies.
4. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Barcelona’s long-time player is another defensive midfielder worthy of a spot on this list.
The Spaniard played his first La Liga game with Barcelona on 13th September 2008 and has since stayed faithful with the club and also improved to be one of the best defensive midfielders ever.
Busquets is a good holding midfielder, versatile enough to be also deployed as a central midfielder or central defender. His tackling abilities are top-notch, and he is always ready to pounce on loose balls and likewise win back possession for his team.
With Barcelona, the 34-year-old has won many trophies. This includes three champions league trophies, 8 La Liga trophies, and 3 Fifa Club World Cups.
Also, his prowess has seen him win different individual laurels, such as the 2009 La Liga’s Breakthrough Player and the 2021 UEFA Nations League Finals Player of the Tournament.
5. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Kimmich has recently become one of Bayern Munich’s best players. Being singled out for recognition in a squad with world-class players on every aspect of the field is no small accomplishment, but Kimmich does just enough to be accorded this recognition.
The German relies on his ability to control play in the middle of the field while also dropping back to assist in the defense.
Kimmich can sprint forward to attack opposing teams, thanks to his stamina. He is also very versatile, capable of playing the right back position when called upon.
The 26-year-old had an outstanding campaign for Bayern last year, helping them win the Bundesliga championship once more with 3 goals and 11 assists.
6. Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid)
One of the new revelations of the decade, Tchoumeni has seen a meteoric rise to stardom since making his first team debut for Bordeaux in 2018. However, he began tearing it up for Monaco, having arrived there in 2020, and worked his way up, improving with each game until he became a regular for the team.
Tchouameni is a ball-winning midfielder with a forward-thinking mentality and a box-to-box system of play. He is also a good passer, doing well enough to build up play from the back to the front. In the air, he is very formidable, posing a goal-scoring threat in set pieces.
The 22-year-old’s improvements earned him a call-up to the French national team for a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
His talent has attracted several top clubs to him and ultimately convinced Real Madrid to pay up to €100 million to secure his services in a six-year deal in the current transfer window.