Top 10 best defensive midfielders of all time

Top 10 best defensive midfielders in history
Top 10 best defensive midfielders in history

This article delves into the remarkable defensive midfielders throughout football history. Nominating the top 10 proves challenging given the abundance of skilled players in this position, each excelling in diverse attributes. Nonetheless, the following individuals have truly showcased exceptional mastery in the role.

Their ability to skillfully initiate attacks and confidently break through opposing defenses sets them apart, making them stand out in the annals of football history.

best defensive midfielders of all time

  • Who is the best defensive midfielder in history?
The holding midfielder or defensive midfielder is the first line of midfield, and most coaches around the world rely on this position, which represents great support for the defenders. The player who occupies this position must have high strength and physical fitness, as they will be involved in many clashes with the opposing team's players, as well as a pure defensive mentality.

Many players have played this position, and they have been the best support for defense. In this article, we will present the top 10 defensive midfielders in history who have occupied and excelled in this position. Here is the list, ranked from tenth to first.

The tasks of defensive midfielders?

The defensive midfielder is in a deep position in midfield [in front of the defense] and is entrusted with defensive and constructive tasks based on the player's capabilities and the requirements of the strategy.

Types of defensive midfielders:
  • Defensive midfielder
A midfielder whose tasks are limited to intercepting balls, supporting the defense, and easily delivering the ball deep or to the flanks of the field.
Example: Casemiro - Real Madrid, Rodri - Manchester City.

  • Deep-lying playmaker
A midfielder whose tasks are focused on playmaking from deep positions, meaning they move the team forward and build up play in the attacking third of the field.
Example: Andrea Pirlo - Juventus, Jorginho - Chelsea.

  • Ball-winning midfielder
A midfielder whose tasks are focused on intercepting the ball and returning it to the team, with the main task being to prevent any balls from passing through the deep areas.
Example: Gennaro Gattuso - AC Milan, Roy Keane - Manchester United.

  • Halfback
A defensive midfielder whose tasks include intercepting balls and building up play from deep positions, often being the third defender during the build-up phase [modern position].
Example: Sergio Busquets - Barcelona, Fabinho - Liverpool.

  • Registas
A defensive midfielder whose tasks are both defensive and offensive, being strong in intercepting balls and strong in building up attacks.
Example: Marcelo Brozović - Inter Milan.

Top 10 defensive midfielders of all time

best defensive midfielders in the world:
  1. Frank Rijkaard (Netherlands)
  2. Roy Keane (Ireland)
  3. Obdulio Varela (Uruguay)
  4. Claude Makélélé (France)
  5. Fernando Redondo (Argentina)
  6. Edgar Davids (Netherlands)
  7. Patrick Vieira (France)
  8. Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
  9. Diego Simeone (Argentina)
  10. N'Golo Kanté (France)

10- N'Golo Kanté (France)
N'Golo Kanté (France)
N'Golo Kanté (France)

From being an amateur player at Boulogne French club to having a miraculous season with Leicester City, yes, just one season was enough for N'Golo Kanté to engrave his name in English Premier League history. He was chosen as the best player in the championship, winning the award for the second consecutive season with Chelsea after leading the London team to the Premier League title.

Here, everyone recognized the power of Kanté, who formed the backbone of Leicester City, as the team almost collapsed after his departure despite keeping all their stars.

These successes continued with France, as after the disappointing Euro 2016 final loss by Les Bleus at home against Portugal 0-1, Kanté and his teammates managed to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with Kanté being one of its standout stars.

9- Diego Simeone (Argentina)
Diego Simeone (Argentina)
Diego Simeone (Argentina)

is described as nervous, enthusiastic, fierce, combative, and other derivatives of these qualities. This is what I know about Diego Simeone, both as a coach and as a player. He was one of the most important defensive midfielders in the 1990s, but he didn't have the fame he has as a manager today.

Sevilla and Atletico Madrid were Simeone's notable clubs in Spain. He managed to win the league and the Spanish Cup in 1996 with Atletico Madrid. After that, he decided to return to Italy, specifically to Inter Milan, where he won the UEFA Cup (Europa League currently). He then moved to play for Lazio Roma, where he had four unforgettable seasons with the capital's Eagles, winning the treble. Serie A was the strongest championship of that era, and he also won the domestic cup and the Super Cup.

On the national team level, Simeone is considered one of Argentina's most capped players with 106 international matches. His career with the national team was crowned with success, winning three titles (Copa America twice in 1991 and 1993, and the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1993).

8- Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)

In addition to Daniele De Rossi, Gennaro Gattuso is known for his Italian "Grinta" in the midfield since the early 2000s. He was known for his high fighting spirit on the field, which helped him maintain his level and consistency for several consecutive years, whether with AC Milan or the Italian national team. He is an essential part of a golden generation of Italian football.

Gattuso played with several top defenders in his career, such as Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, and Fabio Cannavaro. He learned a lot of defensive qualities from them and remained a key player for both Milan and Italy, winning many prestigious titles together, including the UEFA Champions League twice (2003 & 2007), Serie A twice (2004 & 2011), and the 2006 FIFA World Cup with the Azzurri.

7- Patrick Vieira (France)
Patrick Vieira (France)
Patrick Vieira (France)

Captain of Arsenal during one of the Gunners' golden eras, he provided great support to his teammates throughout his 11-year tenure. He won the English Premier League title three times, a feat that has proven difficult for Arsenal to achieve even to this day after the departure of many stars whom Vieira captained.

After leaving the London team, he played for one season with Juventus but did not continue due to the match-fixing scandal. His next destination was Inter Milan, where Vieira once again encountered success face-to-face, winning the Italian Serie A title four times alongside the Nerazzurri.

This club's success is no less significant than Vieira's international career. With France, he achieved success on both the green and dry (winning the 1998 World Cup, the 2000 UEFA European Championship, and the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup).

6- Edgar Davids (Netherlands)
Edgar Davids (Netherlands)
Edgar Davids (Netherlands)

Davids, known for his unique style, was recognized for wearing protective eyeglasses as a rare case among football players, as well as his victorious long hair. However, these factors only aided his fame because the Dutch star and product of the prestigious Ajax Amsterdam school was one of the best players to have occupied the defensive midfield position in history.

With Ajax, our player achieved great glory and won the UEFA Champions League in 1995, as well as the Dutch League three times and numerous other titles.

Davids played for several major clubs outside the Netherlands, but he would only stay for a season or two before moving to another club. However, it was completely different with Juventus, as he delivered his most outstanding performances in Turin and played there for nearly 6 seasons, winning the Italian league title 3 times.

5- Fernando Redondo (Argentina)
Fernando Redondo (Argentina)
Fernando Redondo (Argentina)

The best player in Europe in 2000 was Fernando Redondo, who, with his arrival at Real Madrid, brought back the club's European glories and led them, along with other stars, to win the Champions League twice in 1998 and 2000. Redondo won the championship again with AC Milan in 2003, but his career with the Rossoneri was extremely painful after suffering a knee injury that kept him away from the fields for about 3 seasons.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said about him: "He is the player who has a magnet in his feet" after he intercepted most of Manchester United players' attacks in a famous match between them and the Royal club.

4- Claude Makélélé (France)
Claude Makélélé (France)
Claude Makélélé (France)

This is the third detailed article in which Claude Makélélé is mentioned on our website. After being selected among the best line-ups in the history of France and the best line-up in the history of Chelsea, we also chose him among the list of the top 10 defensive midfielders in history. He deserves this because he simply contributed a lot to this position.

Makélélé started his career with the local club Nantes in France, where he played for 5 successful seasons, scoring 12 goals. This is a relatively strong record, as the Frenchman only scored 13 goals in his career with different clubs until his retirement. His defensive roles prevented him from advancing too much forward.

Real Madrid and Chelsea are the clubs where Makélélé shone, working there with top coaches like Jupp Heynckes and especially José Mourinho. He won both the Spanish and English leagues twice and the UEFA Champions League once with Real Madrid in 2002. He also reached the final of the competition in 2008 with Chelsea, but they lost the final against Manchester United on penalties.

3- Obdulio Varela (Uruguay)
Obdulio Varela (Uruguay)
Obdulio Varela (Uruguay)

One of the first players to occupy the defensive midfield position in history is Obdulio Varela, the captain of the Uruguayan national team in the Maracanã epic and the final of the 1950 World Cup against Brazil, in front of 200,000 spectators.

Before the World Cup, he won the Copa America title in 1942. Varela was a prominent player in the local team Peñarol in his country and also won the league championship there 6 times. We previously included him in the list of the top 10 players in the history of Uruguay.

2- Roy Keane (Ireland)
Roy Keane (Ireland)
Roy Keane (Ireland)

One of the fiercest players you can see in your life, Roy Keane was not an ordinary defensive midfielder at all. He almost clashed with any opposing player who stood in his way.

Keane, who represented Manchester United in the 1990s and early 2000s, was the backbone and a deserving captain of the team. Even his teammates were afraid of him, which gave him an aura and a rare spirit that you rarely see in another player. With this intense anger that possesses him, it is difficult for opponents to get rid of him.

"Keano," as the Red Devils fans at Old Trafford call him, managed to score 51 goals in 480 matches. From 1993 to 2005, he won many championships, the most important of which were the English Premier League seven times and the UEFA Champions League once.

1- Frank Rijkaard (Netherlands)
Frank Rijkaard (Netherlands)
Frank Rijkaard (Netherlands)

The best defensive midfielder in history without a doubt, due to the many diverse qualities he possesses. He is the player that any coach dreams of having in the defensive midfield position. With his physical strength and high fitness level, Rijkaard has successfully carved his name in golden letters among the legends of the Netherlands, Ajax Amsterdam, and AC Milan.

He won the European Championship with the Oranje in 1988, and the Champions League twice with Milan, as well as once with Ajax. He also claimed the Dutch league title five times, the Serie A twice, and many other titles. On an individual level, he finished third in the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice, in 1988 and 1989.

Reply will be done soon

Previous Post Next Post