Ranking the world’s 20 best midfielders ft Bruno Fernandes, Bellingham and De Bruyne

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Highlights

  • Alexis Mac Allister has made a significant impact for both Argentina and Brighton, earning a move to Liverpool and potentially becoming one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season.
  • Piotr Zielinski’s contributions for Napoli, including goals and assists in both domestic and Champions League competitions, establish him as one of Italy’s premier midfielders.
  • Gavi, a product of Barcelona’s esteemed academy, has already become a key player for the club and has been recognized as one of the best midfielders in the world, with great potential for the future.

It’s often said whichever teams wins the battle of the midfield, wins the game. Whether it’s a holding midfielder who can shut down the opposition attack, a box-to-box player who can do both sides effectively well, or an attacking one who can chip in with goals and assists, they are usually the key to how a match might pan out, Reelradio.com.ng gathered.

The year of 2023 has undeniably been the year of the midfielder, with a host of big names moving for big, big money since the start of January. But who comes out on top as the best in the world? The Premier League boasts some fine talents, but so does La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A, too. It might make for tricky doing, and yes, it’s set to be controversial, but here’s a look at our rankings of the 20 best midfielders in the world right now…

20 Alexis Mac Allister – Liverpool

Starting off this list is the man who not only helped orchestrate a World Cup win for Argentina at the back end of last year, but also helped secure Europa League football for Brighton too. The diminutive play-maker enjoyed a standout campaign for both club and country, and it was no surprise that Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool came calling in the summer.

Now at Anfield, Mac Allister will fancy his chances of adding to his trophy cabinet, and will surely improve even further under Klopp’s guidance. While he might have some way to go to catch some of the other Premier League midfielders who feature on this list, the Argentine should cement his place as one of the best in the league over the course of this season.

19 Piotr Zielinski – Napoli

One of the stars of Napoli’s run to their historic Serie A title triumph last season, Piotr Zielinski may not grab the headlines as a Victor Osimhen or Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, but he is every bit as important. The Poland international scored seven goals and delivered 11 assists across all competitions, with nine of those set-ups coming in the league alone.

Zielinski was also in fine fettle in the Champions League, and produced a stellar display in the 4-1 victory over Liverpool in the group stages, netting twice and setting up another. While the achievements of last season might be hard to replicate this time around, the Napoli star has proven why he’s one of the best around in Italy.

18 Gavi – Barcelona

La Masia, take a bow. The famed academy of Barcelona has created yet another midfield gem to go along with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, with Gavi primed as the next poster boy for the Catalan club. Winner of the most recent Golden Boy award, the Spaniard has already become a main-stay of the first-team at the Camp Nou, and is being tipped for big things already.

Former Barcelona star David Villa has suggested via the Daily Mail that Gavi is among the best midfielders in the world, and given he is being relied upon to take charge of the Catalan side’s engine room at just 19, you can see why that claim is being made.

17 Bruno Guimaraes – Newcastle

The first statement signing of the PIF era at Newcastle, Bruno Guimaraes has emerged as one of the Premier League’s best midfielders in his time at St James’ Park. The Brazil international’s blend of power and technique makes him a perfect fit on Tyneside, and was a key reason why the Magpies made their way into the Carabao Cup final and top four last season.

If Eddie Howe’s side are to have a chance of repeating that kind of success this time around, then you would figure Bruno will have to be on-song for the entire season. When you factor in Newcastle find themselves in this year’s Group of Death in the Champions League too, then the Brazilian will have to be at the top of his game if the club are going to make it out of it alive.

16 Bernardo Silva – Manchester City

The first Manchester City player on the list, and spoiler alert, he won’t be the last. Bernardo Silva has been the pocket dynamo of Pep Guardiola’s revolution at the Etihad, and his versatility in being able to play out wide, as a number ten or even deeper makes him such a vital cog in the City winning machine.

While the Portugal star may not be the goal-scoring or creative threat of a Kevin De Bruyne, his willingness to work hard, track back and do the dirty work makes him a player Guardiola well and truly appreciates. Last season the 29-year-old played in 55 games across all competitions, and his reliability and consistency week-in and week-out makes him one of the top 20 midfielders in the world right now.

15 Declan Rice – Arsenal

Earning a big-money move to Arsenal in the summer, Declan Rice has emerged as one of the best central midfielders in the Premier League. The England star helped his former side West Ham lift the Europa Conference League at the back end of last season to leave on a high, and has kick-started life at his new club in fine fashion too, scoring a late goal in the 3-1 win over Manchester United.

At just 24, Rice has several years at the top of his game still to come, and given his move to Arsenal, will fancy his chances of picking up a few more trophies along the way. A cornerstone in both the Gunners’ and England’s engine room, the former Hammers man could either become the best holding midfielder or box-to-box midfielder in the world. Everything will depend on him.

14 Toni Kroos – Real Madrid

One-third of Real Madrid’s iconic midfield trio from the 2010s, Toni Kroos has been the epitome of midfield class during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Germany international is now well into his 30s, but that hasn’t stopped him from controlling games at the highest level even still.

The midfielder might be being slowly phased out of the starting eleven by Carlo Ancelotti, but has still featured in all four La Liga games this season, while he was a virtual ever-present across last year too, making 52 appearances in total. Father Time might be catching up to Kroos, but his vision and his passing remains untouched.

13 Frenkie de Jong – Barcelona

Desperately wanted by Manchester United back in the summer of 2022, Frenkie de Jong stayed put at Barcelona and once again showed why he is among the classiest midfielders in the world. The Dutchman’s silky smooth dribbling and ability to beat pressure even near his own box makes him invaluable for Xavi’s side, and it’s no surprise that Erik ten Hag looked to put out all the stops to sign him.

If Barcelona are to return to the heady heights of competing for the Champions League year-in and year-out, then De Jong will be pivotal to their chances. From his early days at Ajax, to waltzing around at the Camp Nou, the midfielder is one of the easiest footballers on the eye.

12 Nicolo Barella – Inter

One of the cornerstones of Inter’s surprise charge to the Champions League final last season, Nicolo Barella proved why he is the heartbeat of the Nerazzurri. Bagging an impressive nine goals and ten assists in 52 games, the Italian was the picture of consistency, and came up with some big contributions at big times – not least netting in the dramatic 3-3 draw against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

The 26-year-old also starred in Italy’s Euro 2020 success, starting the final alongside Jorginho and Marco Verratti in the engine room. While Barella may not make the move to the Premier League anytime soon, the midfielder has proved time and time again in both Serie A and on the European stage that he is at an elite level.

11 Jamal Musiala – Bayern Munich

One of the finest young talents in the world, Jamal Musiala was in scintillating form for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich last year. A record of 16 goals and 16 assists in 47 games across all competitions underlined his credentials for already being an elite-level player, and at just 20, is only going to get better in the years to come.

The Germany international looks set to be the heartbeat of his side at both club and international level, but is already producing the kind of end-product that many players in their prime would be proud of. If he continues at the pace he is currently going, then you would fancy him to enter the Ballon d’Or conversation sooner rather than later.

10 Federico Valverde – Real Madrid

One of Carlo Ancelotti’s trusted lieutenants, Federico Valverde is the footballing version of a Swiss Army knife, capable of doing anything and everything. The Uruguay international has operated out wide on the right whenever his manager has wanted some extra support going back, but is a really dynamic presence when given the opportunity in midfield.

Last season saw him add a goal-scoring touch to his game, scoring seven times in La Liga, including one in a comprehensive 3-1 victory over rivals Barcelona. Given that the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are in the twilight years of their career and could be set for retirement soon, Valverde should emerge as one of the cornerstones of a new-look Real Madrid midfield.

9 Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich

“I like to work with players who are eager to learn. He’s got the desire, the will, the passion. He’s got absolutely everything.” When Pep Guardiola says that about you at just 21, you know you’re a top player. Joshua Kimmich has followed in Philipp Lahm’s footsteps by morphing from a right-back into a versatile midfielder and capable of shutting down opposition attacks and bursting forward with pace and directness.

The 28-year-old has played a key role in Bayern Munich’s dominance in Germany, winning eight successive Bundesliga titles since his move from RB Leipzig back in January 2015. The midfielder also of course won the Champions League back in the 2019/2020 season, and while the Bavarians haven’t matched those feats in the past couple of years, Kimmich has remained a reliable performer in the middle of the park.

8 Ilkay Gundogan – Manchester City

He might have moved onto Barcelona now, but there’s no questioning Ilkay Gundogan was absolutely crucial to Manchester City’s success over the past few years. The Germany international seemed to develop even further under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage at the Etihad, and after initially being a silky and creative play-maker, morphed into one of Europe’s finest goal-scoring midfielders.

Just last year alone, Gundogan netted 11 times, including rising to the occasion in the final few weeks of the campaign when City were hunting down Arsenal for the title. The midfielder scored four times in two particularly crucial against Leeds and Everton to effectively seal the Premier League trophy, and will go down as one of the club’s finest ever players.

7 Pedri – Barcelona

They might have been searching for years, but Barcelona may finally have found their long-term successor to Andres Iniesta. Bought from Las Palmas back in 2019, Pedri has emerged as the next best thing in Spain, and when you look at the kind of impact he is already making on his side at the tender age of just 20, you can see why the hype is justified.

Last year saw him net seven goals in 35 games across all competitions, while he has gotten off the mark this season too, scoring a late opener in the 2-0 victory over Cadiz in La Liga. His silky feet and progressive passing makes him feel like a La Masia product, and it’s not a stretch to say that not only is he the future of Barcelona’s midfield, but Spain’s too.

6 Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United

A record of 65 goals and 55 assists in just 189 games in his time at Manchester United, Bruno Fernandes’ output is nothing short of remarkable for someone who’s not even a striker. The Portugal star’s best quality is his consistent end product, bagging more than ten goals per campaign ever since his arrival from Sporting CP. His best season to date? A measly 18 goals and 11 assists in 37 Premier League games alone back in 2020/2021. Not too bad right?

An eye for a killer pass and a willingness to always try things in a bid to score, Fernandes has become a leader for this United team, and is right up there with the very best in terms of numbers alone. If you’re looking for a modern-day goal-scoring midfielder, then look no further than the 29-year-old. His performance in Portugal’s 9-0 win over Luxembourg was sensational, and deservedly earned him a perfect 10/10 rating from Sofa Score.

5 Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid

It’s scary to think that even despite being just 20, Jude Bellingham features on this list. The England sensation took to life at Borussia Dortmund like a duck to water, and his impressive development there saw him become the talk of the town over the summer with a host of the biggest clubs in Europe wanting to sign him.

In the end, it was Real Madrid who fended off the pack to his signature, and he has already started repaying some of that massive fee it took to bring him there. In just his first four La Liga games this season, Bellingham has netted five times, including scoring late winners against both Celta Vigo and Getafe respectively. Given that he still has way more than a decade of his career to go, and his prime years aren’t even being close to being reached yet, there’s every chance the midfielder could even put himself in the conversation for a Ballon d’Or.

4 Martin Odegaard – Arsenal

For all the plaudits that the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli received during Arsenal’s title charge last season, and rightly so, it’s easy to forget the incredible contributions of the Gunners’ captain. Martin Odegaard’s 15 non-penalty goals in the Premier League were the most by a midfielder in the history of the Premier League, and when you consider some of the legends in the game who he has beaten to that accomplishment, it is even more impressive.

It seems crazy to think that Odegaard is still only 24 given that he has been in the footballing spotlight since he was a teenage sensation joining Real Madrid. While it may have taken a while for him to find his feet, the Norway star has well and truly settled into life in north London, and with Champions League football on offer at the Emirates, back him to showcase to the rest of Europe just how good he has become.

3 Rodri – Manchester City

On form right now, Rodri stakes a claim for being the best midfielder in the world. When he arrived from Atletico Madrid, many anticipated him to be the long-term Fernandinho replacement at Manchester City, a holding player who would break up attacks and pass it simple to his more creative teammates. Instead, the Spaniard’s impact on this team has been unrivaled.

Recently, he has added a goal-scoring touch to his game, not least netting the winner to secure City’s first ever Champions League title against Inter at the end of last season. This campaign has seen him strike twice in four Premier League games, and you would imagine he will be absolutely crucial to the club’s hopes of defending their treble.

2 Luka Modric – Real Madrid

What would a greatest midfielders list be without having Luka Modric in it? The Croatian has been the heartbeat of Real Madrid ever since his move from Tottenham, and the fact he even stopped the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi domination to win the Ballon d’Or in 2018 speaks volumes of the kind of talent and esteem he is held in.

As well as lifting five Champions League trophies with Los Blancos, Modric has captained arguably the most over-achieving international side in Croatia too. With him running things in the middle of the park, the Croats reached the World Cup final in 2018 when they were eventually defeated by France, while they also made it to the semi-finals of the tournament last year too. A man for the big occasion, Modric’s place on this list is undisputed.

1 Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City

Could it have been anyone else? While Kevin De Bruyne might have his injury problems, there’s no denying that when he’s fit and firing, he’s among the best players in the world, let alone just for his position. The Belgium star has been an absolute magician in his time at Manchester City in the Premier League, and any season where he isn’t leading or close to leading the assists charts is a massive shock.

The playmaker has consistently been the best player on the best team in England over these past few years, and even for a well-oiled machine like Pep Guardiola’s side, it’s not a stretch to say that City would look like a completely different team without him in it.

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