Lists

Ranked! The 10 best central midfielders in the world

The brilliant men in midfield who come up on top from our annual list of the 100 best football players in the world

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Please note: Player slides taken from our overall list of the FFT100

10. Casemiro (Real Madrid)

Casemiro

Zinedine Zidane famously criticised Real Madrid’s sale of Claude Makelele in 2003, questioning the wisdom of “put[ting] another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine”.

It’s no surprise, then, that holding midfielder Casemiro has become such a key player for a Madrid side managed by Zizou. The Brazilian brought balance and stability to the Spanish and European champions in 2017, breaking up play in the centre of the park and distributing the ball efficiently. He also scored 10 times throughout the year, including in the Champions League final and European Super Cup.

9. Marco Verratti (PSG)

Marco Verratti

A fearsome frontline of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe is the most eye-catching part of PSG’s team, but Verratti is the man who makes Unai Emery’s side tick. The Italian sets the tempo for the Parisians with his pinpoint passing, while he’s also adept at evading opposition pressure and picking his way out of congested areas.

He rarely finds the net and is still a little rash without the ball – the 25-year-old received 15 yellow cards for club and country last year – but Verratti conducts the play like few others.

8. David Silva (Manchester City) 

David Silva

The Spanish schemer is undoubtedly one of the finest players to have ever plied his trade in the Premier League. Silva may not have won anything in 2017, but his combination of creativity and tenacity ensured Manchester City had established an insurmountable lead at the top of the table by the end of the calendar year. 

The former Valencia playmaker ended 2017 with 10 goals and 16 assists to his name, but this is a player to whom such statistics don’t do justice. Almost eight years on from his arrival on English shores, there’s still no one in the league who can run a game like Silva.

7. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

Sergio Busquets

“You watch the game, you don’t see Busquets,” former Spain manager Vicente del Bosque once said. “You watch Busquets, you see the whole game.”

The midfield metronome was once again an essential part of the Barcelona team in 2017, protecting the two centre-backs and starting attacks with his line-breaking passing.

Busquets’ standout attribute, though, is his ability to evade opposition pressure – the best example of which came in the build-up to Barcelona’s opening goal in their final game of the year against Real Madrid. Collecting possession deep inside his own half, an unruffled Busquets casually manoeuvred his way past Toni Kroos before freeing Ivan Rakitic to carry the ball into los Blancos’ half.