The 20 Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2024

Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2024: The role of a defensive midfielder or pivot has undergone significant changes in recent years due to the influence of top coaches around the world. As a result, we now see a variety of pivots who excel in different aspects of the game, sometimes neglecting their primary responsibility of patrolling the defensive zone of the midfield.

Best Players In The World By Position

Being a defensive midfielder is a challenging task. These players not only face defensive pressure from the opposing team, but they are also crucial in initiating their own team’s attacks.


Who is Best Defensive Midfielders in the World?
Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2023

In modern football, the best defensive midfielders possess exceptional passing skills and a remarkable ability to analyze and understand the game. We also add article Best Defensive Midfielders In Football History.

How do we rank the best defensive midfielders in the world?

People have different opinions about the role of a defensive midfielder in football. Some believe that their job is straightforward, focusing only on defending and helping the team’s defense from the midfield. However, in recent years, defensive midfielders have shown that they are crucial in any team’s strategy. They not only provide defensive support but also contribute to building plays from deep positions with skill and a good understanding of the game.

  • Tactical Awareness: 30%
  • Ball-Winning Skills: 30%
  • Defensive Contribution: 20%
  • Game Vision: 20%

Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2024

In this article, we talk about the best defensive midfielders in the world for the year 2024.

20. Casemiro

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Brazil, Spain
  • Club: Manchester United
  • Market Value: €40.00m

Carlos Henrique Casemiro had a good season playing as a midfielder for the Brazilian national team and Manchester United. He performed well in the 2022/2023 season, but Manchester United’s lack of titles slightly affects his position compared to the previous year.

Source: Instagram

On 26th February, Manchester United won the EFL Cup, which was Casemiro’s first trophy with the club and United’s first trophy since 2017. Casemiro scored the first goal in their 2-0 victory against Newcastle United, and his performance earned him the Alan Hardaker Trophy. However, he received two red cards during the Premier League season, making him the only player to do so, and he was the only player from Manchester United to receive a red card that season.

On 7th November 2022, Casemiro was selected to play for Brazil in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. On 28th November, he scored the winning goal in their second group match against Switzerland. Unfortunately, Brazil was eliminated by Croatia in the quarter-finals on 9th December after a 1-1 draw, losing 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out. Casemiro was able to score his penalty kick.

Casemiro had a good season both with the national team and at the club level. However, the fact that he didn’t win the World Cup in 2022 and didn’t win any titles with Manchester United diminishes his achievements this year.

19. Stanislav Lobotka

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Slovakia
  • Club: SSC Napoli
  • Market Value: €40.00m

Stanislav Lobotka is a really good defensive midfielder who is praised for his skills in winning the ball, passing, and understanding the game. He is a strong and athletic player who is great at winning tackles and stealing the ball from opponents. He is also skilled at passing the ball both long and short distances and finding his teammates in open spaces.

Source: Instagram

Lobotka has been included in Napoli’s squad for the UEFA Champions League, but he lost to Milan in Quarter Final. Some people have even called these matches the “Maradona derby.”

At the end of the year, he scored a goal in a friendly match against Norway during the 93rd minute, helping Slovakia win with a score of 1-0. This was the last international game of Ján Ďurica.

Lobotka has already shown a lot of promise while playing for Celta Vigo and Napoli, and it’s likely that top clubs will be interested in him in the future.

18. Rúben Neves

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Portugal
  • Club: Al Hilal
  • Market Value: €40.00m

Rúben Neves is a fantastic defensive midfielder who is highly praised for his ability to win the ball, make accurate passes, and understand the game well. He is a strong and athletic player who excels at tackling opponents and intercepting passes. He is also skilled at passing the ball both long and short distances, and he has a knack for finding his teammates in open spaces.

Source: Instagram

In the first game of the 2022-23 season on August 6, 2022, Neves wore the captain’s armband for Wolves because Conor Coady was on the bench. After Coady went on loan to Everton, Neves became the team’s captain on a permanent basis. He scored his first goal of the season, and his twenty-fifth overall for Wolves, in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle United on August 28 in the Premier League.

In May 2023, Neves wasn’t sure what would happen next in his career, and he only had one year left on his contract. He openly said that he wanted to play in the Champions League. People started talking about the possibility of him joining Barcelona.

On June 23, 2023, Wolves confirmed that Neves would be leaving the club. Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia announced the transfer, which set a new record sale for Wolverhampton Wanderers. The reported transfer fee was £47 million. Rúben Neves is an exceptional defensive midfielder with the potential to become one of the world’s best, but he still needs to work on his weaknesses.

17. Ismaël Bennacer

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Algeria, France
  • Club: AC Milan
  • Market Value: €40.00m

Ismaël Bennacer is an exceptional defensive midfielder who is highly regarded as one of the top players in the world by many experts. Despite being young and still developing, he has already demonstrated immense potential.

Source: Instagram

On January 12, 2023, Bennacer signed a contract extension that will keep him with his current club until June 30, 2027. He achieved a significant milestone in his career by scoring his first goal in the UEFA Champions League on April 12, 2023. He secured a 1-0 victory for his team in the first leg of the quarter-finals against Napoli.

During the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Bennacer played a crucial role in Algeria’s triumph, their first title in 29 years. He finished the tournament as the joint-top assist provider, alongside Franck Kessié, with three assists. One of his assists led to Baghdad Bounedjah’s decisive goal in the final against Senegal on July 19. Bennacer’s exceptional performances earned him recognition as both the “Best Young Player” and the “Best Player” of the tournament.

Ismaël Bennacer is an outstanding defensive midfielder with tremendous potential. While he has some areas to improve, if he addresses his weaknesses, he will undoubtedly become an invaluable asset to any team he represents.

16. Martín Zubimendi

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Spain
  • Club: Real Sociedad
  • Market Value: €40.00m

Martín Zubimendi is an outstanding defensive midfielder who is highly regarded as one of the top players in the world by many experts. Despite his young age, he has already demonstrated remarkable potential.

Source: Instagram

On July 25, 2018, Zubimendi extended his contract until 2022 and was officially promoted to the reserves team in Segunda División B. He made his debut for the first team and in La Liga on April 28 of the following year, coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 home victory against Getafe CF.

On July 24, 2020, Zubimendi further extended his contract with his club, Txuri-urdin, until 2025. This promotion meant that he was now a permanent member of the main squad.

Due to some national team players being isolated following Sergio Busquets’ positive COVID-19 test, Zubimendi was called up to the Spain under-21 squad for an international friendly against Lithuania on June 8, 2021.

When comparing Zubimendi to other exceptional defensive midfielders, he shares similarities with Sergio Busquets in terms of his positioning and passing ability. Additionally, he resembles N’Golo Kanté in his athleticism and work rate.

15. Tomas Soucek

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Czech Republic
  • Club: West Ham
  • Market Value: €35.00m

Tomas Soucek is a highly regarded defensive midfielder who currently ranks 15th among the best players in that position worldwide. This Czech player has established himself as a key figure for West Ham and has showcased his dominance in the Premier League through his imposing physique and excellent technical skills, making him one of the top midfield anchors in the world.

Source: Instagram

In the 2020-2021 season, Soucek finished as the joint top scorer alongside Michail Antonio, with both players netting ten goals. His remarkable performances during that season earned him the prestigious Hammer of the Year award, recognizing him as the best player at West Ham.

On March 24, 2021, Soucek did something amazing in a soccer game. He scored three goals, which is called a hat-trick, and his team won 6-2 against Estonia. This game was part of the World Cup qualification matches. Soucek also played for the Czech Republic in Euro 2020, a big tournament. The team did well and made it to the quarter-finals, but they lost to Denmark and were out of the tournament. After Euro 2020, Soucek became the new captain of the Czech Republic because their previous captain, Vladimír Darida, retired from playing for the national team.

In addition to his defensive abilities, Soucek possesses a keen eye for goals, as demonstrated by his two goals in the 2022/2023 Premier League season.

14. N’golo Kante

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: France
  • Club: Chelsea
  • Market Value: €15.00m

In the 14th position, we have N’golo Kanté, a talented midfielder. He had an amazing year with his team, Chelsea, in the 2020/21 season. They won the highly anticipated Champions League title, and Kanté performed exceptionally well in both the Premier League and continental competitions, achieving impressive statistics.

Source: Instagram

In September 2021, Kanté got sick with COVID-19 during the pandemic and had to stay alone for 10 days. He was also chosen as one of the top players for the Ballon d’Or award, along with four other Chelsea players. In February 2022, he played a really important part in helping Chelsea win their first FIFA Club World Cup by beating Palmeiras with a score of 2-1.

Unfortunately, in August 2022, Kanté hurt his leg while playing against Tottenham Hotspur, and he couldn’t play again until April 2023. It was a big setback for him and his team. In more recent news, on June 21, 2023, Kanté agreed to join Al-Ittihad, a club in the Saudi Professional League, after his contract with Chelsea ended on July 1.

In the world of football, top teams like FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and currently Manchester City have influenced how defensive midfielders play. These teams have a specific style and approach to the game, and as a result, the role of the defensive midfielder has become highly valued and specialized.

13. Sergio Busquets

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Spain
  • Club: Barcelona
  • Market Value: €5.00m

Sergio Busquets continues to prove year after year that he still has a lot to offer and can teach valuable lessons to aspiring defensive midfielders. During his time at FC Barcelona, he had an exceptional year.

Source: Instagram

On January 12, 2023, Busquets reached a milestone by making his 700th appearance for Barcelona in a penalty shoot-out victory against Real Betis in the 2022-23 Supercopa de España semi-final. Just three days later, he played a crucial role in Barcelona’s 3-1 win against Real Madrid in the Supercopa de España final. With this match, he equaled the record for the most appearances in El Clásico, alongside Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, and also became the player with the most wins in El Clásico matches, alongside Paco Gento. On March 2, in the subsequent El Clásico match, Busquets surpassed both records as Barcelona secured a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the 2023 Copa del Rey semi-final.

During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Busquets served as the captain of the Spanish national team. However, in the round of 16, he missed a penalty during a shootout against Morocco, which resulted in a 3-0 defeat following a goalless draw. On December 16, 2022, Sergio announced his retirement from international football, having amassed 143 appearances over a 15-year period.

In the continental tournament, Busquets consistently delivered exceptional performances that earned him the best player of the match award on multiple occasions. Even at the age of 34, he proves why he is considered the best defensive midfielder in history.

On June 24, 2023, it was announced that Busquets had signed with Inter Miami.

12. Jorginho

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Italy
  • Club: Arsenal
  • Market Value: €25.00m

On January 31, 2023, Jorginho completed a move to Arsenal, signing a one-and-a-half-year contract with the option for a further year. The transfer fee for his move was reported to be £12 million. He made his debut for Arsenal on February 4, coming on as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat against Everton.

Source: Instagram

Jorginho has been enjoying one of his best seasons as a professional, both with Arsenal and the Italian national team. His impact has been remarkable, helping Arsenal reach the semifinals of the Premier League and playing a crucial role in Italy’s triumph in the UEFA Nations League 2022-23.

As a result of his achievements, many people have advocated for Jorginho to be considered for the Ballon d’Or award. However, it appears that the current favorite for the award is Lionel Messi, and he is likely to be the recipient.

11. Fabinho

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Brazil
  • Club: Liverpool FC
  • Market Value: €42.00m

Fabinho has experienced a significant drop in the rankings compared to the previous year, largely due to various factors such as injuries and a positional change. In the previous season, he had an impressive campaign with Liverpool, finishing as the runner-up in the UEFA Champions League, which earned him an 11th place ranking.

Source: Instagram

However, due to circumstances such as injuries and the need for defensive cover, Fabinho was often deployed as a center-back by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp this season. This positional change and the challenges it presented have affected his performance and led to a drop of four places in the rankings. It would be unfair to judge his performance as a defensive midfielder in the same way as other candidates, considering the role he played in the team’s setup.

Additionally, Fabinho achieved success with Liverpool by winning the FA Community Shield in 2022. Despite the challenges faced, he has been a key player and contributed significantly to Liverpool’s campaign this season.

10. Amadou Onana

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Belgium, Senegal
  • Club: Everton FC
  • Market Value: €45.00m

Amadou Onana is a highly talented and promising young defensive midfielder who draws comparisons to N’Golo Kanté. He possesses strength, athleticism, and an exceptional work ethic.

Source: Instagram

On August 9, 2022, Onana joined Everton in the Premier League, signing a five-year contract for a reported fee of £33 million, including potential add-ons. He showcased his scoring ability by netting his first Premier League goal for Everton with a header from a corner in a 2-1 home defeat against Southampton on January 14, 2023.

On May 18, 2022, Onana was selected for the squad to compete in the four UEFA Nations League matches in the 2022-23 season against the Netherlands, Poland (twice), and Wales. He made his full international debut in a match against the Netherlands on June 3, 2022.

Recognizing his talent, Onana was included in the final 26-man squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Qatar, which further highlights his potential and impact.

Despite being a young player, Onana has already displayed the attributes and skills necessary to become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. With continued development and experience, he has a bright future ahead.

9. Sandro Tonali

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Italy
  • Club: AC Milan
  • Market Value: €50.00m

Sandro Tonali is an excellent defensive midfielder who is highly regarded by many experts as one of the top players in the world. Despite being young and still developing, he has already shown great promise.

Source: Instagram

This season, Tonali achieved a remarkable feat by becoming the youngest midfielder in Serie A to score five or more goals. Only Bologna’s Aaron Hickey, who is slightly older, achieved this at a younger age.

Milan secured their first Scudetto in 11 years with a convincing 3-0 victory over Sassuolo on May 22. Throughout the season, Tonali played in 36 matches, scoring 5 goals and providing 3 assists.

Tonali’s exceptional performances caught the attention and earned praise from renowned Italian football experts such as Di Canio, Donadoni, and Capello. Capello even went as far as to say that Tonali could have been a part of Milan’s greatest generation in the past.

In November 2018, Tonali received his first call-up to the senior national team by manager Roberto Mancini. He made his senior international debut on October 15, 2019, as a substitute in a 5-0 victory against Liechtenstein. His first start for Italy came in his next appearance, a 3-0 away win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on November 15.

While Sandro Tonali has the potential to be one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, he still has areas to improve.

8. Bruno Guimarães

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Brazil, Spain
  • Club: Newcastle United
  • Market Value: €70.00m

Bruno Guimarães is widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world today. He possesses a diverse skill set that encompasses both defensive and offensive abilities. Guimarães excels in tackling opponents, possesses excellent game reading skills, and has an impressive range of passing. Additionally, he showcases remarkable mobility and energy, enabling him to cover a significant amount of ground on the field.

Source: Instagram

In January 2022, Guimarães signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Newcastle United, a prominent Premier League club, for a reported fee of up to £40 million. He made his debut as a substitute in a 3-1 victory against Everton on February 8. Just two days later, during his full debut game, he scored his first goal for Newcastle with a powerful back-heel volley in a 2-1 win over Southampton. On April 17, Guimarães achieved a significant milestone by scoring his first brace for Newcastle in a 2-1 triumph against Leicester City, with the winning goal coming in the 95th minute.

On December 31, 2022, Newcastle United paid tribute to the legendary Brazilian footballer Pele following his passing. As a mark of respect, Guimarães donned the Brazilian national shirt during the moment of remembrance.

Guimarães has garnered praise from numerous football pundits for his remarkable performances in the Premier League. Many have described him as a “complete midfielder” and even consider him a potential future winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.

7. Joshua Kimmich

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Germany
  • Club: Bayern Munich
  • Market Value: €75.00m

Joshua Kimmich, who previously held the top position in our ranking, experienced a significant decline in performance this season. He had an inconsistent season with Bayern Munich, and the team struggled to make an impact in major events.

Source: Instagram

On August 23, 2021, Kimmich extended his contract with Bayern, committing to the club until 2025. However, his individual performances did not consistently meet the high standards he had set in the previous year. In a match against 1. FC Köln on January 24, 2023, he did score an impressive goal from a distance of 25 meters in the 90th minute to equalize the game at 1-1.

While Kimmich had a decent year statistically, his overall performance did not reach the exceptional level we had come to expect from him, especially in the Bundesliga.

6. Moisés Caicedo

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Ecuador
  • Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Market Value: €75.00m

Moisés Caicedo is a young defensive midfielder who is gaining a lot of attention in the Premier League. Despite being only 21 years old, he has already shown great potential to become one of the best in his position worldwide.

Source: Instagram

On November 14, Caicedo was chosen to be part of Ecuador’s 26-player team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Two of his Brighton teammates, Pervis Estupiñán and Jeremy Sarmiento, were also included in the squad. In the last group match against Senegal on November 29, Caicedo scored a goal that would have allowed Ecuador to advance to the round of 16. Unfortunately, Senegal quickly scored another goal and secured their own spot in the next round instead.

On March 3, 2023, Caicedo signed a new contract with Brighton that will keep him at the club until 2027. There is also an option to extend the contract for an additional year. On June 1, he was voted as the second-best player of the season by BBC Sport users, with Alexis Mac Allister taking the top spot.

Caicedo is a versatile midfielder with many skills. He is strong in tackling opponents, has good instincts for reading the game, and can make accurate passes over various distances. Additionally, he has great energy and speed, which allows him to cover a large area of the field.

5. Frenkie de Jong

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Netherlands
  • Club: Barcelona
  • Market Value: €75.00m

Frenkie de Jong has an outstanding season as a Barcelona player in the 2022/2023 season. He has been a key player for Ronald Koeman and has shown great versatility in various positions. We believe he deserves the fifth position in our ranking of defensive midfielders.

Source: Instagram

In the 2021 Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, de Jong played a crucial role in Barcelona’s 4-0 victory. He scored a goal in the 63rd minute and also provided two assists for his teammates.

It’s important to note that categorizing de Jong solely as a defensive midfielder might be a bit tricky. He has demonstrated his defensive skills as well as his creativity and versatility by playing as a central defender, a pure midfielder, and even as an attacker. We have decided to acknowledge and appreciate his adaptability and versatility by including him in our ranking.

4. Enzo Fernández

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Argentina
  • Club: Chelsea FC
  • Market Value: €80.00m

Enzo Fernández is considered to be one of the best young defensive midfielders in the world. He can play in different positions, either as a single defensive midfielder or as part of a pair. He excels in defense, as he is skilled at anticipating the game and intercepting passes. Moreover, he is also good at carrying the ball forward and creating opportunities for his teammates.

Source: Instagram

Chelsea acquired Fernández from another club for a significant sum of £106.8 million. The deal was finalized on January 31, 2023, after negotiations that lasted over ten hours. Chelsea’s co-owner, Behdad Eghbali, led the discussions. This transfer fee is now the highest ever paid in British football, and Benfica, the player’s previous club, received an initial payment of £30 million, with five more installments to follow.

Fernández represented Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where he played a crucial role in helping his team secure their third championship title. He also received the tournament’s Young Player Award, recognizing his outstanding performance as a young talent.

3. Aurélien Tchouaméni

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: France, Cameroon
  • Club: Real Madrid
  • Market Value: €85.00m

Aurélien Tchouaméni is highly regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders worldwide. He is known for his physical presence, impressive athleticism, and endurance. Tchouaméni excels in winning the ball, often through interceptions and tackles. Additionally, he possesses good passing abilities and can initiate plays from the defensive position.

Source: Instagram

His debut for the France senior squad took place on 1 September 2021, during a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later, on 25 March 2022, he scored his first goal for the national team in a friendly against Ivory Coast. Tchouaméni’s remarkable performances earned him a spot in France’s final squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where he scored his first World Cup goal against England in the quarter-finals, contributing to a 2-1 victory.

Tchouaméni’s strengths lie in his exceptional ball-winning skills, as he adeptly reads the game and anticipates the ball’s trajectory. Despite his opponents’ size, he remains strong and athletic, allowing him to succeed in winning tackles. Moreover, he showcases solid passing abilities, enabling him to initiate plays from the defensive position.

2. Declan Rice

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: England, Ireland
  • Club: West Ham United
  • Market Value: €90.00m

Declan Rice has emerged as one of the most promising defensive midfielders worldwide. With clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea expressing interest in him, he has made a significant impact at West Ham. Rice has also been a regular player for the English national team, performing exceptionally well in the UEFA Europa Conference League 2022-23, where he helped West Ham win the tournament.

Source: Instagram

His impressive performances led to his inclusion in the England squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Rice started in all five matches as England reached the quarter-finals, eventually losing 2-1 to France.

Considering his young age and immense potential, Rice secured the second position in our ranking of the best defensive midfielders in the world.

1. Rodri

  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Nationality: Spain
  • Club: Manchester City
  • Market Value: €90.00m

The 2022/2023 season was a clear indication of Rodri’s outstanding performance and potential. The Spanish midfielder played a crucial role for Manchester City, who dominated the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup. This is why he is considered the best defensive midfielder in the world.

Source: Instagram

Rodri represents Spain at the international level and has been a part of the national team since 2018. He participated in UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He also helped Spain win the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League, where he was recognized as the best player of the finals tournament.

On June 10th, Rodri scored the winning goal in the Champions League final against Inter Milan, securing Manchester City’s first-ever European Cup victory and completing a treble of continental trophies. He was named the man of the match and received the Player of the Season award for the tournament. Additionally, he won the Premier League and FA Cup with Manchester City.

While his performance in the EURO tournament was inconsistent, with him being replaced by Busquets when he returned to the team, it was the only downside in an otherwise fantastic season.

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