These players perform central roles in their respective teams and are vital to their success.

Modern football has changed over the years. Incredibly talented coaches and managers have utilized new tactics to get an edge over their opponents. Several positions on the football pitch have seen modifications in recent times and their roles are ever-changing. One of the key positions in every formation today is that of the defensive midfielder.

During the early 2000s, 4-4-2 was the trend in terms of the preferred formation. Today, it is mostly 4-3-3, 3-5-2 or 4-2-3-1 among a few others. In most cases, there are one or two defensive midfielders who sit just in front of the defence. This position is key because it provides cover to defenders, helps initiate counter-attacks and keeps possession intact.

Here are the top 10 defensive midfielders in the world in 2021:

10. Idrissa Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain)

Idrissa Gueye plays for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1. He has earned a lot of recognition this year for his consistent performances.

He shines bright in a team that consists of players like Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Despite Georginio Wijnaldum’s arrival, the former Everton player has retained a starting place in the lineup.

9. Jorginho (Chelsea)

Jorginho won Euro 2020 with Italy (Courtesy: Sports Lumo)

The fact that Jorginho finished third in the Ballon d’Or rankings explains why he is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.

The defensive midfielder had a massively successful year, where he won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup with Chelsea and UEFA Euro 2020 with Italy. He continues to play an important role at Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and hopes to lift the elusive Premier League this season.

8. Franck Kessie (AC Milan)

AC Milan’s recent resurgence has come on the back of several key performers and Franck Kessie is one of them. The 24-year-old defensive midfielder scored 14 goals and provided six assists from a deep-lying position last season.

He has already bagged three goals this year and remains a huge threat in the Rossoneri’s squad. Kessie is attracting a lot of attention from big clubs that want to acquire his services.

7. Casemiro (Real Madrid)

Casemiro is one of the players at Real Madrid who went under the radar in terms of his contribution to the club’s success. While Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or and Cristiano Ronaldo hogged the limelight, it was Casemiro who was also performing a key role in midfield.

Even today, the Brazilian is vital to Carlo Ancelotti’s plans and helped the Brazil national team reach the final of the Copa America earlier this year. He is certainly one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in the world.

6. Rodri (Manchester City)

Rodri is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world right now (Courtesy: Premier League)

Manchester City bought Rodri from Atletico Madrid in 2019 for €62.7m approximately. The Spaniard has been transformative for his side and looks absolutely rock-solid in the position.

Rodri plays as a single pivot which is a very demanding role to fulfill. However, this allows Pep Guardiola to field more attack-minded players. His long-range shooting ability has seen him score iconic goals too. 

5. Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan)

Marcelo Brozovic was one of the key figures behind Inter Milan’s success last campaign. Antonio Conte’s mainstay in the squad, Brozovic helped him enforce tactics on the field and provide the perfect cover to the backline. The Croatian is receiving a lot of interest from other European clubs who would like to sign him.

4. Declan Rice (West Ham United)

Rice is one of the most talented defensive midfielders in the Premier League (Courtesy: Sports Illustrated)

Declan Rice is one of the most talented players in the Premier League. He is still young and plays a key role in the squad at West Ham United.

Rice was part of the England squad that reached the final of Euro 2020 and is helping his club challenge for Champions League qualification. The 22-year-old is valued at over €120m by the London-based club, as a lot of teams look to steal him from the Hammers.

3. Fabinho (Liverpool)

Liverpool have transformed under Jurgen Klopp and are one of the fiercest teams in Europe. The Reds have won the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League in recent years and one of their key performers has been Fabinho.

The defensive midfielder has also played a centre-back role on occasions. He is most effective in the heart of the midfield, breaking up attacks, pressing intensely and providing cover to the defence. 

2. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)

Kante won the FIFA World Cup 2018 with France (Courtesy: The Sun)

N’Golo Kante has been at the top of his game since his Leicester City days. He is still one of the best defensive midfielders out there.

The Frenchman has won international and club honours, including the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League over the years. He is Chelsea’s most reliable figure in the position and a key element in Tuchel’s star-studded squad.

1. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Joshua Kimmich is widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. The German started out as a full-back, but has evolved into an elite defensive midfielder at Bayern Munich.

Kimmich is always amongst the leaders when it comes to tackles, interceptions, blocks, initiating counter-attacks, duel wins and more. The 29-year-old has already won 17 trophies with the club, including the UCL in 2019-20. 

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