Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2023 – Top 10 Listed

Top 10 Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2023


Best Defensive Midfielders




Manchester City


Declan Rice

West Ham United


Aurélien Tchouaméni

Real Madrid


Enzo Fernández

Chelsea FC


Frenkie de Jong



Moisés Caicedo

Brighton & Hove Albion


Joshua Kimmich

Bayern Munich


Bruno Guimarães

Newcastle United


Sandro Tonali

AC Milan


Amadou Onana

Everton FC

Best Defensive Midfielders in the World 2023

In 2023, the world of football boasts an array of exceptional talent in the defensive midfield position. These players possess the skill, intelligence, and physical prowess to shield their teams’ defences while contributing to their attacks. Let’s take a closer look at the best defensive midfielders in the world for the year 2023, each of whom has made a significant impact on their respective clubs and national teams, earning them a place among the elite in this vital position.


1. Rodri (Manchester City)

Rodri has established himself as the premier defensive midfielder in world football in 2023. Playing a pivotal role in Manchester City’s unparalleled success during the 2022/2023 season, he showcased his exceptional abilities both defensively and offensively. His football intelligence and composure on the ball allowed City to dominate the Premier League, winning the Champions League and FA Cup as well. Notably, he scored the winning goal in the Champions League final against Inter Milan, securing Manchester City’s first-ever European Cup victory and completing a remarkable treble of continental trophies. His performances earned him recognition as the Player of the Season for the Champions League, and he was also named the best player of the finals tournament in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League, which Spain won.

In addition to his club success, Rodri continued to be a vital presence for the Spanish national team, participating in both the UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. His versatility in the defensive midfield role, coupled with his exceptional passing range and ability to read the game, makes him a complete package in the heart of the midfield. While his Euro 2020 campaign had some inconsistencies, his overall contributions and stellar performances at both the club and international levels firmly establish him as the world’s best defensive midfielder in 2023.

2. Declan Rice (West Ham United)

Declan Rice has emerged as one of the most promising and impactful defensive midfielders in world football while representing West Ham United in the 2022-23 season. His performances were instrumental in West Ham’s success in the UEFA Europa Conference League, where they clinched the title. Beyond his club achievements, Rice was a standout player for the England national team during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, starting in all five matches as England reached the quarter-finals. His composure, ball-winning abilities, and exceptional positional awareness make him a force to be reckoned with in the midfield.

Rice’s consistent and mature performances have garnered attention from top clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea, reflecting his potential for further growth and impact on the international stage. At a young age, he has already become an influential presence for both his club and country, and as one of the best young talents in the defensive midfield position, he is poised to have a significant and lasting influence on the world of football in the years to come.

3. Aurélien Tchouaméni (Real Madrid)

Aurélien Tchouaméni, plying his trade for the iconic Real Madrid, stands as one of the premier defensive midfielders in the world in 2023. Renowned for his imposing physical presence, remarkable athleticism, and unyielding endurance, Tchouaméni embodies the ideal modern defensive midfielder. His ability to read the game, intercept passes, and break up opposition attacks sets him apart. Moreover, Tchouaméni has honed his passing skills, allowing him to initiate plays from the heart of the team’s defensive structure.

In international football, Tchouaméni has been a key asset for the French national team. He earned his debut for the senior squad in 2021, during a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Bosnia and Herzegovina. His remarkable performances led to his inclusion in the 2022 FIFA World Cup squad, where he scored a pivotal goal in the quarter-finals against England, aiding France’s 2-1 victory. Tchouaméni’s combination of physical prowess and tactical acumen make him a linchpin for both club and country, and his career trajectory continues to ascend.

4. Enzo Fernández (Chelsea FC)

Enzo Fernández has taken the football world by storm since his arrival at Chelsea FC. As one of the best young defensive midfielders globally, Fernández is hailed for his versatility and capability to thrive in various positions within the midfield. His exceptional anticipation skills and proficiency in intercepting passes make him a formidable force in the defensive third. Furthermore, Fernández possesses the ability to transition seamlessly from defence to attack, creating opportunities for his teammates with his astute passing and ball-carrying skills. His transfer to Chelsea was nothing short of historic, with the club shelling out a substantial £106.8 million, marking it as the highest-ever transfer fee in British football.

In addition to his club success, Fernández has made a significant impact on the international stage. He played a pivotal role in helping Argentina secure their third FIFA World Cup championship title and was deservedly awarded the Young Player Award for his outstanding performance as a budding talent. Fernández’s rapid rise and all-around midfield capabilities position him as a player to watch, not only in Chelsea’s midfield but also on the global stage.

5. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Frenkie de Jong, the Dutch midfield maestro, has truly come into his own in the 2022/2023 season with Barcelona. Renowned for his exceptional ball control, vision, and versatility, de Jong has been a linchpin for his club. He played a pivotal role in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey triumph, contributing with both goals and assists. Notably, in the 2021 Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, he played a decisive part in Barcelona’s commanding 4-0 victory, scoring a goal and providing two assists.

What sets de Jong apart is his ability to adapt to various positions on the field seamlessly. While primarily a defensive midfielder, he has showcased his defensive prowess and creativity by occasionally filling roles as a central defender and even an attacker, demonstrating remarkable adaptability. His performances in the 2022/2023 season have solidified his reputation as one of the world’s finest midfielders, making him a crucial asset for both club and country.

6. Moisés Caicedo (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Moisés Caicedo, the young Ecuadorian sensation, has been turning heads in the Premier League with his exceptional performances for Brighton & Hove Albion. Despite being just 21 years old, Caicedo has displayed remarkable maturity and potential, positioning himself as one of the brightest talents in the defensive midfield position. His strong tackling, adept reading of the game, and precise passing over various distances have made him an invaluable asset for Brighton.

Caicedo’s rapid rise in English football was further solidified by his inclusion in Ecuador’s squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In a group match against Senegal, he showcased his scoring ability with a crucial goal that almost propelled Ecuador to the round of 16. His contract extension with Brighton until 2027, with an option for an additional year, highlights the club’s confidence in his abilities. Known for his boundless energy and speed, Moisés Caicedo is undoubtedly a player to watch as he continues to evolve and impress in the world of football.

7. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Joshua Kimmich is a highly versatile and influential footballer who has made a significant impact at Bayern Munich. Born on February 8, 1995, in Rottweil, Germany, Kimmich began his career with VfB Stuttgart’s youth system before joining RB Leipzig. In 2015, he made a pivotal move to Bayern Munich, where he has since become one of the club’s most prized assets. Kimmich primarily operates as a central midfielder but can excel in various positions, including right-back and defensive midfield. His incredible football IQ, vision, and passing ability make him a key playmaker in Bayern’s midfield. Moreover, his exceptional work rate, pressing, and tackling skills contribute significantly to both offensive and defensive aspects of the game.

During his time at Bayern Munich, Kimmich has achieved remarkable success, including numerous Bundesliga titles and UEFA Champions League triumphs. His performances have earned him recognition as one of the world’s best midfielders, and he’s often compared to legendary figures like Philipp Lahm. Off the field, Kimmich is known for his philanthropic efforts, including his involvement in the “We Kick Corona” initiative, which aimed to support those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. His leadership qualities, technical prowess, and commitment to both his club and national team, Germany, make him a crucial figure in contemporary football.

8. Bruno Guimarães (Newcastle United)

Bruno Guimarães is a promising Brazilian midfielder who made a notable move to Newcastle United. Born on November 16, 1997, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Guimarães rose to prominence through his performances with Brazilian club Athletico Paranaense. Known for his exceptional passing range, ball control, and ability to dictate the tempo of the game, Guimarães quickly attracted attention from European clubs. In January 2022, he transferred to Newcastle United in a significant move that highlighted the club’s ambition to strengthen its midfield.

Guimarães has the potential to be a key figure in Newcastle’s midfield, providing creativity and defensive stability. His versatility allows him to adapt to various midfield roles, making him a valuable asset for the team. While relatively young, he has already represented the Brazilian national team, showcasing his talent on the international stage. His arrival at Newcastle represents a significant investment in the club’s future and signals their intent to compete at a higher level in the Premier League.

9. Sandro Tonali (AC Milan)

Sandro Tonali is an Italian professional footballer who currently plays for AC Milan in Serie A. Born on May 8, 2000, in Lodi, Italy, Tonali is widely regarded as one of the most promising midfield talents in Italian football. He began his career at the youth academy of Lombardia Uno, a local club, before joining Brescia Calcio’s youth setup. Tonali made his senior debut for Brescia in Serie B during the 2017-2018 season when he was just 17 years old. His impressive performances in midfield quickly garnered attention, and he became a key player for Brescia. In 2019, Tonali made the move to AC Milan, signing a loan deal with an option to buy. Milan exercised that option, and he officially became a Rossoneri player.

Tonali is often compared to Italian midfield legends like Andrea Pirlo due to his exceptional passing ability and vision on the field. He possesses a wide range of passing skills, including long-range passes and accurate through balls. Tonali’s ability to dictate the tempo of the game and his composure under pressure make him a valuable asset in the midfield. He is also known for his work rate, tenacity in tackling, and versatility, as he can play in both defensive and central midfield positions. With AC Milan, Tonali aims to continue his development and become a central figure in both the club and the Italian national team, further solidifying his status as one of the most promising young midfielders in the world.

10. Amadou Onana (Everton FC)

Amadou Onana is a Cameroonian professional footballer who joined Everton FC in the Premier League. Born on December 16, 2000, in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Onana is a talented midfielder known for his versatility and technical skills. He started his professional career with Belgian club KRC Genk, where he progressed through the youth ranks and eventually made his first-team debut in the 2019-2020 season. Onana quickly established himself as a promising midfielder with excellent ball control, passing ability, and an eye for goal. His performances at Genk attracted interest from top European clubs, and in the summer of 2021, Everton signed him, marking a significant step in his career.

Onana is primarily a central midfielder, but he can also play in a more advanced role or even as a deep-lying playmaker. He is known for his ability to read the game, intercept passes, and distribute the ball effectively. Onana possesses good dribbling skills and has the capacity to contribute offensively by creating goal-scoring opportunities. His versatility allows him to adapt to various tactical setups, making him a valuable asset for Everton. With his youth and potential, Onana is expected to continue growing as a player and become a key figure for both Everton and the Cameroonian national team in the coming years. His journey in the Premier League offers an exciting prospect for football fans eager to see a rising African talent shine on the global stage.

What Qualities Define a World-Class Defensive Midfielder in 2023?

In 2023, the role of a world-class defensive midfielder has evolved to encompass a wide range of skills and attributes. These qualities collectively define what makes a defensive midfielder stand out on the global stage:

1. Tactical Intelligence: A world-class defensive midfielder possesses exceptional football intelligence. They have a deep understanding of the game’s tactics, allowing them to read the play, anticipate opponents’ moves, and position themselves effectively to intercept passes and break up attacks.

2. Strong Defensive Skills: Defensive prowess is paramount. They excel in one-on-one defending, tackling, and aerial duels. Their ability to win challenges and regain possession for their team is crucial for disrupting the opponent’s rhythm.

3. Passing Accuracy: Modern defensive midfielders are expected to be proficient passers. They should be capable of distributing the ball accurately over short and long distances. Their passing range enables them to initiate attacks, switch play, and maintain possession under pressure.

4. Vision and Creativity: Beyond defensive duties, they should have the vision and creativity to orchestrate their team’s play from deep positions. This includes delivering incisive through balls, line-breaking passes, and creating goal-scoring opportunities.

5. Work Rate and Stamina: A tireless work ethic is essential. World-class defensive midfielders cover vast areas of the pitch, both defensively and offensively. Their stamina allows them to press opponents, support attacks, and track back to defend.

6. Positional Awareness: They maintain excellent positional discipline. Their ability to shield the defense, plug gaps, and maintain a compact shape is vital for team stability. They understand when to hold their position and when to press forward.

7. Leadership and Communication: Strong leadership qualities are valuable. They often act as on-field generals, directing teammates, and providing vocal guidance. Effective communication helps organize the team defensively and offensively.

8. Ball Recovery Skills: They excel at winning back possession through interceptions and ball recoveries. Their ability to quickly transition from defense to attack is crucial for maintaining momentum.

9. Versatility: Many modern defensive midfielders are versatile, capable of playing in different roles within the midfield. This adaptability allows them to fit into various tactical systems.

10. Discipline and Composure: Maintaining discipline is essential to avoid costly fouls and bookings. Composure under pressure enables them to make the right decisions, even in high-stress situations.

In 2023, the best defensive midfielders are a unique blend of traditional defensive attributes and advanced playmaking abilities. They serve as the backbone of their teams, providing stability in defense while contributing significantly to the build-up of attacking play. These players are highly sought after and often regarded as the unsung heroes of successful football teams.

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