Here’s my list of the current top 10 footballers primarily responsible for the attacking impetus of their sides from the central midfield position.
Before you get into the list do remember that there is a myriad of reasons – many unquantifiable – that go into determining lists like these. Most of these entries might even reflect upon my subjectivity, meaning you might agree with some of my mentions, or none at all. Either way, we’d love to hear from you!
Well then, here we go.
10- Kai Havertz
Age – 21 (11 June 1999)
Country – Germany
Current club – Chelsea (Premier League)
It’s probably laughable to call Havertz ‘one of the best’ given his current predicament, but I’ll let inertia make my case.
No matter how it eventually turns out, Kai Havertz is not a signing Chelsea needed to make. A plethora of underlying factors have made the German’s first year in England rather tumultuous, but he has still shown signs of the class he was exuding even back in August with Leverkusen – the performances which get him into this list despite his current form. You would, though, expect new manager Thomas Tuchel to be able to calm the young Germany international’s nerves and help him make the best of his abilities.
To people who rule out good players after their first season, I always say this – Luka Modrić was rated the worst signing in his first LaLiga season.
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9- James Maddison
James Maddison has firmly established himself as one of England’s finest attacking midfielders. Be it dead-ball, key passes, or late runs into the box, Maddison is as refreshing on the pitch as he is in his interviews.
8- Dušan Tadić
Age – 32 (20 November 1988)
Country – Serbia
Current club – Ajax (Eredivisie)
No one could have anticipated the heights Dušan Tadić would reach after leaving Southampton two and a half years ago. Capable to play out wide and up front, the Serbian is one of the most creative minds, and has been contributing directly to Ajax’s attack, scoring 14 goals and making 12 assists over 29 games in all competitions this season alone, also serving the captain to the side. He’s also assumed to not only end his playing career at Ajax, but also begin his coaching career there.
7 – Luis Alberto
He might have taken his time, but Luis Alberto has finally established himself as one of the most exciting attacking midfielders in Europe.
Within Simone Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 system, Alberto takes on the attacking responsibilities alongside Sergej Milinković-Savić – the former occupying a more advanced position behind strikers Ciro Immobile and Joaquín Correa, while the latter occupies a deeper position alongside defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva.
6- Marcos Llorente
Age – 26 (30 January 1995)
Country – Spain
Current club – Atlético Madrid
Llorente’s conversion from a decent defensive mid to an explosive attacking mid culminated in Atlético’s comeback win against Liverpool in last season’s Champions League. Since then, Diego Simeone has used him liberally across the advanced positions, be it right mid, centre attacking mid, or even as a second striker. His ball-retention and quick-dispatch shooting makes him quite a lethal weapon.
5- Sergej Milinković-Savić
Age – 25 (27 February 1995)
Country – Serbia
Current club – Lazio (Serie A TIM)
Were it not for Lazio’s unreasonably high price tag, Sergej would have long been poached away by now. With his formidable build and defensive acuity, the Serbia international has all the makings to be an ideal number six, but he does not likes to play a more advanced role, he excels in one just as well. He’s currently one of the most complete midfielders around.
4- Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez
Age – 33 (15 February 1988)
Country – Argentina
Current club – Sevilla (LaLiga Santander)
It was heart-breaking to see Papu’s Atalanta chapter coming to an end after he fell out irrevocably with manager Gian Piero Gasperini. The Argentine had become a bit of a hipsters’ favourite during his time as captain of the Bergamaschi. A maverick attacker, Papu can play multiple positions across the attacking mid, preferring to occupy the left-of-centre zone just behind the striker(s). He has now found a new home in Sevilla, another exciting team aiming high under manager Julen Lopetegui.
3- Bruno Fernandes
It cannot be sufficiently stated how staggering Bruno Fernandes’ first year in England has been. The Portuguese has managed to become a fan favourite, a leader, the club’s best signing in recent years, and is already one of the best players in the league. He has been the single greatest factor in United’s third-place finish last season and the continued push during this one.
He’s often accused to giving away the ball too cheaply while attempting forward passes, but with him having scored 30 goals and made 20 assists in his first 56 matches for United, one can hardly complain. Be it 12 yards or 30, Bruno knows where the back of the net is.
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2- Kevin De Bruyne
Age – 29 (28 June 1991)
Country – Belgium
Current club – Manchester City (Premier League)
Kevin De Bruyne left Chelsea in 2014 and has not looked back since. On his day, the Belgian is easily one of the best footballers in the world. Two-footed, positionally astute, gifted in his passing, and ruthless in his shooting, few come close to De Bruyne’s repertoire. One could make a case for him being a playmaker at City, but he usually occupies more advanced positions, having a more direct impact in making key contributions to the attack. He has also played as a false nine for Guardiola this season, when City’s strikers have struggled with their fitness.
1- Thomas Müller
Age – 31 (13 September 1989)
Country – Germany
Current club – Bayern Munich (1. Bundesliga)
Having just completed the Sextuple, it’s hard to look past Müller for the No.1 spot. The self-appointed Raumdeuter’s time seemed to have been over a couple years ago, but unsurprisingly, he has found space to wiggle back into the top spot. Famously not the most gifted footballer, Thomas makes up for his shortcomings with his leadership, camaraderie, and a sheer knack for moving wittily across the pitch while making most of his abilities. Hansi Flick has successfully avoided making the same mistake Niko Kovač did – ostracising Müller from the main squad.
Mason Mount (Chelsea), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal), Nabil Fekir (Real Betis), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig), Jonathan Bamba (Lille).
Do you agree with this list? Who would you rather have in your top 10?