The 10 Greatest Midfielders of All Time

CEO Tam DT
Midfielders are the unsung heroes of the game, controlling the flow and dictating the style of play. While forwards and attacking midfielders often steal the limelight, it is the central midfielders who do the crucial...

Midfielders are the unsung heroes of the game, controlling the flow and dictating the style of play. While forwards and attacking midfielders often steal the limelight, it is the central midfielders who do the crucial leg work and enable their team's success. This list celebrates the 10 greatest central midfielders of all time, highlighting their unique contributions and lasting impact on the beautiful game.

#10 Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard Frank Lampard

Part of England's golden generation, Frank Lampard was an integral part of Chelsea's rise to becoming a European superclub. As one of the greatest box-to-box midfielders in history, Lampard's ability to arrive late in the box resulted in numerous crucial and match-winning goals.

Lampard's accolades include winning an incredible 13 trophies with Chelsea and being the only midfielder to score more than 150 goals in the Premier League. His peak years from 2004 to 2006 saw him finish second in the Ballon d'Or standings, narrowly missing out to the legendary Ronaldinho. An accurate penalty and set-piece taker, Lampard's contributions and inspirational performances will forever be cherished by Chelsea fans.

#9 Johan Neeskens

Johan Neeskens in action Johan Neeskens in action

Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens often played in the shadows of his more famous countryman, Johan Cruyff. Nevertheless, he was a vital force in both Ajax and the Netherlands national team during the 1970s, where they showcased beautiful and mesmerizing football.

Neeskens was known for his tireless running, relentless pressure on the opposition, and exceptional passing skills. His presence on the field allowed the creative players to express themselves and play with freedom. As a true team player, Neeskens played a crucial role in Ajax's three consecutive European Cups and also had a successful stint at Barcelona before concluding his illustrious career in the United States.

#8 Luka Modric

Luka Modric with his Ballon d' Luka Modric with his Ballon d'Or

Luka Modric, the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner, secures the number 8 spot on our list. He is one of the most complete midfielders to have graced the game, consistently ranking among the world's best for over a decade.

Modric possesses the ability to make defense-splitting passes while also excelling defensively. He continuously evolves and improves his game, evident from his crucial role in Real Madrid's three consecutive UEFA Champions League victories. In 2018, he broke the long-standing dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year Award. Even at 35 years old, Modric continues to showcase his brilliance, ensuring his name will be etched in Real Madrid's history.

#7 Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard, arguably the greatest player to have never won the Premier League, undoubtedly holds the title of Liverpool's greatest midfielder. Renowned for his leadership skills and inspirational performances, Gerrard's impact on English football is undeniable.

Capable of playing across the midfield line, Gerrard almost single-handedly propelled Liverpool to their remarkable victory in the 2005 UEFA Champions League. From 2004 to 2010, he displayed an unrivaled level of skill, driving an average Liverpool team to great heights with his stunning individual performances. Gerrard's legacy as a midfielder is exemplified in the words of Zinedine Zidane:

"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Messi and Ronaldo, but, yes, I think he just might be."

#6 Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes, a Manchester United legend, secures the sixth position on our list. As one of Sir Alex Ferguson's most trusted players, Scholes played a pivotal role in transforming Manchester United into an elite European club.

Scholes possessed a gift for passing rarely seen in the Premier League. The respect he garnered from both teammates and opponents serves as a testament to his talent. He won every possible trophy with Manchester United and was regarded as one of the most gifted midfielders in the league. The renowned Spanish midfielder Xavi praised Scholes, stating:

"I can't understand why Scholes has never won the Player of the Year award. He should have won it long ago. Maybe it's because he doesn't seek the limelight like some of the other players."

#5 Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo, the current Juventus manager, revolutionized the role of a deep-lying playmaker with his exceptional vision and passing skills. He is one of the most decorated midfielders in European football history, with triumphs in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, multiple Serie A titles, and domestic cups.

Pirlo's composure on the ball and ability to pick out the perfect pass made him one of the greatest Italian players of all time. His dead-ball expertise often led to crucial goals and breakthroughs for club and country. The legendary Johan Cruyff beautifully summarized Pirlo's class and impact:

"Pirlo is a silent leader. He speaks with the ball."

#4 Didi

Didi is one of the greatest Brazilian players of all time Didi is one of the greatest Brazilian players of all time

Brazilian midfield maestro Didi, also known as Waldyr Pereira, is arguably Brazil's greatest ever central midfielder. As the brains behind Pele and Garrincha's incredible feats with the Brazilian national team, Didi often delivered his best performances on the biggest stages.

Didi's remarkable displays in the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, where Brazil emerged victorious, solidified his position as the best midfielder of his generation. Ranked the 7th greatest Brazilian player of the 20th century by IFFHS, Didi is undoubtedly one of the greatest Brazilian players of all time.

#3 Xavi

Xavi Xavi

Barcelona legend Xavi rightfully earns his place in any top 10 midfielders list. He is one of the most decorated players in the history of the game, boasting an extensive collection of trophies and accolades.

Xavi's contribution to the implementation of the tiki-taka style, both in the Spain national team and Barcelona, cannot be overstated. From 2006 to 2014, he played a pivotal role in the glorious success enjoyed by both teams. With exceptional passing skills, extraordinary vision, and technical brilliance, Xavi consistently found space in midfield and possessed the ability to make the right pass at the right time. His midfield partner, Andres Iniesta, beautifully captured the respect Xavi commanded:

"I'm always in awe of him. He's the best in the world in his position."

#2 Lothar Matthaus

Lothar Matthaus Lothar Matthaus

Lothar Matthaus, the recipient of the 1990 Ballon d'Or, enjoyed an illustrious career with Bayern Munich and the German national team. He played a vital role in Germany's triumph at the 1990 World Cup and was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991.

Matthaus, an extraordinary box-to-box midfielder, possessed robust tackling abilities and a powerful shooting technique from distance. He was known for his leadership qualities and captained both Bayern Munich and the German national team. Matthaus's versatility is evident in his successful stint at Inter Milan and his evolution into a sweeper in the latter part of his career.

#1 Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final Andres Iniesta celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final

Andres Iniesta, Xavi's long-time midfield partner at both Barcelona and the Spanish national team, claims the top spot as arguably the greatest central midfielder of all time. With incredible vision, passing skills, and the uncanny ability to perform in crucial moments, Iniesta's impact on Spanish football is immeasurable.

Technically gifted and mesmerizing on the ball, Iniesta's style of play was a pleasure to watch and devastatingly effective on the field. Together with Xavi, they formed the best central midfield partnership ever witnessed in the game. As Juan Roman Riquelme aptly said:

"Iniesta does everything well. He's the one that makes football better."

Andres Iniesta's name will forever be etched in the history books as one of the most talented midfielders and players to have graced the game.

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