10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

The role of a defensive midfielder often called a pivot, has changed a lot recently because of top coaches around the world.

Now, different kinds of defensive midfielders are good at different parts of the game, sometimes even forgetting about their main job of defending the midfield.

Playing as a defensive midfielder is tough. These players not only have to deal with defending against the other team, but they’re also important for starting their own team’s attacks.

In modern soccer, the best defensive midfielders are great at passing and understanding the game.

People disagree about what defensive midfielders should focus on.

Some think they should just defend and help out the team’s defense, while others believe they’re crucial for the team’s overall strategy.

They don’t just defend; they also help build up attacking moves from deep positions using their skills and understanding of the game.

When judging defensive midfielders, things like their tactical awareness, ability to win the ball, defensive efforts, and vision of the game are all important factors.

1. Rodri

  • Nationality: Spain
  • Club: Manchester City
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Rodri, a towering presence in midfield, has established himself as one of the finest defensive midfielders in the world.

With his exceptional vision, precise passing, and ability to break up opposition plays, he epitomizes the modern-day defensive midfielder.

Rodri is a powerhouse on the field, thanks to his strong physique and height. He’s good at winning tackles, battles against opponents, and heading duels.

He had a fantastic 73% success rate in tackles and won every single aerial duel he faced in the 2022-23 season.

When it comes to passing, Rodri is super accurate, usually hitting between 91-92% of his passes. But he’s not just about defense; he’s also smart with the ball. He can read the game well, intercept passes, and start counterattacks effectively.

His main job is to be the anchor in midfield, winning back possession, and getting the ball moving forward. And he’s really good at keeping hold of the ball, even when under pressure from opponents.

But what sets Rodri apart is his ability to also play as a deep-lying playmaker.

He’s involved in a ton of plays, more than anyone else on his team or even in the Premier League during the 2023-24 season. 

2. Declan Rice

  • Nationality: England, Ireland
  • Club: Arsenal
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Declan Rice’s rise to prominence has been nothing short of remarkable.

A versatile midfielder known for his tenacity, intelligence, and composure on the ball, Rice has become an indispensable asset for both club and country.

Rice is a top-notch football player who primarily plays as a defensive midfielder.

He’s well-known for his athleticism and ability to make crucial tackles on the field. Recently, he’s been gaining recognition for his broader skill set, including his talent for carrying the ball forward and scoring goals from long distances.

In addition to his defensive abilities, Rice is also skilled in aerial combat and is comfortable using both feet to maneuver past opponents.

He’s particularly effective in one-on-one situations, where he can slow down attacks and give his teammates time to regroup defensively.

Rice’s anticipation, agility, and knack for winning back possession make him a valuable asset in counter-pressing situations. He’s adept at quickly recovering the ball after it’s been lost, helping to maintain his team’s momentum during matches.

3. Joshua Kimmich

  • Nationality: Germany
  • Club: Bayern Munich

Joshua Kimmich’s versatility allows him to excel in various positions, but he truly shines in the heart of midfield.

His exceptional work rate, tactical awareness, and ability to dictate the tempo of the game make him a vital cog in Bayern Munich’s midfield engine.

Horst Hrubesch once lavished praise on Joshua Kimmich for his incredible versatility on the field.

He described Kimmich as having exceptional quality and excelling in both attacking and defensive positions.

Hrubesch also highlighted Kimmich’s intelligence, technical skills, agility, and winning mentality.

Kimmich has been likened to a “Swiss Army knife of a player” due to his ability to adapt to various roles.

Pep Guardiola, a renowned coach, transformed Kimmich from a defensive midfielder into a right-back, showcasing his versatility.

Kimmich has even filled in as a makeshift center-back when needed, in addition to playing as a central midfielder or deep-lying playmaker, where he can control the game’s flow.

4. Frenkie de Jong

  • Nationality: Netherlands
  • Club: Barcelona
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Frenkie de Jong’s elegant style of play belies his defensive capabilities.

Blessed with sublime technical skills and an innate understanding of the game, de Jong effortlessly intercepts opposition attacks while initiating swift transitions from defense to attack.

Frenkie de Jong describes himself as a player who loves to have the ball and play in a possession-based style.

He’s incredibly versatile and can play in multiple positions such as regista, defensive midfielder, central midfielder, holding midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, and even center-back.

During his time at Ajax, he often played alongside Matthijs de Ligt as a center-back.

Despite being in a defensive role, he showed remarkable discipline, rarely committing fouls, and consistently won possession with his excellent positioning.

His performances drew comparisons to the legendary Franz Beckenbauer, known for his ability to progress forward with the ball from defense.

De Jong’s vision on the field is highly praised, along with his dribbling skills in tight spaces, precise passing, and ability to maintain control over possession.

He’s known for his exceptional dribbling success, especially during his last season with Ajax.

Also, he’s adept at making offensive runs through the midfield, showcasing his ability to read the game effectively.


5. Aurélien Tchouaméni

  • Nationality: France, Cameroon
  • Club: Real Madrid
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Tchouaméni’s meteoric rise has caught the attention of football aficionados worldwide.

His commanding presence, physicality, and ability to read the game make him a formidable force in midfield, earning plaudits for his performances at both club and international levels.

Since his move to Madrid, Tchouameni has justified his hefty €100 million price tag and has become a key player under Carlo Ancelotti.

As a right-footed central midfielder, he’s comfortable playing as either a defensive midfielder or a more attacking midfielder (often referred to as a “six” or an “eight” in football terms).

Tchouameni’s forward-thinking approach means he frequently breaks through opposition lines with incisive passes, whether they’re played through or over the defense.

He’s skilled at disguising his passes, allowing him to find advanced teammates with precision.

His ability to spot opportunities for reverse passes or play balls around corners before receiving the ball demonstrates his exceptional vision and timing.

His talent for finding passes that others might miss, combined with his precise timing, allows him to bypass multiple opponents with a single pass, making him a valuable asset in Real Madrid’s midfield.

6. Bruno Guimarães

  • Nationality: Brazil, Spain
  • Club: Newcastle United
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Guimarães’ arrival at Newcastle United has injected vitality into their midfield.

A dynamic midfielder with exceptional ball-winning abilities and passing range, Guimarães has seamlessly adapted to the rigors of the Premier League, establishing himself as a key player for his team.

Bruno Guimarães is considered one of the best defensive midfielders in the world right now. He’s praised for his skills in both defense and offense. Guimarães is excellent at tackling opponents, reading the game, and passing the ball accurately.

He’s also known for his incredible energy and ability to cover a lot of ground on the field.

In the Premier League, he’s been performing exceptionally well, earning praise from experts who call him a “complete midfielder.” Some even think he could win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award in the future.

7. Amadou Onana

  • Nationality: Belgium, Senegal
  • Club: Everton FC
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Onana’s rise through the ranks has been nothing short of impressive.

A versatile midfielder capable of breaking up opposition play and initiating attacks with his incisive passing, Onana’s star continues to rise as he cements his place as one of the most promising defensive midfielders in the game.

If Everton successfully avoids relegation from the Premier League this season, Amadou Onana will likely play a significant role in their survival.

With impressive skill and hard work, Onana’s importance to a Premier League team marks a remarkable change from his earlier days playing in Belgium.

Back then, at Zulte Waregem, there were even struggles to secure funding for his train tickets.

8. Moisés Caicedo

  • Nationality: Ecuador
  • Club: Chelsea
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Caicedo’s arrival at Chelsea has brought a new dimension to their midfield.

He became a Chelsea player on August 14, 2023, after signing a contract that lasts for eight years, with the possibility of extending it for another year.

While the exact transfer fee was not officially disclosed, reports suggest it was around £100 million initially.

However, with performance-related bonuses factored in, the total could rise to approximately £115 million. This would set a new British transfer fee record for a single player, surpassing the £107 million Chelsea paid for Enzo Fernandez.

A tenacious ball-winner with an eye for goal, Caicedo’s energy and dynamism provide Chelsea with defensive solidity while also contributing to their attacking endeavors.

9. Tomas Soucek

  • Nationality: Czech Republic
  • Club: West Ham
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Soucek’s commanding presence in midfield has been instrumental in West Ham’s resurgence in recent years.

A towering figure with an aerial prowess that poses a threat in both boxes, Soucek’s contributions extend beyond his defensive duties, making him a fan favorite at the London Stadium.

He is widely recognized as a top defensive midfielder.

With his imposing physique and excellent skills, he’s considered one of the best midfield anchors worldwide.

Souček is known for his versatility as a box-to-box midfielder, contributing both defensively and offensively.

Standing at an impressive height of 1.92 meters (6 feet 4 inches), he brings a strong physical presence to the game. José Mourinho even compared him to Marouane Fellaini because of his heading prowess during set-pieces.

10. Martín Zubimendi

  • Nationality: Spain
  • Club: Real Sociedad
10 Best Defensive Midfielders In The World 2024

Zubimendi’s emergence as a midfield maestro has been a revelation for Real Sociedad.

Blessed with exceptional vision, anticipation, and technical skills, Zubimendi orchestrates play from deep midfield, dictating the tempo of the game while providing defensive cover for his team.

Zubimendi’s adaptable playing style often leads to comparisons with esteemed players, particularly Sergio Busquets.

He demonstrates calmness and authority on the field, directing the flow of the game and regulating its pace. His primary role involves orchestrating moves from deeper positions and showcasing precise decision-making skills.

Similar to Busquets, Zubimendi excels at receiving passes and creating openings, displaying a keen understanding of the game and the ability to generate scoring opportunities.

His technical skills, such as dribbling and making penetrating runs, are reminiscent of top midfielders. His ability to retain possession in tight spaces reflects qualities seen in players like Xabi Alonso and David Silva.

Other Best Defensive Midfielders In 2024

  • Casemiro
  • Thomas Partey
  • Joao Palhinha
  • Douglas Luiz
  • Manuel Ugarte
  • Granit Xhaka
  • Yves Bissouma
  • Sergio Busquets
  • Sandro Tonali
  • Stanislav Lobotka
  • Rúben Neves
  • Konrad Laimer
  • Youssouf Fofana
  • Wataru Endo
  • Edson Alvarez
  • Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa