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Situated in the heart of every great team is always a truly special central midfielder who is capable of taking matches by the scruff of their neck and dominating them.
Some midfielders are specialists in the holding role, others have an uncanny knack of scoring goals but every so often a player comes along that can excel in all areas. A prime example of this particular species has to be this week’s ArsenalFCBlog’s interviewee Cesc Fabregas.
To accompany this excellent exclusive interview I thought it would be fun to run the rule over the game’s finest all-round midfielders. Here’s my personal top five, as of today…
1 – Andres Iniesta
Suddenly the apple of everyone’s eye after a number of years striving to impress the masses, Barcelona’s wonderfully gifted midfielder is now a complete player. Strictly speaking he’s not utilised as a straight forward central midfielder too often by club or country but that doesn’t mean he’s not the best in the business.
When utilised as a holding player for Barca, Iniesta’s anticipation and awareness allowed him to win possession of the ball more than any other player in La Liga. The statistics proved it. When deployed as a free spirit in the centre of the park the diminutive 25-year-old uses his slight frame, fluid movement, skill, poise and passing ability to destroy the opposition to great effect.
Iniesta is the quiet man of Spanish football but he knits everything together perfectly. He can score goals, he keeps possession better than anyone else and he can also defend. It’s criminal that Andres Iniesta isn’t widely regarded as the world’s best midfielder, because that’s exactly what he is.
2 – Steven Gerrard
A better talisman you will not find on the planet. It’s not easy to find any faults in Gerrard’s make up as he is strictly speaking a perfect specimen of the modern day footballer; tall, powerful, fast, a fine tackler, hard working, technically brilliant and a scorer of goals. On top of all that he also happens to be one of the most inspirational players of his generation.
The only fault I can see is Gerrard’s perceived lack of application towards international football. He seems all too happy to take a back seat at times for his country, playing with a slight inhibition compared to when he’s wearing the red shirt of Liverpool. He’s still one of the most dangerous players in the world though, whoever he’s playing for.
3 – Xavi
A big game playmaker who rises to the occasion every time he needs to. Essentially a holding midfielder Xavi is actually much more than that. His movement and passing are so slick that he’s almost untouchable in possession. He’s even better than Paul Scholes was at his peak and that is some accolade, as I was a massive Scholesy fan!
At 29, he is now a mature footballer but there are no signs of him being on the slide. This guy treats the ball as if it’s his friend and you have to put him up there with the world’s best.
4 – Cesc Fabregas
It shows how good Spain are for Cesc to be ranked their third best midfielder! He would be number one in almost every other country. I’ve seen this guy play numerous times in the flesh and he rarely fails to shine.
What impresses me most about the Gunners skipper is his mature decision making and effortless movement. Always moving, always wanting the ball, and always looking to create a goalscoring opportunity, he makes things happen all the time. Luis Aragones’ deployment of Fabregas as a second striker also proved that the youngster can every bit as good in the final third as he is in the middle.
5 – Daniele de Rossi
The Italian ‘Gerrard’ is a player that’s about to become a world famous name in my opinion. The 2010 World Cup will be his big chance to shine and I fully expect him to be one of the stars of the tournament.
He’s only 26 but has already amassed 50 international caps and he is the main man for the Azzuri. Freed from the defensive duties that restrict him at Roma, De Rossi is a much more potent attacking force at international level. His drive and all-round ability mark him out for me as the next big thing.
Also I’d like to give special mentions to Lampard, Essien, Alonso, Pirlo, Dzagoev, Senna, Cambiasso, Sneijder, Mascherano, Schweinsteiger and Lucas (sorry, I’m kidding there!).
That’s my view but feel free to disagree and suggest your own alternatives! Let’s discuss…