Best attacking midfielders in the world today

Perhaps the most romantic position on the pitch, supporters have always loved a mercurial attacking midfielder. So with 2023/24 nearly at an end, here are our top five best attacking midfielders in the world today

Kaka was one of the best attacking midfielders in the world
Kaka was one of the best attacking midfielders in the world – Photo by Icon Sport

The history books are full of magical attacking midfielders, often wearing the mythical number 10 shirt. Kaka, Juan Roman Riquelme, Mesut Özil, Diego Maradona, Gheorge Hagi, Michel Platini. The list goes on.

Now though, attacking midfielders are having to adapt to the demands of the modern game. Take it from an expert. James Rodriguez, who was one of the last classic number 10s, playing for Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and even Everton.

Rodriguez says: “Every kid wants to become a number 10 but that position doesn't really exist anymore.”

It is true that relatively few top sides with a classic number 10 anymore, with many instead playing a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. However, that doesn’t mean that attacking midfielders aren’t still incredibly important.

In this top five, we’ll look at the best attacking midfielders plying their trade today.

Florian Wirtz is now a household name – Photo by Icon Sport

Best attacking midfielders in the world: our top five

5. Florian Wirtz

Kicking things off is Bayer Leverkusen prodigy, Florian Wirtz.

Wirtz is on the precipice of an incredible unbeaten treble with Bayer Leverkusen. He has been instrumental in their success, with 18 goals and 19 assists.

He plays an interesting role for Leverkusen, floating in one of the two free roles behind the striker in Xabi Alonso’s 3-4-2-1 system, with the licence to drop into deep midfield and progress the ball as well as providing end product.

Wirtz is constantly involved for Leverkusen. He has superb control with either foot and is supremely creative, with 6.6 shot-creating actions per game. 

He has developed a taste for goalscoring too, as illustrated by his rasping effort for Germany against France in March.

Wirtz is versatile and intelligent enough to play a variety of roles, but his current free role is clearly the best way to maximise his incredible talent.

(Photo by Philippe Ruiz/Xinhua) – Photo by Icon sport

4. Jamal Musiala

Staying with German wunderkinds, Jamal Musiala has been lighting up the highest levels of football with his mesmeric dribbling for several years.

21-year-old Musiala has been a regular for Bayern Munich since his teenage years. Despite the Bavarian giant’s tumultuous season, Musiala has had his best campaign yet.

Ever since his debut for Bayern as a 17-year-old, Musiala’s dribbling skill has been incredibly evident. The attacking midfielder can beat anyone one-on-one, and has been compared to Messi for his ability to ghost past players, particularly in tight spaces.

This ability always allowed Musiala to work himself into superb areas and progress the ball, but he had been accused of lacking end-product.

But this season, Musiala has put those accusations to bed, perhaps learning from new signing Harry Kane.

Along with Florian Wirtz, Musiala will hope to fire Germany to a home Euros win this summer

Foden has stepped up another level this season – Photo by Icon Sport

3. Phil Foden

There has never been any doubting Phil Foden’s talent. When Pep Guardiola describes you as the “most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager”, people tend to take notice.

And Foden had been superb in his young career to this point already, getting at least 14 goals and assists per season for City. Foden played many of his minutes in wide areas however, with his manager seemingly hesitant to trust Foden as a number eight in his 4-3-3 system.

But this season, Foden has finally been given the licence to play in attacking midfield, and he has shone.

He has already been awarded the Football Writers’ Player of the Year accolade, and may win yet more individual honours. He has scored 24 goals and has notched 12 assists in all competitions. 

Foden has been the ‘main man’ many times for City this season, with one such example being when he scored a hat-trick from midfield against high-flying Aston Villa.

Foden possesses the magical technique of old-school number 10s like those mentioned at the top of this article. We can only hope Pep Guardiola continues to allow Foden to express himself.

Jude Bellingham
(Photo by Guillermo Martinez / SOPA Images/Sipa USA) – Photo by Icon sport

2. Jude Bellingham

Edging out Phil Foden is his England teammate, Jude Bellingham.

Before this season, the 20-year-old wasn’t considered an attacking midfielder, with much of his time at Borussia Dortmund being spent deeper.

But Carlo Ancelotti, in a characteristically liberating masterstroke, saw Bellingham’s potential to be the perfect modern number 10, often roaming behind Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Since his move to Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund last summer, the England star has scored 22 and assisted 10 more. An incredible return. 

The 20-year-old is a powerful yet graceful carrier of the ball, can find a killer pass, rarely gives it away and is relentless out of possession, helping his team pin their opponents back with a suffocating press.

Bellingham is also developing a knack for scoring when needed most. He has scored against Barcelona in both league Clasicos this campaign, netted Champions League winners against Napoli and Union Berlin, and scored crucial goals for England too.

Already one of the world's best players, and with so many years ahead of him, the player Bellingham could become is awe-inspiring.

Phil Foden is a great player… but he owes much of his place on this list to Kevin De Bruyne – Photo by Icon Sport

1. Kevin De Bruyne

There is simply no peer for Kevin De Bruyne right now, and if Belgium win the Euros, he will surely have something to do with it. The 32-year-old has missed half of this season, but has still been utterly indispensable to Manchester City.

De Bruyne’s super power is his ability to strike a ball with incredible accuracy, power and swerve, off either foot. His back-catalogue of supernatural-looking passes is near endless.

The Manchester City man uses his unique skill to score from range too. This season, De Bruyne has scored or assisted every 66 minutes.

But De Bruyne is not just a man with a pair of cannons for feet. The Belgian works hard off the ball, and is deceptively physical. He can also carry the ball surprisingly fast, making him a killer on the break as well as in settled play.

William Evans is a football and politics fanatic. A first-class graduate of UEA's Broadcast and Digital Journalism MA course, he also achieved a first class degree in politics and media studies during his time at UEA.