Best midfielders in the world today: Bellingham shoots up the list

No player on the pitch exerts more influence on their side than the central midfielder.

At the spatial heart of their teams, the best midfielders in the world can do everything. They help their team defend in their own third, progress the ball up the pitch in the middle third, control the flow of the game, and contribute match-winning moments in the final third.

Of course, there are different balances of these qualities in the best midfielders, but the best can do it all.

Best midfielders in the world today: our top five

5. Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva is Pep's Swiss army knife – Photo by Icon Sport

Bernardo Silva has long been touted as one of the world's most underrated players, but somehow, it is still true.

The Portuguese is one of Pep Guardiola's most reliable players in his Manchester City machine.

Silva has inimitable skill in tight spaces, escaping pressure with ease. He has an irrepressible engine, often outrunning everyone else in the City squad and doing more than his fair share of work off the ball.

The 29-year-old’s incredible versatility is a huge quality. He has played as deep as #6, as a traditional #8, a goalscoring #10, a wide playmaker and even as a false nine. It is testament to his intelligence and feel for the game that the diminutive Portuguese can play so many roles.

Silva doesn’t lack end product. Along with 61 career assists, the playmaker has an eye for a big goal too – his brace against Real Madrid last season sent City on the way to the Champions League final.

4. Martin Ødegaard

Ødegaard can thread any pass – Photo by Icon Sport

A teenage prodigy, Martin Ødegaard was one of the most hyped youngsters of all time when he moved to Real Madrid aged 15.

After a series of false starts in Spain, Ødegaard has found a home in North London, and has been one of the world’s best midfielders this season.

Martin Ødegaard runs the Arsenal show. Among midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues, the 25-year-old is number one for passes into the penalty area, through balls, chances created from open play and is third for progressive passes.

Arsenal’s captain is a joy to watch, full of flair and delightful moments of skill that get Emirates Stadium on their feet. 

He starts Arsenal’s build up, works the ball up the pitch, and is often on hand to contribute a match-winning goal or assist with his magical left foot. Since the start of 2022/23, the Norway captain has scored 26 goals and assisted a further 16.

Ødegaard is no slouch off the ball either. The midfielder pushes up and leads Arsenal’s press with ferocity.

3. Kevin de Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne is still one of the best midfielders in the world – Photo by Icon Sport

No list of elite midfielders would be complete without Kevin de Bruyne. 

The 32-year-old Belgian has missed half of this season, but has still been utterly indispensable to Manchester City’s charge for a fourth successive Premier League title.

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, making him deadly in the final third. 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.

2. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham: Already a Galactico – Photo by Icon Sport

Well ahead of schedule, Jude Bellingham only narrowly misses out on the top spot of our list.

At just 20, Bellingham has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in the world, with an incredible big game record. 

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

He has scored against Barcelona in both league Clasicos this campaign, netted Champions League winners against Napoli and Union Berlin, and scored a crucial goal for his country against Belgium.

Bellingham already has the aura of a Madrid hero, but he is much more than just a provider of big moments.

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.

With so many years ahead of him, the player Bellingham could become is awe-inspiring.

1. Rodri

Rodri is one of the best midfielders in the world
Rodri is the complete package – Photo by Icon Sport

Narrowly beating out Bellingham is Rodri, who has not lost any of the last 73 City games in which he's completed 90 minutes. In short, he is totally undroppable.

When the Spanish metronome is missing, Manchester City suffer. Rodri was absent in all of  City’s three Premier League defeats this season.

Perhaps besides speed, Rodri has everything you could wish for in a deep midfielder. He is a fine tackler, reads the game incredibly well and shields the defence with his interceptions.

On the ball, he has a variety to his passing. He always knows which technique to use, and passes sympathetically to his teammates. He is able to slow the game down, or inject speed depending on what his side needs, and he never gives it away as evidenced by his 91.8% pass accuracy, the highest on this list.

He is the heartbeat of his team, averaging 111 passes per game. But the 27-year-old also knows how to contribute in the final third, often on the biggest of occasions.

Last season, Rodri scored the winner in the Champions League final. This season, he has been even more consistent, with eight goals and 13 assists.

The third Manchester City player on our list, it is perhaps testament to the importance of midfield that City have been Europe's best side for years.

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William Evans

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.