Italy's Serie A: Top 10 Best Midfielders This Season
Last week, we spoke about Arturo Vidal, his importance to Juventus and the play of his partner in midfield, Andrea Pirlo.
In this follow-up story, we'll take a look at some of the top midfielders around the Serie A so far this season to find out where the Chilean international ranks.
Italian football is experiencing some turbulence in the wake of the Scommessopoli scandal that rocked the country last year. Yet for all of the bad press the league seems to be taking, its competitiveness is shining bright.
The level of play has been outstanding so far this season, making this list even harder to compile. The representatives on the European level are putting together solid performances, showing everyone that Italian football is on its way back and should not be taken lightly.
This article will only look at true midfielders. For example, someone like AS Roma's Erik Lamela might be enjoying a fantastic season, but he's more of a forward than a midfielder.
We'll subject every player to both a statistical analysis and the eye test to determine where exactly he fits on the list.
All statistics used are courtesy of Whoscored.com.
Any list is subject to the opinion of the author that created it, so there are bound to be inclusions or omissions you don't agree with. If so, please let us know in the comment section. We'll be happy to debate the subject for hours if we have to, and you might be able to get your player on the list if your case is compelling enough.
So sit back and take a look at our top 10 midfield performers in the Serie A this season.
Notable Mention: Riccardo Montolivo
Riccardo Montolivo had the game of his life against Juventus and seems to be turning the corner for his new team, AC Milan.
Yet his start to the season was average at best, and Milan still find themselves well below their usual position in the table.
If Montolivo keeps up the standards he has set in the past few weeks, he will no doubt find his way on to this list.
Notable Mention: Kwadwo Asamoah
Kwadwo Asamoah has been the exact opposite of Montolivo: He had an incredible start to the season but has cooled off a bit in recent weeks.
He's still learning how to play on the left wing, and it's showing. Defenders seem to have figured out that for all of his pace and power, he always uses the same trick to get open on the wing and fire in a cross.
Asamoah has all the potential in the world, so I don't doubt he'll pick up his game again and will be on this list by the time the season draws to an end.
10: Juan Quintero
One goal, two assists, 87.1 pass success percentage, 7.09 rating.
Juan Quintero has been one of the few bright spots for Serie A newcomers Pescara. Tasked with replacing Marco Verratti, the Colombian quickly took command of the Biancazzurri midfield and hasn't looked back since.
His hot start for Pescara hasn't gone unnoticed around Italy, with Goal.com reporting interest from Juventus, Inter Milan and Napoli.
A set-piece specialist with an eye for goal and a good dribble in his feet, it looks like the sky is the limit for this young midfielder.
9: Daniele Conti
One assist, 2.5 tackles and interceptions/game, 88.8 pass success percentage, 7.4 rating.
Some players just fly under the radar because of what they do on the field, and Daniele Conti is one of those players.
He might get overshadowed by Radja Nainggolan in the Cagliari midfield at times, but his contributions to the team can not be underestimated.
With an average of 2.5 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game, Conti has established himself as a defensive force, but at the same time he's completing 88.8 percent from his passes while averaging a respectable 66.3 per game.
That's the definition of a two-way player right there.
8: Luca Cigarini
Two goals, one assist, 3.6 tackles/game, 7.41 rating
Another player that belongs on the underrated list, Luca Cigarini's efforts for Atalanta are hard to deduce from the numbers.
Nicknamed "Il Professore" for his incredible vision, Cigarini has been compared to Andrea Pirlo on more than one occasion.
But with his tireless running and great attitude on the field, he's very much his own player and one of the main reasons his team currently finds themselves in the 10th spot on the table.
7: Arturo Vidal
Five goals, two assists, 5.3 tackles/game, 7.71 rating
If it weren't for his tendency to get hot and cold in the blink of an eye, Arturo Vidal could very well have taken the top spot on this list.
The Chilean has become one of the most important players Juventus have on their roster with his incredible work ethic in midfield. He's an expert ball winner that can contribute on the offensive side as well and serves as the perfect partner to Andrea Pirlo.
It pains me to rank him this low, but the other players on this list have simply been better and more consistent.
6: Marek Hamsik
Six goals, five assists, 2.4 key passes per game, 7.65 rating.
Marek Hamsik remains a very frustrating player to watch, but he's been good enough this season to warrant a spot on this list.
He has a tendency to disappear at times and played a horrible game against Juventus.
But for all of his faults, he does have six goals and five assists to his name. He's one of the driving forces behind Napoli and will play a key role in their quest for the league title.
If Hamsik could get some consistency in his game, he could easily crack the top three of this list.
5: Borja Valero
One goal, five assists, 86.5 pass success percentage, 7.27 rating
Borja Valero had a bit of a slow start to the season, but he's been Fiorentina's top performer over the past month.
The Spaniard is another one of those tireless workers in midfield whose contributions often go overlooked, mainly because he has Stevan Jovetic playing in front of him.
The man is a brilliant passer and Vincenzo Montella couldn't be happier having such a class player running his midfield.
Montella deserves every bit of credit he receives for the way Fiorentina is currently playing, but it wouldn't be possible without Valero.
4: Esteban Cambiasso
One goal, three assists, 85 pass success percentage, 7.27 rating.
Esteban Cambiasso's numbers might be slightly less impressive than those of other players, but he is the engine that runs Inter Milan's midfield, and it was his play that powered his team to an upset win over Juventus that saw the Bianconeri's unbeaten streak end at 49 games.
It feels like the Argentinian has been around forever, but despite his age, he's still playing at an incredibly high level.
For all the attention Inter's revamped defense is getting, people seem to overlook the impact Cambiasso has on the Nerazzurri. His vision and positioning is what sets up the defense to begin with.
3: Valon Behrami
89.5 pass success percentage, 5.8 tackles/game, 7.22 rating
Valon Behrami is like a moving wall that knows how to pass if that makes any sense.
He's been Napoli's best player this season (yes, even better than Edinson Cavani) and arguably the most important component of a team that ranks second in the Serie A table.
He works hard to present his fellow players with a reliable target to pass the ball to, and his statistics show just how good of a passer he really is.
His defensive efforts are the best in the league from a midfielder bar none and are the reason he makes the top three of this list.
Even if you don't get enough credit: Valon Behrami, I salute you.
2: Andrea Pirlo
Three goals, three assists, 2.9 key passes/game, 8.9 accurate long balls/game, 7.91 rating.
What is there left to say about Andrea Pirlo?
Time doesn't seem to affect him, as once again he's the driving force behind league-leaders Juventus.
He doesn't dictate the offense of the Bianconeri; he dictates the entire game.
A passing genius with a knack for scoring free kicks, we should all feel blessed we get to watch a player of this calibre do his thing week in and week out.
How good has he been? He would be my pick for the Ballon d'Or.
Six goals, three assists, 85.8 pass success percentage, 7.89 rating.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my top midfielder in the Serie A so far this season.
Hernanes has been sensational for Lazio Roma, doing everything you'd expect from a centre midfielder.
Whether it's scoring, dribbling, distributing the ball or defending, the Brazilian can do it all. He has the vision to roam around midfield, the pace to break inside from the wing and the scoring potential to play in or near the box.
He'll unleash his patented long shot whenever he has the chance, and as a defender, you'd be wise not to give him an opening.
Hernanes is a well-rounded midfielder with no real weaknesses, and he's been showing everyone exactly what he can do in 2012. And as a result, he tops my list.
Disagree with the names on this list or the order in which the players are presented? Be sure to let us know in the comment section!