10 of the Best Counterattacking Midfielders in European Football

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

10 of the Best Counterattacking Midfielders in European Football

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    Modern football has developed a feeling among many that possession is the key to victory.

    While Barcelona have set a blueprint for others to follow, you can never underestimate the value of players capable of counterattacking with speed and precision.

    Here are 10 of Europe's finest counterattacking midfielders, wingers and wide men.

Xabi Alonso

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    Such is the accuracy of Xabi Alonso's pass, he can instantly initiate a counterattack from anywhere on the field.

    That's what Jose Mourinho has had him do during the Clasico matchups against Barcelona for years now, and he frequently hits the space in behind one of the full-backs to release Cristiano Ronaldo

Yaya Toure

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    There are few players in world football more trustworthy in taking care of the ball than Yaya Toure.

    When he wins it deep or carries it out for a corner, the Ivorian will power his way up the field with speed and strength and scare the life out of back-pedaling defenders. 

Arturo Vidal

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    Arturo Vidal is one of the world's best shuttlers and forms an important part of Juventus' "MVP" midfield.

    The Chilean—through his time in a 4-4-2 diamond, a 3-5-2, a 3-4-3 and time exposed to Marcelo Bielsa—has become a physical engine that never stops running.

    He combines close control with commitment, determination and spacial awareness to great effect. 

Eden Hazard

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    We all knew how good Eden Hazard was in and around the penalty area when his side were controlling the tempo, but his debut for Chelsea brought an entirely different side out of him.

    With the Blues struggling to maintain possession under Roberto Di Matteo, the Belgian showed his lightning-fast decision-making process and top-end speed. 

Lucas Moura

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    In Paris Saint-Germain's odd 4-2-2-2 formation, they drop into compact banks of four when defending and break with explosive pace on the counter.

    Lucas Moura, les Parisiens' new starlet, is being deployed on the right-hand side and given the task of dragging his team out of their own half. And he's doing it well. 

Moussa Sissoko

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    In his early days at Toulouse, Moussa Sissoko was one of the finest, most athletic and most committed box-to-box midfielders in Europe.

    He went stale in France, but Newcastle United had reinstalled the vigour his game was lacking, and he now represents an immense threat surging forward.

    He's already shown some of his best qualities in the Premier League, providing quick through-balls for Papiss Cisse to finish and rinsing Ashley Cole for pace and power in the counterattack. 

Thomas Mueller

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    The entire English nation groaned when Thomas Mueller stuck away Germany's third in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 matchup.

    Why? It was a textbook counterattacking goal from the ever-impressive young German side with the Bayern midfielder starting and finishing it. And it had been coming all game long.

    From there, Mueller has improved immeasurably and has become one of the finest players in the world.

Claudio Marchisio

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    The second part of Juventus' "MVP" midfield, I recently rated Claudio Marchisio the best midfield shuttler in world football.

    He, like Arturo Vidal, is superb in any area of the pitch but has become particularly accustomed to bringing the ball out quickly from deep positions. 

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo is an incredible athlete.

    He covers the pitch from goal to goal in around 10 seconds and often finishes moves he starts at full speed.

    The fact that he's able to think while he's moving so fast is astounding, and some of the goals he buries for Real Madrid and Portugal would have a regular person suffering multiple heart attacks if they attempted such runs. 

Gareth Bale

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    Gareth Bale has become one of the most explosive attacking players in world football.

    He's transformed as a player this season, but we all remember the night he rinsed Maicon at the San Siro on his way to scoring a hat-trick.

    Raw speed, accurate crossing and now a shooting threat too. What more can you ask?