6 Defensive Midfielders with a Rising Stock in World Football
With the defensive midfield position just as revered and important as ever, here are six players making some serious waves in world football in the role.
All six are capable of playing at the highest level either now or in the future, and with several top clubs in Europe in need of a new holding player, expect transfer rumours to dog these individuals.
See who joins Benfica's Nemanja Matic on the list.
The following players narrowly missed the cut. They'd easily make it on many top lists at the position, though, so let's give them the mention they deserve.
Ignacio Camacho, Malaga
Camacho has exploded this season after drifting off the map at Atletico Madrid. He formed an incredible partnership with Jeremy Toulalan earlier in the season before the Frenchman's injury.
With Malaga in the habit of selling their stars, eyes should be cast toward the Spaniard, who has a big future in the game.
Asier Illarramendi, Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad's little anchor also has a big future in the game, and now that Philippe Montanier has started playing him, he's growing at an exponential rate.
His rise has left Ruben Pardo—another talented holding midfielder on Sociedad's books—with a limited role.
6. Sebastian Rode
Sebastian Rode has been drawing admiring glances (via Kicker.de) from Bundesliga powerhouses Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen.
Dortmund, in particular, wish to replace the aging Sebastian Kehl and think Rode's well-rounded game would suit Juergen Klopp's system.
He is rated as Kicker's sixth-best midfielder in the BuLi this season, behind only a host of top stars such as Mario Goetze and Toni Kroos.
For one so young, he shows aggression and temperament at the right times, looks a blossoming athlete and gets into scoring positions despite possessing a defence-first attitude.
5. Sven Bender
Borussia Dortmund have plenty of options at holding midfield, but with Sebastian Kehl slowing down and Nuri Sahin taking a sabbatical, Sven Bender emerged from the shadows.
He and Ilkay Gundogan have produced the iconic holding pivot—the playmaker and creator paired with the defender and tracker.
Of all holding mifielders in world football, very few (if any) can track a man like Bender.
Fernando has made over 100 appearances for FC Porto and pulled in three Liga Sagres titles—but no one outside of the Portuguese aficionado community even give him the light of day.
He's a well-polished 25-year-old defensive midfielder with exceptional timing when it comes to tackling, and Porto's exploits in the UEFA Champions League this year helped him catch the eye.
He tracks well and looks one hell of an athlete, capable of going box-to-box in rapid fashion while still in control of the situation.
3. Maxime Gonalons
Maxime Gonalons is an integral part of a surprisingly effective Lyon package.
Why is success for les Gones surprising? Because they sell all of their players at the first opportunity, creating an unstable environment and thus placing an onus on academy stars to "make it."
Gonalons is the anchor in a solid midfield that, for the most part, bottle-necked Tottenham for 179 minutes in the UEFA Europa League. He's tactically aware, positionally brilliant and doesn't try anything over the top.
He'll attract a lot of interest this summer, and Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas will probably cash in.
2. Nemanja Matic
Perhaps the defensive midfielder who has gained the most in the past 12 months, Nemanja Matic is a star on the rise.
B/R commenter and Benfica fan Jon Mancini had plenty of positives to string out about the Serbian, who was transferred to the Eagles as part of the David Luiz deal:
He has been a huge upgrade from Javi Garcia (who departed for Manchester City in 2012).
He is excellent technically, distributes the ball superbly, he is dominant in the air, extremely energetic, and much better defensively than the Spaniard.
He has been our MVP this season by some distance.
Matic is destined to become one of the world's best defensive midfielders, and Benfica will either build a team around him or receive some serious cash in exchange.
1. Morgan Schneiderlin
Morgan Schneiderlin signed a four-year extension in January, and Southampton fans will be relieved they've tied their Frenchman down for a few more wonderful seasons.
He's been excelling for years, and it's no surprise to see him take the English Premier League by storm, such is his incredible talent level.
He's calm in possession and distributes the ball with ease, but it's the work he does off the ball that raises the eyebrows. He's rampant in his hassling and harrying, and the amount of balls he recovers per game is insane.
Morgan might not be the strongest midfielder of the six—with Nemanja Matic the fastest-rising and Maxime Gonalons the most fancied—but his stock is highest due to his participation in the EPL.