World Football: Most Effective Midfielders in England and Spain
The midfield playmaker is a must for all top sides in the modern game.
The man pulling the strings and weaving the magic for his side requires cunning, craft, and creativity.
Good movement, vision and the ability to read the game are vital. Perhaps most crucially of all, though, the playmaker doesn't have to be a physical beast to take the game by the scruff of the neck. While energy is vital, the top playmakers run the match effectively using brains, not brawn.
The article compiles an efficiency report showing the impact of different types of midfield playmaker in La Liga and the Premier League, with Arsenal maestro Cesc Fabregas and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo topping the list.
The report calculates which midfielders in the English and Spanish top divisions are the most likely to score or create a goal. Weighing up the number of goals and assists contributed with the number of minutes played, Fabregas and Ronaldo are the most efficient midfielders this season in all club competitions.
Guile and style are essential attributes for the role, but nowadays the playmaker comes in different guises. And we have picked out six players, who all have something slightly different to offer in the role.
You can see the full report below as well as profiles of six of this season's top midfielders so far.
Each player highlighted possesses different strengths and skills which help to dominate the midfield.
You can see all types of statistical reports at the IMScouting Special Report section. You can also calculate your own reports at the IMScouting report generator, which creates instant comparisons of players and teams from every league in the world to help you better analyze the game.
The Visionary Playmaker: Cesc Fabregas
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Think Cesc Fabregas and you think of one of the world's top players. Amazingly, Fabregas has won the European Championship and the World Cup and is still only 23-years-old. There is plenty more to come from the Spanish midfield maestro.
He is quite simply a superb passer of the ball and is one of those rare players able to dictate the pace and flow of the game. Fabregas is able to do so without being the most physically imposing of players. He has picked up a single yellow card this season and has shown that he can dominate the middle of the park without brute force. His ability to pick out a pass makes him a joy for strikers to play with and helps explain the four goals that he has already created this season.
In the last year, Fabregas has added a real eye for goal to his repertoire. Many midfielders influence the game without necessarily getting among the goals – not Fabregas. He has followed an exceptional 19 goals last term with 4 strikes already this season.
The Free-Scoring Dynamo: Cristiano Ronaldo
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Club: Real Madrid
Efficiency rating: Goal or assist every 61.8 minutes
Cards: 3 yellow
If you are looking for a player to inject pace, dynamism and goals to the attacking third, Ronaldo is your man. His talent has never been in question, but he has progressed over the last few years from a promising, skillful winger to the complete attacking midfielder.
Blessed with pace when he has the ball at his feet, Ronaldo is more than likely to glide past several defenders. Even if his own close control and dribbling ability cannot find a route to goal, he has developed the awareness to pick out a team-mate. Ronaldo is the type of player who possesses the flair and imagination to change things on the pitch and an incredible 11 goals and five assists this season are testament to that.
Strong in the air, Ronaldo is a threat wherever he is. None more so than from free-kicks, which have become his trademark. His dynamic talent is symbolized by his very own unique free-kick style, combining exceptional power and bend with very little back-lift to leave goalkeepers with very little chance.
The Technical Wide Man: Andrey Arshavin
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Efficiency rating: Goal or assist every 87.1 minutes
There are few whose technique can compare to Russian star Arshavin. When he receives the ball out wide, he is likely to make something happen. His close control and pace ensure that he is able to leave defenders trailing, opening up space from which he can usually pick out a killer pass. Arshavin already has six assists to his credit this season.
He also has an unerring eye for goal and is keen to display his powerful shooting ability. Arshavin is strong on either foot, and his four goals so far this season show what an impact he can make.
There are plenty of midfielders who are able to threaten the opposition once they have the ball. What Arshavin also does particularly well is to move off the ball in order to find the space in which he can be found. He is a fantastic outlet for any side and his technical ability combined with goalscoring prowess ensures that he can truly influence a game.
The in-the-Hole Playmaker: Rafael Van Der Vaart
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
It's proving to be nothing short of a remarkably shrewd bit of business by Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp snapping up Van Der Vaart just as the curtain was being drawn on the summer transfer window. With five goals and an assist this season, the Dutchman has been superb for Spurs so far and is a key component of their attacking play.
Van Der Vaart is a creative hub, who revels in his role just behind the front man, from where he drifts right and left, making him nearly impossible to contain . He is a smart and technically skilled player, with a brilliant first touch, fantastic finishing ability, deadly free-kicks and great vision for the killer pass.
Despite his Champions League red card, Van Der Vaart is a generally a cool customer, who relies on his technique, mental strength and determination to outwit his opponents. He is a real match winner.
The Deep-Lying Playmaker: Jack Wilshere
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
A real gem for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and the player who could well make the Three Lions roar once more.
Wilshere is a clever, creative midfielder, who usually operates behind a midfielder trio. With maturity than belies his years, the two-footed teen can dictate the play from his deep position.
Although not an imposing presence physically, Wilshere stamps his authority on games using his superb technique, excellent vision and great footballing brain.
With a dribble, pass or late burst into the box, Wilshere can slice open the defence – skills exemplified by his Champions League goal against Shakhtar Donetsk and his four assists this season.
The Free-Flowing Winger: Juan Mata
David Ramos/Getty Images
Club: Valencia CF
Efficiency rating: Goal or assist every 160 minutes
Cards: 3 yellow
A versatile, clever player with tremendous potential.
Mata is a left winger by nature, but his playmaking abilities make him equally adept as a striker and in every other offensive position.
He is capable of scoring goals and putting chances on a plate for his teammates due to his amazing speed, technique and high game-intelligence.
Mata can run the match from his position by his pure skill, and has scored once and provided three assists so far this term.
The young Spaniard is a real handful for defenders, with speed and dribbling abilities of very highest calibre.
He also strikes the ball sweetly and has great composure in front of goal.