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World Transfer Rumours: The Top 15 Midfielders Real Madrid Should Buy

Jared DublinAnalyst IIMay 26, 2011

World Transfer Rumours: The Top 15 Midfielders Real Madrid Should Buy

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    ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 19:  Daniele De Rossi of Roma  in action during the Tim Cup match between Roma and Lazio at Stadio Olimpico on January 19, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Real Madrid's 8-1 victory over Almeria on Saturday marked the end of their season. Los Blancos tasted Copa del Rey success and a deep run in the Champions League. However, the club was still unable to dethrone the great Barcelona.

    With their sights set on a monumental 10th Champions League trophy next year, Madrid and manager Jose Mourinho will be looking to add quality to the current group of players.

    The Portuguese manager has apparently won the political battle in the Spanish capital, with the departure of Jorge Valdano due to a restructuring of the club. In other words, President Florentino Perez is giving Mourinho full control of player transfers.

    Madrid have already made three signings, acquiring Borussia Dortmund's Nuri Sahin, Bayern Munich's Hamit Altintop and Espnayol's Jose Callejon.

    Sahin is a playmaking central midfielder with the potential to become one of the best in Europe. It is still unclear how the Turkish star will fit into Mourinho's plans for next season. Xabi Alonso has cemented his place in the starting 11, and Sahin does not have the defensive qualities to be an effective holding midfielder.

    The other new signings have not addressed Mourinho's deficiencies at the defensive midfield position either. Altintop can play on either flank or in the middle, but he will most likely be a role player at Madrid. Callejon has developed into a pacy winger in his time at Espanyol, and will add depth to the current squad.

    Mourinho will still be searching for the ideal defensive midfielder to partner Alonso at the heart of Madrid's midfield.

    The Spanish midfielder has exceptional vision and range of passing. Alonso is the metronome of Madrid, dictating the team's tempo and rhythm. When given time and space, he can pick apart defenses and spread the play with sweeping cross-field passes.

    Against the stronger teams in Spain and Europe, Alonso became less of an attacking influence. Opposing midfielders would pressure the Spaniard high up the pitch, forcing his midfield partner to assume more responsibility dictating play.

    The Spaniard is a key part of Madrid's possession play, and Mourinho will be looking to get the best out of his star pass-master.

    Unimpressed by Khedira and Diarra, the club is in search of a more dynamic player to partner Alonso in midfield. Mourinho wants to reinforce the midfield, and his primary focus will be strong defensive qualities. However, the ideal midfielder for Madrid will have the tenacity to complement Alonso's style of play and the technical ability to facilitate and orchestrate.

    In compiling a list of targets, there were multiple aspects, such as age and transfer fee, that factored into the final rankings.

    The following are the top 15 midfielders that Madrid should buy in this summer's transfer window.

15. Moussa Sissoko

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    TOULOUSE, FRANCE - AUGUST 15:  Javier Mascherano of Liverpool battles with Moussa Sissoko of Toulouse during the Champions League first leg of the third qualifying round match between Toulouse and Liverpool at the Stade Municipal Haute-Garonne on August 1
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Name: Moussa Sissoko

    Age: 21

    Club: Toulouse

    Nationality: French

    Projected Transfer Fee: €16-21 million

    Strengths

    • Athleticism
    • Work-rate
    • Pace
    • Strength

    Although only 21 years old, Sissoko has a bright future ahead of him. The midfielder has all the tools to become an elite defensive midfielder.

    Sissoko has been dubbed "The Next Patrick Vieira," for his defensive qualities and box-to-box style of play. The Frenchman has great technical skills and an eye for a pass, which complements his physicality and pace. The Toulouse starlet is strong in the tackle, and uses his athleticism to boss the midfield.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Heading
    • Shooting
    • Tackling
    • Positioning

    Standing at 6'1'', Sissoko should be a stronger presence in the air. The Toulouse midfielder has a good leap, but he lacks the heading ability to become a real aerial threat.

    While the Frenchman often gets himself in good goal-scoring opportunities, he is wasteful in front of goal. Although he scored five league goals for Toulouse, he could have easily doubled that tally.

    Sissoko's strength and athleticism make him an ideal defensive midfielder, however his tackling technique and positioning need improvement.

     

    Ranking Reason

    As one of the youngest players on the list, Sissoko lands at the No. 15 spot due to the uncertainty surrounding his development. The natural talent and athleticism is there, however he has yet to live up to his title as Vieira's natural successor. While the Toulouse midfielder may reach his full potential and emerge as a dominant midfielder, Real Madrid are not looking for unproven and raw talent to partner Xabi Alonso in the heart of midfield.

    The relatively rich transfer fee forces Sissoko down the list as well. Madrid performed one of the transfer bargains of the past season by stealing Mesut Ozil for €15 million. Therefore, it is unlikely that Mourinho and the Madrid hierarchy will pay the significant premium for the Toulouse starlet.

    Nonetheless, Sissoko deserves to be on the Madrid radar because his raw skills make him one of Europe's brightest young midfielders.

     

    Impact

    With Sissoko still developing as a holding midfielder, the Frenchman is one for the future. Mourinho will want to pair Alonso with a disciplined and battle-tested enforcer. While Sissoko could develop into such a player, he is simply not ready to start for Los Blancos. He would have a minimal impact in his first season as he would most likely feature on the bench.

    Under Mourinho, Sissoko could develop into the driving force of Madrid's midfield in years to come. The Frenchman has the athleticism and tenacity to be the defensive midfielder that Madrid have missed since the departure of Claude Makelele.

14. Alexandre Song

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30:  Alex Song of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on October 30, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Name: Alexandre Song

    Age: 23

    Club: Arsenal

    Nationality: Cameroonian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €15-17 million

    Strengths

    • Tackling
    • Work-rate
    • Breaking up opposition play
    • Retaining possession
    • Aerial presence

    Under the guidance of Arsene Wenger, Song has developed into a solid defensive midfield enforcer. The Cameroon international is a natural ball-winner. Song frequently breaks up opposition attacks, showing grit and determination in the tackle.

    Seen as a powerful defensive presence, the Arsenal midfielder has underrated passing ability. Song retains possession well and completes the vast majority of his short passes.

    In addition, the midfielder is an asset in attacking and defending set pieces with his towering leap. Song has a tremendous engine and work-rate, which are ideal qualities for players at his position.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Dives into tackles
    • Discipline
    • Positioning
    • Fouling

    Song's tough tackling style of play is one of the player's strengths, but it is also at the heart of his weaknesses. Still refining that balance of aggression and caution, the midfielder frequently dives into tackles and commits unnecessary fouls.

    His combative attitude and physical style have also led to an accumulation of yellow cards, as evident by his eight yellows in all competitions this season. Song also needs to improve his positioning and awareness, as he occasionally loses his marker in transition.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Although an ever-present in the Arsenal starting 11, Song lands at No. 14 due to his transfer fee and skill set. Only an offer ranging from €15-17 million will see Wenger parting ways with his midfield enforcer. Los Blancos spent slightly less than that on midfielder Sami Khedira last season.

    While Song is a proven defensive midfielder, he is not the ideal choice for Madrid.

    The Arsenal midfielder is a combination of Khedira and Lass Diarra, both of whom have failed to solidify a starting role. Song has the physicality and strength of Khedira, with the tenacity and tackling prowess of Diarra.

    However, Madrid are looking for a more complete defensive midfield option. Song lacks the range of passing and one-touch skills that are needed to relieve the high pressure on Alonso.

     

    Impact

    Song could make an immediate impact at Madrid and earn a spot alongside Alonso in Mourinho's first team. The Cameroonian would improve the defensive midfield position with his physicality and tackling.

    At only 23 years old, Song has yet to enter his prime footballing years, which could be bright at the Santiago Bernabeu. Mourinho's defensive focus would improve Song's positional sense and ill-advised tackling, refining his defensive qualities.

    Song could have a similar influence at Madrid as he does at current club Arsenal. The midfielder's work-rate and strength allow Fabregas and Wilshere to focus on playmaking and dictating play. Mourinho could use him to the same effect for Los Blancos, bringing defensive stability and support that will let other midfielders be more creative and attack-minded.

13. Marouane Fellaini

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29:  Marouane Fellaini of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park on August 29, 2010 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Name: Marouane Fellaini

    Age: 23

    Club: Everton

    Nationality: Belgian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €25-28 million

    Strengths

    • Size
    • Aerial dominance
    • Versatility
    • Stamina
    • Technical ability
    • Passing

    Fellaini's unique combination of physicality and technical ability makes him one of the most complete young midfielders in world football.

    Standing at 6'4'', the Everton midfielder is a formidable presence in the middle of the park. Along with his sheer size, Fellaini's afro adds additional height to the towering midfielder. The Belgian has developed into a dominant aerial force and set-piece threat.

    Due to Everton's striker crisis in recent campaigns, Fellaini was deployed in an attacking midfield role and flourished playing behind a central striker. In addition to the midfielder's impressive size and stature, the Belgian boasts incredible stamina. Fellaini's endurance allows him to consistently run the length of the pitch and cover ground as a true box-to-box midfielder.

    The Belgian distinguishes himself as a top player with his technique and passing ability. Fellaini shows composure on the ball, has an excellent first touch and plays with both feet. Everton's midfielder is still developing, but he has the potential to become a star player in the future.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Injury prone
    • Fouling
    • Concentration
    • Arrogance

    Everton have suffered from Fellaini's injuries over the past few seasons. His 2009-10 campaign was cut short due to a horror two-footed tackle from Liverpool's Sotirios Kyrgiakos, which left the Everton midfielder with ligament damage in his ankle.

    Fellaini's six-month absence was followed by another ankle injury in the latter stages of this season. The Belgian underwent surgery in March, which ruled him out for the final months in consecutive seasons.

    In addition to his injury bug, Fellaini is guilty of persistent fouling. Although his number of yellow cards has decreased with each season in English football, the midfielder still makes unnecessary challenges.

    Fellaini also needs to improve his concentration, especially when tracking back in defense. The Belgian's attitude has been the subject of criticism as well. Fellaini's self-belief borders on arrogance, which could become a problem when he moves to a bigger club packed with international superstars.

     

    Ranking Reason

    The Belgian international lands in the No. 13 spot due to his potential, size and technique. Although injuries have plagued his last two seasons in England's top flight, when fit the Everton midfielder has put on masterful displays in the heart of midfield.

    As a box-to-box midfielder, Fellaini possesses all the skills and tools to become one of Europe's best. Along with his size, the Belgian's touch and passing ability make him one of the most promising young talents in football.

    Due to Everton's financial troubles, they will most likely be forced to sell the Belgian midfielder. However, his commanding fee in the €25 million range will force Madrid to hesitate before splashing out the cash on a player still in his developmental phase.

    For Fellaini's market value, Mourinho will be looking to add proven talent and experience as he seeks a 10th Champions League trophy for Real Madrid.

    The potential is there in abundance. The Belgian could become the all-around midfield presence that Los Blancos have been seeking. While Fellaini has significant upside, his recurrent injury problems and large transfer fee are serious concerns for Madrid.

     

    Impact

    Going into the 2011-12 campaign, Fellaini could make an immediate impact with Los Blancos. The Belgian would slot next to Alonso in the heart of Madrid's midfield.

    Fellaini would provide the size, strength and work-rate to complement the playmaking and passing of Alonso. The midfielder's skill on the ball would give Madrid an extra dimension that they currently lack.

    Diarra and Khedira have been valiant in defense, but have failed to impress when in possession. Fellaini would provide that balance of strength and technical ability to alleviate the pressure on Alonso, and add to the overall quality of Madrid's midfield.

    In addition, the Belgian would be another significant threat from set pieces along with Ronaldo and Ramos.

    Still only 23 years old, a few years under Mourinho could see the Belgian improve his positional play and refine his defensive skills. If Madrid are prepared to take on the risk of spending big for an injury-prone player, Fellaini may become the team's star midfielder for years to come.

12. Javier Martinez

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 20:  Andres Inieta of FC Barcelona (R) fights for the ball against Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on February 20, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelo
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Name: Javier Martinez

    Age: 22

    Club: Athletic Bilbao

    Nationality: Spanish

    Projected Transfer Fee: €20-30 million

    Strengths

    • Defensive force
    • Size
    • Strength
    • Work-rate
    • Aerial threat

    Following his transfer to Athletic Bilbao in 2006, Martinez has emerged as the Basque side's defensive midfield enforcer. Only 22 years old, the Spanish international boasts impressive defensive qualities for such a young player.

    Standing at 6'3'', Martinez is a formidable presence in the heart of midfield, often towering over players in La Liga. The midfielder uses his strength to break up opposition play, winning most 50-50 balls and rarely pulling out of challenges.

    Martinez's combination of size and tackling makes him one of the best defensive midfielders in Spain. However, it is the high energy and work-rate that distinguish him as one to watch for the future. The Bilbao midfielder is tenacious when closing down opponents.

    The Spaniard is a threat from set pieces as well, using his height and strength to win the majority of aerial duels. Although his physical attributes set him apart as a great young talent, he is also an accomplished short and long-ball passer.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Persistent fouling
    • Touch
    • Drifting out of games

    Martinez's impressive displays earned him a call-up to Spain's 2010 World Cup squad. However, there are still aspects of his game that need improvement.

    While his hard-working and tough-tackling style of play have been key to his success as a holding midfielder, they also factor into the player's persistent fouling. Martinez received 11 yellow cards this season, which is less than his highest total of 13 in the 2007-08 campaign.

    While accomplished on the ball, the midfielder's touch can get him in trouble. Guilty of the occasional long first touch, Martinez's all-around game would benefit from improved close control.

    The Spaniard makes significant defensive contributions, however he can drift out of games. Martinez has the skill and range of passing to influence and orchestrate the attack, but he fails to do so on a regular basis.

    Although he exerts the majority of his energy trying to retrieve possession, Bilbao and future clubs would benefit from the player assuming a bigger role in the team's buildup and forward play.

     

    Ranking Reason

    The Bilbao midfielder has recently signed a contract extension that will keep him in the Basque country until 2016, but Martinez has earned the No. 12 ranking due to his defensive qualities and potential. Although fouling has been a recurrent issue for the midfielder, he possesses the raw tools to become an elite defensive midfielder.

    Martinez's defensive tenacity and determination define him as a true ball-winning midfielder. The Spaniard has solidified himself as one of the best young enforcers in world football, which places him on Madrid's shortlist of transfer targets.

    Martinez is a consistent and proven performer in La Liga, and has the potential to become a dominant force domestically and in Europe.

    The player's €40 million buy-out clause pushes him out of the top 10, as Los Blancos will have to pay a significant premium for his services. Madrid are unlikely to trigger the clause, but Bilbao will likely part ways with the player for a bid in the €20-30 million range.

    With the recent influx of non-native stars, such as Ronaldo, Benzema and Kaka, a young Spanish talent would be welcomed at the Santiago Bernabeu. Although he may not have the technical skills of Fellaini or Champions League experience of Song, Martinez is a talented, well-balanced defensive midfielder with a bright future.

     

    Impact

    Martinez would be in contention for a starting place upon his arrival in Madrid. The midfielder is similar in style to Khedira, but would be a slight upgrade from the German international. The Spaniard would provide greater support for the back line, breaking up play and hounding the opposition. In addition, Martinez displays greater passing range and ability than Khedira.

    Pairing the young midfielder with Alonso in midfield could create the Spanish backbone of Madrid's future. Martinez's style of play would elevate Alonso's overall play, and vice-versa.

    The Bilbao midfielder is the strong combative midfielder that Mourinho loves to deploy as a deep-lying enforcer. Although there is room for improvement, Martinez could be the long-term answer to Madrid's current problems at the defensive midfield position.

11. Sandro

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 05:  Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Real Madrid is challenged by Sandro of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 5,
    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Name: Sandro

    Age: 22

    Club: Tottenham

    Nationality: Brazilian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €22-25 million

    Strengths

    • Work-rate
    • Stamina
    • Strength
    • Toughness
    • Tackling

    Although the Brazilian has featured sparingly for Tottenham in his first year of English football, Sandro has shown glimpses of world-class defensive midfield play.

    Sandro's man-of-the-match performance against AC Milan in the second-leg of their Champions League tie exemplified his hard-working style of play. The Brazilian midfielder had great energy in the middle of the park, frequently breaking up Milan's buildup play.

    Sandro's success against the Italian champions and his domestic opponents is largely due to his fitness and stamina. The Brazilian's tremendous engine allows him to excel in the defensive midfield position, covering for the more creative players and shielding the defense.

    In his recent performances, Sandro has shown the strength and toughness of an elite holding midfielder. Never one to shy away from a challenge, the Brazilian uses size and power to make his presence felt in midfield.

    Although it is assumed that his tenacious style would lead to persistent fouling, Sandro boasts excellent tackling technique. The midfielder is forceful and tough in the tackle, however he rarely receives bookings due to his good timing. The former Brazil U-20 captain has shown great leadership qualities as well.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Keeping possession
    • Long passing
    • Creativity

    Sandro has the potential to become one of the world's elite defensive midfielders, however he must improve when in possession. Known primarily for his engine and tough-tackling, the Brazilian lacks the flair of his attack-minded compatriots. The Tottenham midfielder prefers to play the simple pass, rarely opting for a through ball or long cross-field ball.

    The Brazilian's short passes tend to be accurate and firm, but he has been known to hit the wayward passes. Sandro would become a more complete holding midfielder if he were to improve his long-range passing and creativity.

    While it is not his job to be the creative threat in midfield, the Brazilian frequently breaks up opposition play and springboards the counter. A greater range of passing and ingenuity would help Sandro when transitioning from defense to attack.

    The Brazilian has unbelievable talent and the potential to emerge as a dynamic holding midfielder.

     

    Ranking Reason

    While the Brazilian has barely a season of top-flight European football under his belt, Tottenham's midfield enforcer earned the No. 11 spot due to his defensive capabilities and bright future. At 22 years old, Sandro has an unique combination of toughness and tackling technique.

    Unlike Song, Fellaini and Martinez who are guilty of persistent fouling, the Brazilian performs well-timed tackles and stays away from poor challenges. As a true holding midfielder, Sandro has the strongest defensive attributes of players outside of the list's top 10.

    With his work-rate and stamina, the Brazilian has the tools to become a box-to-box threat.

    Tottenham will demand a fee in the €25 million range after the player's string of impressive performances this year. However, Mourinho will like the Brazilian's polished defensive skills and potential.

    If Madrid is willing to pay the fee, Sandro can become the player to fill Makelele's boots and more. The Brazilian has tremendous upside, and could be the lynchpin of Madrid's midfield for the next decade.

     

    Impact

    Sandro would have a lasting impact on Madrid's mentality and style of play. The Brazilian's defensive and leadership qualities could improve the Madrid midfield going into next season. With Diarra and Khedira failing to cement a starting first-team place alongside Alonso, the Tottenham midfielder could emerge as the best option of the three.

    Sandro has the tenacity and tackling technique to make the holding midfield position his own. The Brazilian's partnership with Alonso would mirror that of Mascherano and the Spaniard when the pair were at Liverpool.

    Sandro's presence in the heart of midfield will allow Alonso more freedom. The Spaniard has been forced to track back in defense, which takes away from his freedom to dictate play.

    Sandro would bring high energy and efficiency to the midfield, using his positional sense and marking to free up more creative players. Still young and developing, the Brazilian commands respect and could become a future leader for Madrid.

10. Felipe Melo

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    LECCE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 20:  Felipe Melo of Juventus during the Serie A match between Lecce and Juventus FC at Stadio Via del Mare on February 20, 2011 in Lecce, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
    Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

    Name: Felipe Melo

    Age: 27

    Club: Juventus

    Nationality: Brazilian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €15-17 million

    Strengths

    • Tackling
    • Breaking up opposition play
    • Stamina
    • Physicality
    • Athleticism

    Melo has all the physical tools to be one of the world's best defensive midfielders. The Brazilian shows great strength in the tackle, and uses his determination and persistence to frequently break up opposition play.

    Although his slide tackle often results in a booking or mistimed challenge, Melo is exceptional when intercepting or dispossessing on his feet. The Brazilian's grit and relentless pursuit make him a natural ball-winning midfielder.

    Melo covers every blade of grass on the pitch, showing unmatched energy and endurance. The Juventus midfielder's physicality and toughness define his hard-working style of play. He makes his presence felt as a true enforcer with his power, endurance and agility.

    The Brazilian is one of the most athletic midfielders in world football, which helps his all-action defensive play.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Discipline
    • Consistency
    • Keeping possession

    The Brazilian's red card in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals underlines the player's weaknesses and areas of concern. Melo has been known to have a short fuse and quick temper, as supported by his multiple red cards over the past three seasons.

    His emotions and lack of discipline have an impact on his overall form as well. Following his transfer to Juventus, Melo received heavy criticism from fans for a run of poor performances. When unsettled, the Brazilian's form takes noticeable dips, as he loses concentration and the ability to connect simple passes.

    Although he was inconsistent during his first season in Turin, when at his best, Melo can be one of the strongest defensive midfielders in Europe. The Brazilian must improve his consistency and mental fortitude.

    In addition to the psychological side of the game, Melo needs to improve his ability to keep possession. The Juventus midfielder frequently loses the ball from wayward passes or ill-advised dribbling. While he has the technique to string together simple passes, Melo will be looking to sharpen his ball skills in the peak years of his footballing career.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Melo squeezes into top, landing at No. 10 due to his bargain transfer price and athleticism. Before leaving Fiorentina for Juventus in 2009, the Brazilian was one of the hottest targets on the market.

    The giants of European football were all linked with the midfielder as his valuation continued to rise. After a world-class display at the 2009 Confederations Cup, the Turin side splashed out €25 million for the Brazilian.

    With Juventus looking to rebuild, Melo will be available for a discount this summer. Mourinho is looking for an experienced defensive midfielder, and the Brazilian could be the man for the job. Although Sandro is a similar type of player to Melo, the Juventus midfielder edges out the youngster because he has more experience and would be available for a cheaper transfer fee.

    For a team with great athletes such as Ramos, Pepe and Ronaldo, Melo would add agility and athleticism to the center of midfield. Madrid will not be looking to shell out the big money, and Melo could be the bargain buy to complete Mourinho's project.

     

    Impact

    The Brazilian's acquisition would signal a major shift in Mourinho's first-team. At 27 years old, Melo will be at his prime for the next few years. Diarra would most likely be forced out of Madrid, as Khedira would move to the bench as a role player.

    Although he offers a little bit more going forward in terms of skill and long-range shooting, the Brazilian's pairing with Alonso would be similar to the Spaniard's partnership with Diarra. Melo's passing inconsistency will allow teams to pressure Alonso high up the pitch, taking away the Spaniard's long passing and forcing him to play short, quick passes.

    Top European clubs will force Melo to assume more responsibility on the ball, which could exploit his attacking weaknesses.

    The Juventus midfielder would be a great fit in Mourinho's defensive, counter-attacking system. In the recent El Clasico series, Madrid sat back and relied on their greater athleticism to penetrate Barcelona on the counter. Melo, with his energy and strength, would flourish in that type of system.

    Madrid will be looking for the Brazilian to recover some of his Fiorentina form because his defensive attributes and overall makeup are in the Mourinho mold.

9. Esteban Cambiasso

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    MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 06:  Esteban Matias Cambiasso (R) of FC Internazionale Milano competes for the ball with Edinson Roberto Cavani of SSC Napoli during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and SSC Napoli at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Janu
    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Name: Esteban Cambiasso

    Age: 30

    Club: Inter Milan

    Nationality: Argentine

    Projected Transfer Fee: €27-30 million

    Strengths

    • Intelligence
    • Anticipation
    • Distribution
    • Experience
    • Reliability

    Cambiasso has solidified himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in world football. For both club and country, the bald warrior has given consistent world-class displays.

    After winning the treble with Mourinho's Inter Milan side, Cambiasso gained the recognition he deserves. The Argentine is one of the most intelligent midfielders in the world, anticipating and reading the game with ease. His positional play and defensive awareness make him a unique holding midfielder.

    Unlike the tough and physical enforcers that have become more commonplace, Cambiasso uses his intelligence and anticipation to protect the back line and extinguish danger in its early stages. In addition to his solid marking and defensive play, the Inter midfielder has great skill on the ball.

    Composed when in possession, Cambiasso connects the vast majority of his passes. His exceptional distribution and range of passing make him a dynamic force in the heart of midfield. Cambiasso uses his soft touch and precision passing to orchestrate and dictate his team's attacking play.

    With an unbelievable 22 titles, the midfielder's experience is an invaluable intangible. Cambiasso has experience playing at the highest levels of European and international football. He has emerged as one of the elite at his position, showing reliability and consistency throughout his career.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Lack of pace
    • Size

    The Inter midfielder has been in top form over recent seasons, and lacks any significant weaknesses. Playing domestically in Italy hides his lack of pace due to the slower tempo and tactical emphasis.

    Although he could improve his speed, Cambiasso's intelligence and reading of the game rarely put him in positions where his pace is exposed. The Argentine is not a physically imposing presence in midfield, however he makes up for his lack of size with determination.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Cambiasso may be one of the most polished and accomplished players on the list, however he falls out of the top five and into the No. 9 spot due to his high valuation and age.

    The Argentine signed for Inter in 2004 on a free transfer from Real Madrid, where he was seen as surplus to requirement. The midfielder has gone on to enjoy great success in Italy while becoming one of Inter's key players. A move back to the Spanish capital would be difficult, as his current club would demand a fee around €30 million.

    For a player that has already turned 30, it is unlikely that Los Blancos will meet Inter's asking price. The Spanish club are looking to build for the future, and have been priced out of moves for other aging players in recent summers.

    Mourinho has given Cambiasso rave reviews and would love to reunite with the Argentine. The Inter player would be an excellent addition to the Madrid, bringing world-class talent to the midfield.

     

    Impact

    The midfielder has all the skills and intangibles to take Madrid to the next level.

    Los Blancos lost out to Barcelona in La Liga and the Champions League this campaign. Cambiasso's arrival, however, could give Madrid the extra dimension to overtake their archrivals next season. The Inter midfielder would be a great influence over the young stars of Madrid, bringing experience and composure to a developing side.

    Cambiasso's positional play and ball distribution would elevate the team's overall play. Pairing with Alonso in the center of the park, the Argentine would be an additional facilitator.

    The inclusion of Cambiasso would transform Madrid's style of play, as he lacks the physicality and strength of Khedira and Diarra. Instead, employing the Argentine alongside Alonso would make the team stronger in possession and an improved attacking threat from midfield.

8. Yann M'Vila

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17:  Steven Gerrard of England is beaten to the ball by Yann M'Vila of France during the international friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Name: Yann M'Vila

    Age: 20

    Club: Rennes

    Nationality: French

    Projected Transfer Fee: €18-25 million

    Strengths

    • Athleticism
    • Tackling
    • Work-rate
    • Strength
    • Technical ability

    M'Vila has recently emerged as a special young talent after a strong domestic season with Rennes and a call-up to the French national team.

    The midfielder has impressed scouts with his athleticism and ball-winning mentality. M'Vila is tenacious and committed in the tackle, and has developed into a strong and formidable defensive enforcer.

    Although the Frenchman plays a holding midfield role, he rarely receives bookings and boasts excellent timing and tackling technique. M'Vila's physical attributes and style of play have drawn comparisons to Vieira and Makelele. The Rennes midfielder is more dynamic than both French legends, combining strong defensive qualities with the physicality and work-rate to excel as a box-to-box midfielder.

    In addition to his tenacity and tackling ability, M'Vila is an underrated passer of the ball and technical player. The Frenchman has the legs to push forward, and shows good vision when in possession. Still only 20 years old, M'Vila has a polished defensive game beyond his years and the potential to become the complete box-to-box midfield enforcer.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Lack of pace
    • Shooting
    • Unproven in Europe

    Although M'Vila is still early in his footballing development, he does not have glaring weaknesses for a defensive midfielder.

    The Rennes starlet will be looking to improve his pace, as he lacks pure recovery speed. However, his energy and defensive awareness prevent him from getting into isolated situations where his speedsters can leave him for pace.

    As the Frenchman develops as a box-to-box force, he must improve his shooting. M'Vila gets forward into great positions, but often fails to work opposing keepers.

    While the young midfielder has the potential to be a star both domestically and internationally, he lacks experience against top European opposition. He performed well for France in their friendly with England, but M'Vila has not been tested in the Champions League or against the elite European clubs.

    The Rennes midfielder has the talent and ability to become one of the best defensive midfielders, but he is still raw and unproven.

     

    Ranking Reason

    M'Vila claims the No. 8 ranking due to his polished defensive qualities, athleticism and potential. The Frenchman's determination and tackling technique have been the foundation of his rise in recent seasons.

    Rennes' young midfielder has developed into one of the premier enforcers in Ligue 1, largely due to his athleticism and work-rate. M'Vila has been linked with many of Europe's elite clubs, and Madrid will be monitoring his situation closely.

    His recent contract extension will inflate the club's valuation and asking price. Rennes will be looking for a bid in the €20 million region, which is more than reasonable for a player with M'Vila's potential.

    The fee may ward off some suitors due to the player's lack of experience, but his physicality and technical ability make the risk a solid investment. The Frenchman's aggressive defensive play would be welcomed by Mourinho.

    As a young dynamic talent, Madrid could be looking at a hybrid between Vieira and Makelele and a cornerstone for the club's future.

     

    Impact

    While the Frenchman could slot in alongside Alonso at the start of next campaign, he is more likely to be used as a role player in his first season. At 20 years old, M'Vila has yet to endure the rigors of a long European campaign and congested fixture list. Mourinho will lean towards a more experienced player as his first-choice defensive midfielder.

    Acquiring M'Vila complicates the club's situation regarding Diarra's future. The club will not want to rely on the 24-year-old Khedira and the young M'Vila as their primary holding midfield options. Therefore, Mourinho will be inclined to retain Diarra's services and sell the likes of Fernando Gago and Esteban Granero to balance the books and clear up the cluttered midfield.

    M'Vila's impact will be felt in the next few years, as he starts to gain more experience and comfort as a commanding midfielder. Madridistas will love the Frenchman's energy and appreciate his vision and passing.

    If the midfielder realizes his great potential, he could become a future star and the heartbeat of Madrid. Looking to the next few years, the Frenchman has all the talent to become one of the world's best all-purpose, box-to-box midfield enforcers.

7. John Obi Mikel

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  John Obi Mikel of Chelsea in action during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Chelsea and Marseille at Stamford Bridge on September 28, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    Name: John Obi Mikel

    Age: 24

    Club: Chelsea

    Nationality: Nigerian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €20-25 million

    Strengths

    • Tackling
    • Strength
    • Composure
    • Distribution

    Since his controversial transfer to Chelsea in 2006, Mikel has become instrumental in the London club's success. The Nigerian midfielder became one of Mourinho's favored defensive midfield options, deployed as a shield for the back four.

    Mikel's tackling earned him rave reviews as he showed why United and Chelsea were fighting so hard for the player's services. Chelsea's anchorman showed the defensive awareness and ball-winning mentality of a strong midfield enforcer. Surrounded by the likes of Essien and Makelele, Mikel's defensive qualities benefited from training with some of the world's best defensive midfielders.

    Although tough-tackling, Mikel shows great composure on the ball. The Chelsea midfielder plays a more attacking creative role for Nigeria, where his technique and touch are on display. Mikel's composure is a calming presence to the midfield, as he is excellent at retaining possession.

    The Nigerian's distribution from his deep-lying position is impressive as well. The midfielder plays excellent one-twos, and has the vision to pick a pass or switch the point of attack.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Negative passing
    • Discipline
    • Lack of pace

    Mikel has come under criticism for his negative tendencies when in possession. While the midfielder connects the vast majority of his passes, he has been seen as a weak link in the Chelsea midfield because he rarely makes forward passes.

    Mikel tends to pass the ball sideways or backwards, trying to keep possession. He has the vision and technique to make more threatening passes, but the Nigerian must take the initiative to be more positive with the ball.

    In his first seasons of English football, Mikel showed a lack of discipline that resulted in reckless challenges and red cards. He has avoided making ill-advised tackles in recent seasons, but there is still room for improvement.

    Playing in the English Premier League has also exposed the Nigerian's lack of pace. Mikel's speed often forces him to make lunging challenges on quicker players.

     

    Ranking Reason

    While he may be a surprise inclusion at the No. 7 spot, Mikel deserves a place in the top 10 due to his discounted transfer fee and defensive prowess. The Nigerian did not feature as a key player in Ancelotti's Chelsea first-team, and it is unsure how he will be used under new management.

    As Abramovich looks to sign more big-name stars, he may look to cash in on the midfielder. With Mikel receiving heavy criticism this season, the summer would be an ideal time to bring the Nigerian to Madrid. Mourinho would love to reunite with one of his key players while managing Chelsea.

    If Madrid can buy him for roughly €20 million, they would be getting a premier defensive midfielder for a bargain price. At 24 years old, Mikel still has room for improvement before reaching his prime.

    His accomplished defensive qualities and excellent distribution move him past the aging Cambiasso and young starlet M'Vila. The Nigerian has excelled in England, and his physicality and toughness would be a positive addition to the Madrid squad.

     

    Impact

    The tough-tackling Chelsea midfielder would be an upgrade at the defensive midfield position. Mikel could make an immediate impact in Madrid, and feature as the enforcing complement to Alonso.

    The player's grit and strength would give more solidity to the starting 11. He would force Diarra out of the squad, as the Nigerian boasts similar defensive attributes but is much more accomplished on the ball. While Diarra has occasionally been out of control when in possession, Mikel displays an unwavering composure on the ball. In tight spaces and under heavy pressure, the Nigerian finds the correct outlet and pressure release.

    Madrid would lose nothing defensively, but gain a more accomplished passer and distributor. In terms of style of play, Mikel is the closest match to Makelele.

    Mikel is approaching his best footballing years, and if Madrid can steal him for a discount, they could finally have their long-awaited replacement.

6. Jack Rodwell

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 16:  Jack Rodwell of Everton in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Blackburn Rovers at  Goodison Park on April 16, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Name: Jack Rodwell

    Age: 20

    Club: Everton

    Nationality: English

    Projected Transfer Fee: €25-32 million

    Strengths

    • Physicality
    • Stamina
    • Strength
    • Tackling
    • Athleticism
    • All-around play

    Although only 20 years old, Rodwell has been identified as one of the brightest young English talents of this generation. The Everton midfielder has been linked with the elite European clubs after impressive displays in the English top flight.

    Rodwell has the potential to become the ideal defensive midfielder. The Englishman has the physicality, stamina and strength to dominate as a box-to-box midfielder. With youth experience as a center back, Rodwell brings his exemplary tackling and marking to the heart of midfield.

    Although he is still in the early stages of development, the young starlet has all the raw talent to become a truly complete midfielder. He boasts great athleticism, which has been instrumental towards his success in the physically demanding English Premier League.

    While he has been rated highly for his hard-working style of play, Rodwell has underrated technical ability as well. In addition to his defensive qualities, the midfielder can pass and shoot with both feet. Rodwell's unique set of skills makes him a rare and dynamic midfield talent, with potential to become a world-class player.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Inconsistency
    • Inexperience
    • Unproven

    While the young midfielder has shown signs of his great potential in his first years with the Everton first-team, he has failed to become a consistent performer. Rodwell should be influencing games more regularly and putting on top-rate displays like that against Paul Scholes and Manchester United in the 2009 FA Cup semifinals.

    In addition, Rodwell lacks the experience of top European or international football. The midfielder has yet to play in the Champions League or earn a cap for the England national team. Still a raw talent, he is unproven on football's biggest stages.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Rodwell falls short of the top five, settling at the No. 6 slot due to his unbelievable potential and his club's financial struggles. Although consistency has been an issue, there is no doubting the youngster's talent.

    He has the physicality and defensive mentality to become a top defensive midfielder. However, Rodwell combines that with an unbelievable engine and work-rate, which give him all the tools to become a great box-to-box threat.

    Mourinho has long been an admirer of the Everton youngster, as he feels Rodwell brings a unique combination of defensive prowess, athleticism and all-around skills. With Everton's current financial problems, the club might be tempted to sell the player for €25 million, which is an absolute steal.

    Top clubs are always in search for that dynamic, complete midfielder and Rodwell has the potential to become one.

    Rodwell earns the top spot of the youngsters on the list, edging out M'Vila and Sandro. The Everton midfielder brings more physicality and versatility than either player, which is why he is one of the top players on Mourinho's shortlist.

     

    Impact

    The Englishman would be forced to embrace the role of a squad player in his first season at Madrid, as he will not likely be a part of Mourinho's first-team plans. Transitioning from the high-tempo English Premier League to the slower, more technical La Liga will take time for the young midfielder.

    Mourinho will want to watch his development carefully and have him learn from the likes of Diarra and Khedira. Rodwell's impact will be felt in the future of Madrid.

    The player's toughness and athleticism will be a great complement to Alonso's style of play. The Everton midfielder will be a commanding presence in midfield, and his ability to shield the back line and get up in support of the attack will allow Alonso more freedom.

    In La Liga, Rodwell would be a dominant force, breaking up opposition play and launching counter-attacks. The Everton midfielder's upside is limitless, as he has the potential to become one of the elite box-to-box players in world football.

    In Rodwell, Madrid could have the midfield centerpiece of the future.

5. Yaya Toure

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25:   Yaya Toure of Manchester City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the City of Manchester Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael S
    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Name: Yaya Toure

    Age: 28

    Club: Manchester City

    Nationality: Ivorian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €40-60 million

    Strengths

    • Versatility
    • Size
    • Strength
    • Pace
    • Tackling
    • Passing
    • Skill
    • Engine

    Yaya Toure's first season in England has been a resounding success, as the Ivorian was an integral part of Manchester City's third-place finish and Champions League qualification. Although many were surprised by Roberto Mancini's decision to play him in a more advanced midfield role, Toure's impressive displays vindicated the manager's use of the player.

    The City midfielder's physical attributes are off the charts. Standing at roughly 6'4'', size, strength and tough tackling were key factors in his rise as a defensive midfield enforcer at Barcelona. However, in his first season with City, Toure's advanced role showed the player's blinding pace. Although he is not a quick player, when the Ivorian gets in top gear, nobody can catch him.

    Toure's surprising speed combined with his towering height made him a dominant force in City's midfield. The Ivorian is a true physical specimen, using his upper body strength to fend off opponents and his pace to get separation from defenders.

    The City midfielder boasts excellent ball skills as well. Playing with Barcelona, Toure has developed great passing skills and combination play. He has linked up well with David Silva and Carlos Tevez, using his vision and touch on the ball to carve open the opposition.

    In addition to the player's skill, Toure has an unbelievable engine. The midfielder frequently tracks back in defense, and then arrives late in the box to finish off an attacking move. Toure's goal-scoring performances in the FA Cup semifinal and final exemplify his work ethic and box-to-box style of play.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Aerial ability

    The City midfielder does not have any significant weaknesses. He has been strong in front of goal, netting eight goals in his first season at Eastlands.

    The one aspect of his game that needs improvement would be his aerial ability. As a towering midfielder, Toure should be more of a threat when attacking set pieces. With his height, the Ivorian can improve his headed goal tally.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Toure claims the No.5 spot due to his unbelievable physical attributes, but falls short from a top spot due to his fee and availability.

    Although there are tremendous athletes outside of the top five, such as Sandro, M'Vila and Rodwell, Toure has distinguished himself as the most gifted of the group. The Ivorian has height, strength and blistering pace.

    With City this season, Toure has emerged as one of the most powerful and imposing midfielders in England. Although he has excelled in an attacking role, a move to Madrid would see him revert back to being a defensive midfielder. As a box-to-box deep-lying player, Toure is able to best utilize his great engine and technical skill.

    The City midfielder would be fighting for the top ranking if it were not for his current situation in England. Having recently transferred from Barcelona, Toure is one of City's key players. Only a bid in the €50 million range would get the attention of City's hierarchy.

    However, even if Madrid were willing to splash significant cash for the 28-year-old, it is unlikely that Mancini and club executives would allow the player to leave.

    While his valuation would require an enormous bid from Madrid, Toure should be at the top of Madrid's list because the Ivorian is in his prime and would be an excellent fit for Los Blancos.

     

    Impact

    City's Toure would make an immediate impact at Madrid and would become one of the club's best players. With Ronaldo in the attack, Pepe in defense and Toure in midfield, Los Blancos would have a special physical talent in every third of the pitch.

    Toure's box-to-box qualities would be welcomed at the Santiago Bernabeu, both by teammates and Madridistas as well. The Ivorian is a commanding presence in the heart of midfield and has the ability to take over matches.

    Mourinho would pair the City midfielder with Alonso, creating a dynamic midfield partnership. Toure's tirelessness and engine make him an excellent fit for Madrid. The midfielder would provide excellent coverage for the back line, but gives the team an added dimension going forward as well.

    Although Mourinho hoped Khedira would chip in with a few goals arriving late into the box, he failed to do so in his first season with Madrid. Toure, on the other hand, has both the legs to arrive in the area and the technical ability to deliver a respectful goal tally from a holding midfield role.

4. Steven Gerrard

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring an equalising goal during the UEFA Europa League Group K match beteween Liverpool and SSC Napoli at Anfield on November 4, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Bruns
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Name: Steven Gerrard

    Age: 30

    Club: Liverpool

    Nationality: English

    Projected Transfer Fee: €35-37 million

    Strengths

    • Leadership
    • Work-rate
    • Tackling
    • Shooting
    • Passing
    • Vision

    Liverpool's talismanic captain Steven Gerrard is arguably the most inspirational leader in world football. The England international is the beating heart and soul of Liverpool. Gerrard instills belief in the players around him and elevates the level of his teammates, both of which are signs of a true leader.

    The England vice-captain boasts a tremendous work-rate that underlines his overall style of play. Gerrard gives every ounce of energy and covers every blade of grass. He is strong in the tackle, and shows an unparalleled determination to win the ball.

    The midfielder has strong defensive instincts and great anticipation. However, Gerrard also has outstanding technical skills. His tough-tackling style and skill on the ball have made him one of Europe's best box-to-box midfielders for years.

    The Liverpool captain has a great long-distance shot, which has been key to his strong goal tallies from midfield. In addition to his shooting, Gerrard is a great passer of the ball. He dictates play with short, intricate passes, but excels at hitting the long cross-field diagonal.

    The England midfielder has excellent vision to complement his range of passing, which makes him a legitimate threat at all times.

    Gerrard is a true midfield dynamo, and has unbelievable intangibles to go along with his incredible technical ability.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Lack of pace

    Gerrard has been at the top of world football for years, even earning the praises of Zinedine Zidane as the best player in the world. If there is one weakness in the Liverpool captain's game, it would be his pace.

    At 30 years old, Gerrard has retained his endurance but lost the speed he once had in his youth. The midfielder is by no means slow, however he is sometimes forced into a slide tackle to make up for his lack of pace.

     

    Ranking Reason

    One of the best box-to-box midfielders in football, Gerrard lands at No. 4 due to his age and transfer fee. The Liverpool captain would fit hand-in-glove with Mourinho's Madrid.

    Gerrard is one of a kind and is the complete midfield leader that Los Blancos have been missing. Disregarding his age and transfer fee, the midfielder would rank as No. 1 on the list.

    However, at 30 years old, Madrid are not willing to shell out €35 million for a player entering the final years of his career.

    Gerrard has the ability to help Madrid overcome Barcelona as the world's best team. Although Madrid hierarchy have been unwilling to invest so heavily in an aging player, Mourinho should force them to reconsider.

    For two or three years, Gerrard could be the midfield leader of a legendary and trophy-winning Madrid side.

     

    Impact

    There is no way to understate the impact Gerrard would have on Madrid. Reuniting with Alonso, the two would pick up where they left off as one of Europe's elite midfield partnerships.

    The arrival of Gerrard would signal the end of Diarra's career at Madrid, and force Khedira to the bench. Alongside Alonso, Gerrard could return to the box-to-box role in which he excels. The Liverpool captain would add valuable experience to the young side, which will be vital as the club seeks its 10th Champions League title.

    Gerrard's balance of defensive spirit and technique would bring out the best of Alonso, Ronaldo and Di Maria. Alonso would be able to focus on dictating tempo, and the two wingers would benefit from having two central midfielders with tremendous passing ability and range.

    Although Gerrard only has a few years of top football left, he would be a great mentor for Khedira as well. While he would have an incredible immediate impact on the first-team, his influence and presence at the club would be felt for years to come.

3. Bastian Schweinsteiger

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    MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 20:  Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern runs with the ball during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and VfL Wolfsburg at Allianz Arena on August 20, 2010 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Name: Bastian Schweinsteiger

    Age: 26

    Club: Bayern Munich

    Nationality: German

    Projected Transfer Fee: €40-50 million

    Strengths

    • Work-rate
    • Determination
    • Distribution
    • Passing range
    • Technique
    • Shooting
    • Tackling

    Bayern Munich's Schweinsteiger is the complete modern central midfielder. The German international has excelled both in defense and attack. Since his move from the wing to the center, Schweinsteiger has emerged as one of the top midfielders in world football.

    For both Germany and Munich, he has displayed an exemplary work-rate and determination to win the ball and facilitate play. Schweinsteiger is always looking to receive and distribute the ball, orchestrating attacks from the middle of the pitch.

    The German is confident playing one-twos in midfield, and has the ability to hit the long pass. The German's passing range has been key to his meteoric rise as a central midfielder. Often seen spraying the ball from left to right and switching the point of attack, Schweinsteiger's passing range has been key to Germany and Munich's 2010 success.

    In addition to his skill when in possession, the German boasts excellent technique with his long-distance shooting. Schweinsteiger has one of the best long-range drives, and will deliver a few goals per season from outside the box.

    The Munich vice-captain has tremendous attacking abilities, but his high-energy style of play and tough-tackling make him the complete midfielder.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Concentration

    The German has developed into one of the most well-rounded midfielders in football, but he is still looking to improve his weaknesses. Having only played a few seasons in a central midfield role, Schweinsteiger has the occasional lapse of concentration.

    The German international had a poor run of form this past season for Munich, and was criticized for losing his focus and making bad decisions. Although he returned to his world-class best, there are still times when Schweinsteiger makes a sloppy pass or forgets to track back.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Schweinsteiger claims the No. 3 spot due to his all-action style of play and huge transfer fee. Similar to Xavi Hernandez, Paul Scholes and Xabi Alonso, the German is the metronome for both club and country. Schweinsteiger dictates the team's tempo and attacking rhythm, using his passing range to spread the play and keep possession.

    Unlike the aforementioned players, the German has showed a defensive grit and determination that makes him a forceful midfield presence. Schweinsteiger's performances at the World Cup showed his wonderful array of attacking and defensive talents.

    At 26 years old, the German is in his prime and delivering world-class performances on a weekly basis. Schweinsteiger has all the qualities to earn the top ranking in this list, but it would take a massive bid to bring him to the Santiago Bernabeu.

    As Munich's vice-captain and best player, they are unlikely to part with the player unless Madrid are willing to pay €40-50 million.

     

    Impact

    A pairing of Alonso and Schweinsteiger would give Madrid one of the best midfield partnerships in world football. Although Xavi and Iniesta currently hold that title, and deservedly so, the potential Madrid pair could overtake the Catalan duo.

    The German midfielder would provide the work-rate and determination that Alonso lacks, while also giving Los Blancos another pass-master and orchestrator. While Schweinsteiger might not be the defensive midfielder that Mourinho would consider the ideal complement to Alonso, the German would immediately transform the Madrid midfield.

    Schweinsteiger would be able to reunite with Ozil, looking to bring Germany's counter-attacking success to the Santiago Bernabeu. The German would bring world-class talent and invaluable experience to the Spanish capital, making Los Blancos one of the favorites to win next season's Champions League.

    With the recent signings of Sahin and Altintop, Los Blancos have added more German-based players to their squad, which already features two German internationals in Ozil and Khedira. Schweinsteiger would be a great influence in the locker room, and aid in the development of the club's young Germans.

    Alongside Alonso, the German international would return Madrid to domestic and European glory.

2. Michael Essien

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Michael Essien of Chelsea controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on April 30, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Name: Michael Essien

    Age: 28

    Club: Chelsea

    Nationality: Ghanaian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €30-35 million

    Strengths

    • Work-rate
    • Stamina
    • Determination
    • Power
    • Tackling
    • Long-range shooting

    Chelsea's Michael Essien is the best defensive midfielder in world football.

    Since his move to Chelsea in 2005, the Ghanaian has been a dominant force in England's top flight. The midfielder has an incredible work-rate, closing down opposing players and bursting forward in support of the attack. His fitness and stamina allow him to play with such high energy.

    Essien's drive and determination have been instrumental in his emergence as an elite box-to-box midfielder. The Ghanaian makes frequent forward runs, always looking to arrive late in the area.

    However, his primary focus is in defending and shielding the back line. Essien commands the middle third of the pitch with his defensive awareness and unmatched tenacity.

    A natural ball-winning midfielder, the Ghanaian is strong in the tackle and relentless in pursuit. Known as a powerful player, Essien uses his strength to win most 50-50 challenges and shrug opponents off the ball. The combative midfielder has displayed excellent tackling technique and defensive awareness, frequently breaking up opposition play and making key last-ditch tackles.

    While Essien's defensive qualities are exceptional, he has one of the fiercest long-range shots in Europe. The midfielder shows great endurance and energy to get forward, and has the ability to deliver breathtaking goals from 20-30 yards out.

     

    Weaknesses

    • None

    Following the 2008 Champions League final, Essien was criticized for his heading and aerial ability. However, on a weekly basis, the Ghanaian is solid in the air and is not a liability when defending crosses or set pieces.

    When looking at Essien's game, there are no real weaknesses. The Chelsea midfielder is the best at his position, and has the physicality and drive to excel as a box-to-box player.

     

    Ranking Reason

    Essien claims the No. 2 ranking due to his polished defensive qualities and exceptional work-rate. Mourinho signed the player while managing at Chelsea, and would love to bring the player to Madrid. Essien is the tireless defensive midfielder that Madrid have been looking for since the departure of Makelele.

    The Ghanaian's defensive qualities make him a great complement to Alonso, bringing power and strength to the midfield. Of all the players on the list, Essien undoubtedly has the best defensive skills. The Ghanaian is strong in the tackle, and uses his physicality to boss the midfield.

    Only 28 years old, the midfielder still has four or five years of world-class football left in him. With Essien at the top of his game, only a bid in the  €30 million range would force Abramovich to consider selling the player. He has precious Champions League experience and has proven himself as an elite defensive midfield enforcer. Therefore, the projected transfer fee would be more than fair value and a smart investment for Madrid.

    Essien would be the long-awaited answer to Madrid's revolving door of defensive midfielders, and Mourinho would expect him to be instrumental as the team looks to dethrone Barcelona.

    Although Essien could be the No. 1 midfielder Madrid should buy this summer, he falls short of the top spot due to his technical ability. While the Ghanaian is a solid distributor, he does not have the passing ability to bring out the best of the current Madrid squad.

     

    Impact

    The Chelsea midfielder would be the immediate impact player to complete Mourinho's Madrid project. His physical presence and relentless energy would complement the more cerebral style of Alonso.

    Mourinho brought Essien to Stamford Bridge in 2005, and the defensive midfielder played a key role in Chelsea's title-winning season. The Madrid manager will be looking for the Ghanaian to have the same impact at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Essien's work-rate and ball-winning mentality will give more time and space for Alonso to dictate play. His passing and tackling will be an improvement from Diarra, who will likely be sold. Essien's simple game will relieve the pressure on Madrid's Spanish pass-master, and will improve the team's ability to keep possession under pressure.

    The combative midfielder will be instrumental in Madrid's matches against archrivals Barcelona. Essien's power and strength will cause problems for the smaller technical midfielders. Mourinho will rely on the Ghanaian to hound Xavi and Iniesta, neutralizing Barcelona's creativity in the middle of the park.

    If Madrid are willing to pay the premium for Essien's services, they could be a serious threat for titles next season.

1. Daniele De Rossi

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    ROME - NOVEMBER 07:  Daniele De Rossi of AS Roma celebrates winning the match against Lazio during the Serie A match between Lazio and Roma at Stadio Olimpico on November 7, 2010 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Name: Daniele De Rossi

    Age: 27

    Club: Roma

    Nationality: Italian

    Projected Transfer Fee: €25-30 million

    Strengths:

    • Leadership
    • Work ethic
    • Tackling
    • Marking
    • Passing
    • Vision
    • Long-rang shooting

    Roma's vice-captain and midfield dynamo has emerged as one of the special talents in world football. The Italian international has all the technical and physical qualities of a top player, but his intangibles set him apart from the rest.

    As Roma's Capitan Futuro and a strong candidate for the Italian captaincy, De Rossi is one of the great leaders in modern football. The midfielder plays with unmatched determination, exemplifying the heart and soul of an archetypal captain.

    De Rossi's energy and work ethic are hallmarks of his game. Whether deployed as a defensive or true central midfielder, the Italian tirelessly tracks back in defense and gets forward to support the attack. The iconic midfielder is the driving force of both club and country, making him one of the best box-to-box players in the world.

    De Rossi is a commanding presence in midfield, using his grit and strength to break up opposition play. The combative midfielder is tough in the challenge, but has good tackling technique. Along with an excellent sliding tackle, De Rossi stays tight to markers and reads the game well. With his work-rate and natural defensive instincts, the Roma icon has all the qualities of a top holding midfielder.

    In addition to his exemplary intangibles, De Rossi has outstanding skill on the ball. The Roma vice-captain is a pass-master, dictating tempo and spreading play. The Italian can play short one-two's or long balls with both feet, which are key to his great combination play and distribution.

    De Rossi also boasts magnificent vision, and with his passing ability, the Roma midfielder is always a threat to make the killer pass. The Italian has world-class technique when striking the ball. De Rossi is known for his thunderous long-range efforts, making him a serious threat from outside the area.

    For a box-to-box defensive midfielder, the Italian provides a unique combination of tenacity and technical ability.

     

    Weaknesses

    • Discipline

    De Rossi's only real weakness is his occasional lack of discipline. The Italian's red card for elbowing Brian McBride in the 2006 World Cup revealed the player's short fuse. Roma's combative midfielder has been prone to lash out, which has led to his high yellow card count in recent years and the two red cards in this year's Serie A campaign.

    Although De Rossi receives a lot of bookings, he does not commit a large number of fouls. In his defensive midfield role at Roma, the Italian has only committed 40 or less fouls in three consecutive seasons of domestic football.

     

    Ranking Reason

    De Rossi claims the No. 1 spot as the top midfielder Real Madrid should buy this summer due to his style of play and fit with the team.

    The Roma vice-captain is one of the most undervalued and underrated stars in Europe. With his club failing to keep up with the likes of Inter Milan and AC Milan, De Rossi has been flying under the radar in Italy. The midfielder has immeasurable intangibles and world-class talent. De Rossi has been the heartbeat of Roma for years, excelling as a dynamic defensive midfielder.

    With new ownership at the club, Madrid have a rare window of opportunity to sign the Italian. De Rossi only has one year left on his current contract and has yet to reach an agreement with the club over a new deal. Although there are rumours that he is close to signing an extension, Madrid could capitalize on the current situation.

    The new owners will not want to lose the iconic midfielder on a free transfer after next season, which opens the door for Madrid to swoop for the player. If Madrid bid roughly €30 million, Roma would have to seriously consider selling the player and using the transfer fee to rebuild the team. While there is still a strong possibility that De Rossi will sign an extension in the coming days, Madrid should still be looking to acquire the player.

    If the midfielder's valuation rises to €35-40 million, Los Blancos would still be paying more than fair value for the player. At 27 years old, De Rossi is in his prime footballing years and should be commanding a transfer fee of players like Munich's Schweinsteiger.

    Following the departure of Jorge Valdano, Mourinho now has complete control over transfers and will be in search of the perfect fit for Madrid's midfield. Although he has preferred athletic and powerful defensive midfield enforcers with past teams, De Rossi is the dynamic player to bring out the best of Madrid's current squad.

     

    Impact

    The Italian midfielder is the missing link to Mourinho's team, and his arrival would have an immediate impact on the club. De Rossi would slot into the starting 11 alongside Alonso. The Italian's impressive skill set and style of play make him not only the perfect complement for the Spaniard in midfield, but the ideal fit for the team.

    In his partnership with Alonso, De Rossi brings the steel and work-rate that will balance the Spaniard's craft and positional sense. The Italian midfielder provides the quickness and tenacity that Alonso lacks. Although the Roma icon will be a defensive improvement from Khedira and Diarra, he would have a significant influence over Madrid's play when in possession as well.

    As an accomplished passer with both feet, De Rossi will command more attention on the ball than Madrid's current group of central midfielders. The Italian can play intricate one-twos with Alonso and give Madrid a better tempo when in possession. His skill on the ball will create more time and space for the Spaniard to pick apart opposing defenses.

    In addition, De Rossi's technical ability and range of passing will give more balance to the team when in possession. Top clubs have stifled Madrid's attacking rhythm by pressuring Alonso high up the field, forcing Khedira and Diarra to distribute and dictate play. Both players showed a lack of vision and ability to pick a pass, which frequently led to Madrid losing possession.

    With the likes of Ronaldo and Ozil in attack, Madrid prefer to play the ball on the ground and penetrate opponents with quick, incisive passing. De Rossi would be a perfect fit for that style of play, providing another dimension in midfield that Madrid lacked this season.

    Roma's iconic midfielder has the quality and class to elevate Alonso's game and return Madrid to domestic and European glory.

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