World Football Power Rankings: The Top 10 Central Midfielders

Jared DublinAnalyst IIJuly 21, 2011

World Football Power Rankings: The Top 10 Central Midfielders

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    Who is the best central midfielder in the world?

    Is he Ivorian? English? Croatian? Turkish?

    There is always great interest and discussion about declaring the top players at their respective positions. Whether ranking goalkeepers or strikers, the world wants to know who is the best.

    Although there are many lists ranking the top players, the criteria often changes and creates major controversy.

    Reputation, past performance, injuries and current form have all been determining factors in player rankings.

    This list is the sixth of an entire series. From goalkeepers to managers, it will rank the top 10 men at their positions.

    Players will be ranked by their abilities and contributions on the pitch, not by their team's performance. For example, Barcelona's Victor Valdés rarely lets in goals for the European and Spanish champions. Despite his impressive record, he finds himself behind Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina in Spain's pecking order. His individual abilities and displays do not warrant a top-five spot on the goalkeeper list.

    Players will not be judged by their special games or memorable moments, but by their consistent level of top form. For example, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney will be ranked according to his form over the latter stages of 2011's campaign. He will not be judged by his terrible form post-injury, which carried into the beginning of this season.

    Injuries will have no impact on the list. For example, Arsenal's Robin van Persie will be ranked according to his performances for the Gunners this season. He has been plagued by injuries in recent years, but he will be judged by his level of play when fit.

    Note: Players who have just retired, such as Edwin Van der Sar and Paul Scholes, will not be included in this series.

    This is the sixth installment of a series of football power rankings.

    Here are the top 10 central midfielders in the world.

Honorable Mentions

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    Honorable Mentions:

    Riccardo Montolivo: Fiorentina

    Darren Fletcher: Manchester United

    Claudio Marchisio: Juventus

    Arturo Vidal: Juventus

    Gökhan Inler: Napoli

    Andrea Pirlo: Juventus

    Mikel Arteta: Arsenal

    Ramires: Chelsea

    Thiago Alcântara: Barcelona

    Hernanes: Lazio

    Michael Carrick: Manchester United

    Lucho Gonzalez: Marseille

    Raul Meireles: Liverpool

    Joao Moutinho: Porto

    Kwadwo Asamoah: Udinese

10. Nuri Şahin

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    Name: Nuri Şahin

    Age: 22

    Club: Real Madrid

    Nationality: Turkish

    International Caps: 26

    Description:

    After a stellar campaign for Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, Nuri Şahin has emerged as one of the best young central midfielders in world football. The Turkish international was named the 2010-11 Bundesliga Player of the Season by Kicker magazine. A rising star for both club and country, Şahin recently completed his dream move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

    The former Dortmund midfielder earned rave reviews for his passing ability. Şahin has developed into a world-class distributor and orchestrator. Combining exceptional vision with great technical ability, the new Madrid star can dictate play from his central midfield position.

    Şahin's ability to spread the play and produce the killer pass distinguishes him as a top-quality pass-master. The Turkish star's range of passing has been key to his success. He can play the simple short ball or pick out a teammate with a long cross-field pass. With his skill and touch on the ball, Şahin brings a calming presence to the midfield.

    In addition to his world-class distribution, the Madrid midfielder has underrated defensive abilities. Şahin may not be a strong or athletic force in the middle, but he reads the game well, makes smart interceptions and wins his fair share of tackles.

    The Turkish star is a dead-ball specialist as well. The midfielder has the ability to whip free-kicks over the wall and under the bar with precision and pace. He also provides great service from wider positions, consistently finding teammates in the box.

    Following an unbelievable season with Dortmund, Şahin has become an elite central midfielder and solidified his place amongst the world's best players at the position.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    Although Şahin has not received the media attention of other star midfielders, he is still one of the top 10 players at the position. The Turkish international claims the No. 10 spot with his vision, passing ability and defensive contributions.

    Only 22 years of age, Şahin has emerged as a world-class passer. He can unlock defenses with his incisive passing, or dictate tempo from deeper-lying positions. The Madrid midfielder boasts great technical ability and skill, but he has underrated defensive abilities as well.

    Şahin has the talent and potential to break into the top five. However, his lack of pace, height and strength keeps him from climbing higher on the list. The Turkish international is also reluctant to use his right-foot, which can occasionally make him predictable in midfield.

    The new Madrid midfielder moves ahead of Riccardo Montolivo and Darren Fletcher with his exceptional passing and defensive work-rate. Although the aforementioned players contribute on both sides of the ball as well, Şahin is more incisive with his passing while still tracking back defensively. Montolivo may have similar technical ability and vision, but the Turkish international has better defensive instincts. While Fletcher clearly has the most polished defensive abilities of the three, Şahin edges out the hard-working United midfielder with his ability play the incisive pass and orchestrate from midfield.

    The former Dortmund star has already become one of the top central midfielders in world football. With his skill-set and potential, Şahin will undoubtedly move higher in the rankings over the next few years.

9. Frank Lampard

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    Name: Frank Lampard

    Age: 33

    Club: Chelsea

    Nationality: English

    International Caps: 86

    Description:

    For nearly a decade, the Chelsea midfielder has been one of the most consistent performers in the EPL.

    Although Lampard was sidelined with injuries for the beginning of last year, he was still able to contribute upon his return. The Chelsea midfielder only scored 13 goals in limited first-team appearances, snapping a five-year streak of netting 20 goals per season. With his outstanding goalscoring record, the Englishman is clearly amongst the best players at the position.

    Lampard's ability to arrive late in the box and unleash a fierce shot on goal sets him apart from the majority of central midfielders. The Chelsea stalwart has exceptional technique, making him a threat to score in and around the area. Lampard boasts a fierce long-range shot, as he consistently strikes the ball with power and precision.

    In addition to his shooting, the Englishman has a good range of passing. The Chelsea midfielder can spread the play with cross-field diagonals or play the incisive through-ball. Although he does not dictate tempo or play quick one and two-touch football in midfield, Lampard has great composure on the ball and polished passing skills.

    While the talismanic midfielder has been prolific getting forward, he has exceptional tactical awareness as well. Lampard's intelligence and incredible work-rate have been key to his success as a box-to-box midfielder.

    Lampard is arguably the greatest goal-scoring midfielder of the generation and clearly one of the top central midfielders in football.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    At 33 years of age, the England international is the oldest player on the list. Although he struggled to regain his top form last season, Lampard is still an elite central midfielder. The Chelsea star lands at No. 9 due to his goalscoring ability, tactical awareness and consistency.

    With his work-ethic in midfield and ability to score, Lampard has become one of the best box-to-box midfielders in England. At the club level, the Chelsea stalwart has been a standout performer for nearly a decade.

    Although Lampard has been prolific for Chelsea, he has not had the same impact for the England national team. He has the goal scoring record and polished game to challenge the midfielder above him on the list. However, taking into consideration his skill-set and recent dip in form, Lampard cannot move higher in the rankings.

    The England international climbs above the likes of Montolivo and Şahin with his consistent level of top form, awareness and ability to find the back of the net. Lampard has become one of the most reliable and steady performers in Europe, delivering top-quality performances every week. The aforementioned players are great passers, but the Chelsea star moves higher with his goalscoring ability and intelligence.

    Although Lampard used to be one of the top five central midfielders in football, the 33-year-old is still amongst the best players at the position.

8. Jack Wilshere

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    Name: Jack Wilshere

    Age: 19

    Club: Arsenal

    Nationality: English

    International Caps: Five

    Description:

    After a breakout 2010-11 season, Wilshere has emerged as one of the best young talents in world football. Only 19 years old, the England international has become a key fixture in Arsenal's first-team squad. With his impressive displays in the heart of midfield, Wilshere was named to the PFA Team of the Year and received the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

    Arsenal's midfield dynamo is a unique English talent. Wilshere plays with exceptional skill and world-class technique. He boasts a delicate touch on the ball and tremendous close control.

    Wilshere combines well with teammates and excels playing one and two-touch football. His ability to work in tight spaces and keep possession distinguishes him as an elite central midfielder. The Arsenal starlet can unlock defenses with his clever passing or burst through the middle with his dribbling skill.

    The England international has outstanding vision to complement his technical ability. He can thread the needle with a perfectly weighted through-ball or see a pass through multiple defenders. With his technique and eye for a pass, Wilshere can spread the play, dictate tempo and orchestrate the attack from midfield.

    Although earning rave reviews for his skill on the ball, Wilshere plays with great defensive tenacity as well. The Arsenal starlet shows commitment and determination in the challenge, which has been key towards his development as a top-quality box-to-box central midfielder.

    Wilshere has the talent and potential to become one of the great footballers in English history. Although still in the early stages of his development, he is already one of the best midfielders in Europe.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    At 19 years of age, Wilshere has already emerged as a current and future star for both club and country. Although he is the youngest player on the list, the Englishman has become an elite central midfielder. Wilshere claims the No. 8 spot with his technique, skill and vision.

    The Arsenal starlet is one of the most technically gifted footballers in the EPL. Wilshere can drive past opponents or combine with teammates to create space. His ability to dictate play and find the killer pass made him an integral part of Arsenal's first-team squad.

    Wilshere has the talent and potential to become the No. 1 central midfielder in the future. However, the Englishman lacks the discipline and polished tackling technique to climb higher in the rankings. Wilshere has outstanding skill and natural ability, but he needs to refine parts of his game before surpassing the other central midfielders on the list.

    The Gunners' star moves above Şahin and Lampard with his energy and exceptional form. The Turkish international has a similar style of play and great passing ability. However, Wilshere edges out the new Madrid midfielder with his defensive tenacity and impressive performances against stronger opposition.

    Although Lampard has all the credentials to beat out the young Englishman, the Arsenal midfielder claims the higher ranking. Wilshere moves above the 33-year-old with his skill on the ball, influence over possession play and consistent level of good form. The Chelsea midfielder has more experience and a prolific goal scoring record, but the youngster is a world-class talent and deserving of the No. 8 ranking.

    Wilshere has all the tools to challenge for a higher spot and break into the top five over the next few years. However, he has already developed into one of the top central midfielders in the world.

7. Luka Modrić

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    Name: Luka Modrić

    Age: 25

    Club: Tottenham

    Nationality: Croatian

    International Caps: 47

    Description:

    Modrić has been a key figure for both club and country, solidifying his place amongst the best central midfielders in the world. The Croatian has been one of the star performers in England's top-flight over the past few years. Although he does not receive the media attention of other central midfielders, Modrić is a world-class talent.

    The Tottenham maestro has exceptional technique and skill. Modrić can pass and shoot with both feet, which sets him apart from the majority of midfielders. His ability to play short passes with either foot makes him more unpredictable. Modrić can keep possession high up the pitch and relieve pressure without having to pass back to the keeper.

    The Croatian playmaker has a strong range of passing and exceptional vision. Although he combines well with teammates playing crisp, short passes, Modrić can hit the long cross-field diagonal as well. The midfielder can find the killer pass to split defenders or see the incisive through-ball to launch the swift counter-attack. His ability to create and find players in space makes him one of the best central midfielders in Europe.

    With his outstanding technique shooting with either foot, the Croatian is a threat to score from any position in and around the box. Modrić can challenge goalkeepers from distance with his powerful long-range shot.

    In addition to his polished attacking qualities, the playmaker boasts a good work-rate and great quickness. Modrić tracks back defensively and wins his fair share of tackles. Although he lacks the size to be an imposing presence in midfield, he shows tenacity and determination in the challenge. The Croatian's change of pace has been key to his success in the EPL. Modrić draws in opponents and then shows a burst of quickness to create separation.

    Since his move to Tottenham in 2008, Modrić has become a more complete midfielder. With his development and exemplary technical ability, the Croatian playmaker is undoubtedly an elite central midfielder.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    After impressing for club and country, Modrić is clearly one of the top players at his position. The Tottenham star lands at No. 7 due to his technique, skill and work-ethic.

    Modrić's has emerged as an elite midfield playmaker. He can create opportunities for others with his good vision or provide a thunderous strike on goal. With his ability to play the incisive pass or find the back of the net, the Croatian is a constant threat in possession. Modrić has the defensive tenacity to complement his attacking talents as well.

    The Tottenham playmaker has the skill to match the midfielders higher on the list. However, he lacks the physicality to surpass the players ranked above him. Although the Croatian has world-class technique, the other midfielders have consistently played at an unbelievable level.

    Modrić climbs above Lampard and Wilshere with his form and playmaking ability. Although the Chelsea stalwart regularly scores goals from midfield, the Croatian has been consistently playing at a higher level. Wilshere has great skill and composure on the ball, but Modrić edges out the Arsenal starlet with his creativity. In addition, the Croatian's ability to play the ball with both feet makes him less predictable in midfield.

    Modrić does not play for one of the heavyweights of European football, but he is still a world-class talent and deserving of the No. 7 ranking.

6. Steven Gerrard

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    Name: Steven Gerrard

    Age: 31

    Club: Liverpool

    Nationality: English

    International Caps: 89

    Description:

    The talismanic Liverpool captain has been one of the best midfielders in Europe over the past decade. Gerrard is an inspirational leader for both club and country. Although he has not been able to replicate his club form at the international level, the Englishman remains a key member of the national team under manager Fabio Capello.

    Gerrard has a great balance of physicality and technical ability. The Liverpool captain boasts unmatched commitment and an exemplary work-rate. He covers every blade of grass in midfield, surging forward in support of the attack and tracking back defensively.

    The England vice-captain shows good strength in the challenge and determination to close down opponents. Gerrard reads the game well, making key interceptions and last-ditch tackles.

    In addition to his natural defensive qualities, Gerrard also has exceptional technique and skill. The Englishman spreads the play from midfield with his great range of passing and vision. Gerrard's tough-tackling style of play and technical ability distinguish him as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder.

    Gerrard hits the long cross-field diagonals with precision, making him a constant threat to switch the play. Although he has great accuracy with his passing over distance, the Englishman can also play short passes and combine with others through the middle.

    The Liverpool captain can create opportunities for others with his passing, but he can score goals as well. The talismanic midfielder boasts a fierce long-range shot. He can find the back of the net from distance, which has helped his development as a goalscoring midfielder.

    Although Gerrard has great physical tools, he has exemplary intangibles. The talismanic midfielder is undoubtedly one of the best natural leaders in football. With his commitment to the club, inspirational play and hard-working style, Gerrard exemplifies a true captain.

    The England vice-captain and Liverpool star enjoyed great success earlier in his career, and he is still amongst the best central midfielders in world football.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    Gerrard could be past his prime, but he remains one of the top midfielders in Europe. The 31-year-old claims the No. 6 spot with his exceptional work-rate, passing ability and unmatched intangibles.

    The Liverpool captain is a box-to-box midfield dynamo. Gerrard contributes on both sides of the ball, working hard defensively and creating opportunities in the final third. He picks out teammates with precision passing and provides a genuine goal scoring threat from midfield. While he has the physical tools of a top-quality footballer, Gerrard's leadership qualities makes him an elite central midfielder.

    Although the Englishman is arguably the most complete player on the list at full fitness, he fails to break into the top five. With his recent drop in form and slight loss of pace, Gerrard cannot climb higher in the rankings.

    The talismanic midfielder moves above Wilshere and Modrić with his goalscoring ability and intangibles. The Arsenal starlet has better skill on the ball, but Gerrard can hit the back of the net with regularity and inspire others with his style of play.

    While Modrić has a similar balance between defensive tenacity and attacking skill, the Liverpool captain is a driving force from midfield and can win a match with his work-rate off the ball, passing or shooting. The Croatian was in better form last season, but when both stars are fit and playing at a consistent level of good form, Gerrard is amongst the best players in world football.

    The Englishman may not be at his unbelievable form of a few seasons ago, but he is still a world-class central midfielder and deserving of the No. 6 ranking.

5. Yaya Touré

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    Name: Yaya Touré

    Age: 28

    Club: Manchester City

    Nationality: Ivorian

    International Caps: 55

    Description:

    Touré had a stellar first season in English football for FA Cup champions Manchester City. Although he played as a defensive midfielder for Barcelona, the Ivorian featured in a more box-to-box role for manager Roberto Mancini. His transition to a more advanced position has been a success, as Touré has become one of the top central midfielders in Europe.

    The Ivorian has a unique combination of physical and technical gifts. Standing at roughly 6'4'', Touré is an imposing presence in midfield. With his size and strength, the City star can shrug opponents off the ball. While he may not be quick in tight spaces, Touré has outstanding pace. When the powerful midfielder gets into full stride, he can create significant separation between him and defenders.

    Although Touré has exceptional physical attributes, he is a technically gifted midfielder as well. The Ivorian has a soft touch on the ball and great close control. With his skill and dribbling ability, Touré has become City's driving force from midfield and a serious threat when running at opponents with pace.

    The City star combines well with teammates through the middle. Touré has the vision and range of passing to link up with other midfielders. He may not be creative or inventive, but the Ivorian has underrated passing ability and skill on the ball.

    Touré's athleticism and engine have been key to his success as a box-to-box central midfielder. He frequently bursts forward in support of the attack, arriving late in the area to get a shot on goal. However, Touré shows good defensive discipline as well, working hard off the ball and pressuring the opposition.

    The Ivorian's size, strength and skill make him an ideal, modern central midfielder. With his unbelievable physical traits and technical ability, Touré has emerged as one of the top players at the position.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    Although he featured primarily as a defensive midfielder for Barcelona, Touré has made a swift transition to a more advanced role. Last season, the Ivorian was a key first-team player for City and a standout performer in the EPL. Touré breaks into the top five with his physical attributes, technique and consistency.

    The City star is a gifted athlete and dynamic force in midfield. Touré combines power and pace with good skill and touch on the ball. The Ivorian's balance of athleticism and technical ability has been instrumental to his success as City's box-to-box central midfielder.

    Touré has the physical tools and skill to move higher on the list. However, he lacks the exceptional passing ability and vision of the other midfielders in the rankings. Touré was sensational for City last season, but the players above him are unbelievably talented.

    City's imposing midfielder climbs above Modrić and Gerrard with his defensive contributions, pace, power and consistency. The Croatian has more skill on the ball, but Touré beats out the playmaker with his polished defensive qualities and outstanding athleticism.

    Gerrard has the class and skill-set to break into the top five. However, the Englishman suffered a dip in form last year, while Touré consistently performed at a high level for City.

    The Ivorian midfielder excelled in his new central midfield role, emerging as an elite player at the position.

4. Cesc Fábregas

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    Name: Cesc Fábregas

    Age: 24

    Club: Arsenal

    Nationality: Spanish

    International Caps: 58

    Description:

    Arsenal's talismanic captain has emerged as the best central midfielder in England and one of the top players in world football. Fábregas has gone six years without a trophy at club level, but the Spaniard has enjoyed great success on the international stage. Although the World Cup and European Championship winner does not feature as a regular first-team starter for Spain, he is undoubtedly a world-class central midfielder.

    Fábregas boasts exceptional technical ability and passing skill. The Arsenal captain shows great composure on the ball and a delicate touch. He excels playing intricate one and two-touch football, orchestrating the attack and dictating tempo. Fábregas provides a calming presence in midfield with his crisp passing.

    The Spaniard has outstanding vision and creativity to complement his technical skill. Fábregas has an impressive eye for a pass. He can pick out teammates with an incisive pass or lead runners with a perfectly weighted through-ball. Fábregas has a strong feel for the game, which allows him to anticipate player movement and see the killer pass through multiple defenders.

    The World Cup winner's inventiveness brings another dimension to midfield. Fábregas is a genuine playmaker and creative threat from his central midfield position. The Spaniard has the ability to unlock defenses with his clever passing.

    Although he has become a creative pass-master, Fábregas can score goals from midfield as well. The Spaniard ghosts into the box and has the technique to provide a clinical finish.

    In addition to his skill on the ball, Fábregas has improved his positioning, strength and stamina. The Arsenal captain has a good engine, which allows him to drive forward in support of the attack and close down opponents in midfield.

    Still only 24 years of age, the Spaniard has already proved that he is one of the best central midfielders in football.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    Fábregas may not feature as a regular starter for the Spanish national team, but he is clearly amongst the elite players at the position. The Arsenal captain claims the No. 4 spot with his exceptional passing, vision and goal scoring ability.

    The Spaniard has become a top central midfielder with his technique and incisive passing. Fábregas can see and play the killer through-ball from anywhere on the pitch. He excels in a creative playmaking role from central midfield. Fábregas' ability to get into the box and score goals sets him apart from the majority of inventive midfielders.

    Although Fábregas has the skill and outstanding passing to break into the top three, the midfielders above him are in a league of their own. With his lack of genuine pace and dip in form last season, the Spaniard cannot climb higher in the rankings.

    Arsenal's talismanic midfielder moves above Gerrard and Touré with his technical ability and incisive passing. Although the Liverpool captain is a more natural leader, Fábregas has the skill to control a game from midfield, picking out teammates with precision passing. While Touré was in better form last season and has more athleticism, Fábregas edges out the imposing Ivorian with his ability to dictate tempo, combine with teammates, unlock defenses and score goals.

    Fábregas has been a star performer in England's top-flight for nearly half a decade. The Arsenal captain has emerged as a world-class talent and an elite central midfielder. At 24 years of age, Fábregas has all the tools to break into the top three over the next few years.

3. Bastian Schweinsteiger

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    Name: Bastian Schweinsteiger

    Age: 26

    Club: Bayern Munich

    Nationality: German

    International Caps: 87

    Description:

    Following his move from winger to central midfielder, Schweinsteiger has become one of the best footballers in Europe. The German international was an integral part of Bayern Munich's domestic double in 2010. He was a standout performer at the World Cup as well, providing leadership, experience and class to Joachim Löw's youthful side.

    Schweinsteiger is a complete central midfielder. The German contributes on both sides of the ball, working hard defensively and facilitating the attack.

    The Bayern vice-captain has developed into a pass-master in midfield. Schweinsteiger drops deep to receive the ball, always providing an outlet for teammates. He is an exceptional distributor, dictating the tempo and passing rhythm.

    Schweinsteiger's technical ability and passing range have been key to his success as a central midfielder. The German can play short, crisp passes or hit the long cross-field diagonal. Schweinsteiger can spray the ball out wide and switch the point of attack with ease.

    Although the German's outstanding distribution has become a hallmark of his game, he boasts a fierce shot from distance. Schweinsteiger can contribute a few spectacular goals per season with his excellent long-range shooting technique. He has the ability to launch counter-attacks and finish them with a thunderous strike from in and around the box.

    Schweinsteiger has a great work-rate and solid defensive qualities. The Bayern star covers every blade of grass in midfield, marking and closing down opponents. Tough in the tackle and tenacious to win back possession, he shows determination and commitment in the challenge.

    The German international's combination of attacking and defensive qualities make him a dynamic, box-to-box central midfielder. With his transition to the center, Schweinsteiger has become one of the best midfielders in the world.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    At 26 years of age, Schweinsteiger is entering the prime years of his footballing career. The German breaks into the top three after developing into a world-class central midfielder.

    Schweinsteiger earns the No. 3 ranking due to his exceptional passing ability and impressive defensive qualities. The Bayern star acts as a metronome in midfield, dictating play and setting the tempo. His ability to receive and distribute distinguish him as an elite pass-master.

    The German's tough-tackling style and hard-working mentality make him a dynamic force in midfield. Schweinsteiger has a great work-rate, constantly pressuring opponents and hounding them in possession.

    Although Schweinsteiger is arguably the most complete central midfielder in Europe, the top two players are unbelievably gifted individuals that have been in outstanding form. After a stellar 2009-10 campaign for both club and country, the German struggled to regain his best form last year. While he has the skill-set to challenge for the top spot in the rankings, Schweinsteiger cannot climb higher with his recent dip in form.

    The Bayern midfielder moves above Touré and Fábregas with his passing ability, distance shooting and balance between attacking and defensive skills. While the Ivorian has more athleticism and a similar box-to-box style of play, Schweinsteiger edges out Touré with his distribution and shooting.

    Although Fábregas is a more creative playmaker, the German contributes on both sides of the ball. With his tenacity and tackling ability, Schweinsteiger breaks into the top three.

    With his level of talent, the German will undoubtedly be challenging for the top spot in the next few years. Schweinsteiger is clearly a world-class central midfielder and deserving of the No. 3 ranking.

2. Andrés Iniesta

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    Name: Andrés Iniesta

    Age: 27

    Club: Barcelona

    Nationality: Spanish

    International Caps: 58

    Description:

    Iniesta is arguably the best central midfielder in the world. The little maestro has been one of the most influential players for European champions Barcelona and World Cup winners Spain. After scoring the winning goal last summer in South Africa, Iniesta has solidified his place amongst the greatest midfielders in Spanish history.

    The Barcelona star boasts exceptional technical ability. Iniesta has a soft touch on the ball and outstanding close-control. He excels working in tight spaces, playing tiki-taka one and two-touch football to create space.

    Iniesta's passing and vision distinguishes him as a world-class playmaker. The Spaniard can combine with teammates, or split defenders with a killer through-ball. He has an outstanding eye for a pass, which makes him a constant threat to unlock the defense.

    Although he plays as a central midfielder, Iniesta has the inventiveness and ingenuity of a traditional No. 10. The Barcelona maestro plays passes through multiple defenders and finds the slightest angles. With his skill, creativity and intuitive understanding of the game, Iniesta can dictate play from midfield.

    In addition to his passing and vision, the World Cup winner has tremendous dribbling skill. Iniesta can beat multiple defenders off the dribble or use a change of pace to create separation from markers. The Spaniard has tremendous control when running at defenders with pace. Iniesta provides great movement both on and off the ball, opening up space for him and others.

    With experience playing as a defensive midfielder in the Barcelona youth ranks, the Spaniard has a good defensive work-rate as well. Iniesta provides pressure high up the field, forcing mistakes and winning back possession.

    The Barcelona maestro has developed into a dynamic, well-balanced force in midfield. Iniesta is not only an elite central midfielder, but he has emerged as one of the top players in world football.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    Although the other players on the list are talented midfielders, the top two are in a league of their own. Iniesta has the technique, skill, intelligence and work-rate to be the No. 1 player in the rankings.

    The maestro has been an integral part of Barcelona and Spain's recent dominance in club and international football. Iniesta is one of the first names on the team-sheet, providing exceptional attacking play from a central midfield position.

    Iniesta is undoubtedly deserving of the No. 2 spot on the list. The Spaniard can play one-two's, find the incisive pass and beat opponents off the dribble. With his skill, class and creativity, the Barcelona star will be challenging for the top spot next year.

    The World Cup winner climbs above Fábregas and Schweinsteiger with his consistent level of top form and attacking skill. Although the Arsenal captain plays a similar passing style, Iniesta has better dribbling skill and has been regularly performing at a higher level. While Schweinsteiger may be the more balanced central midfielder, the Spaniard edges out the German star with his inventiveness and incisive passing.

    Iniesta has all the skills to move higher in the rankings next year. However, at the moment, there is only one central midfielder who deserves the No. 1 spot.

1. Xavi

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    Name: Xavi

    Age: 31

    Club: Barcelona

    Nationality: Spanish

    International Caps: 101

    Description:

    Xavi has earned the title as the world's No. 1 central midfielder. The Barcelona star has been named to the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFPro World XI in three consecutive seasons on his way to becoming the best player at the position.

    The Spaniard has become the top central midfield playmaker in football. With his outstanding technical ability, Xavi dictates tempo and orchestrates the attack for both club and country.

    He sets the passing rhythm by quickly receiving and distributing the ball. The Barcelona star has become an essential part of the tiki-taka style, playing one and two-touch football in the midfield. The Spaniard can unlock defenses with his clever passing and combination play.

    Xavi's ability to keep possession sets him apart from other great midfielders. He rarely gives the ball away, using his intelligence, touch and vision to maneuver in tight spaces. The Spaniard always turns away from danger or finds the right pass to relieve pressure.

    The World Cup winner is a creative threat from midfield. Xavi boasts exceptional vision and ingenuity. He can pick out a teammate with an incisive pass or play the killer through-ball. Xavi's ability to see the splitting pass and give a perfectly weighted ball distinguishes him as a world-class playmaker.

    Although the Barcelona star excels with the ball at his feet, he has a good defensive work-rate. Xavi presses high up the pitch, forcing mistakes and hounding opponents on the ball. While the Spaniard lacks size and strength, he has the intelligence and determination to win back possession.

    Xavi is undoubtedly one of the generation's top central midfielders. With his impressive displays for Barcelona and Spain, the playmaker has solidified his place amongst the best players to ever play the position.

     

    Ranking Reason:

    While Iniesta was a serious contender for the No. 1 ranking, Xavi has emerged as the top central midfielder. He has consistently played at an unbelievably high level, leading Barcelona and Spain to numerous titles over the past few years.

    Xavi may not get the publicity of Messi or Iniesta, but he is arguably the most important player for club and country. The Spaniard controls the game from midfield, keeping possession and dictating the attacking tempo. His ability to facilitate from deep-lying positions and create opportunities in the final third makes him an elite playmaker.

    Although the Barcelona star lacks the dribbling skill or imagination of Iniesta, Xavi's influence over the possession and passing play cannot be understated. The central midfielder rarely loses the ball in midfield, which helps Barcelona and Spain dominate the possession statistics. His clever one-two's and intelligent movement are significant to the success of tiki-taka football.

    Fabregas and Schweinsteiger have the talent and potential to challenge for the top spot. However, the two Barcelona stars are clearly the best central midfielders in football.

    Iniesta makes a strong case to claim the No. 1 ranking with his ingenuity and dribbling skill. However, with his ability to keep possession in tight spaces and dictate play, Xavi edges out his Barcelona teammate and compatriot.

    Although Iniesta was a worthy candidate for the top spot, Xavi is the No. 1 central midfielder in the world.

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