Like the words people use to describe them, defensive midfielders are a varied, colorful lot.
In English, they power the engine room or act as destroyers.
In South America, one might be called a volante de marca—a steering wheel.
In Portugal, one is a trinco—a lock.
In Mexico, it's volante de contención—you figure it out.
Defensive midfielders link the defense to the attack. They break up the opposition's play. They provide cover when defenders venture upfield.
They distribute. They hold.
They attack. They defend.
They prevent goals. They create goals.
And they're all as different from each other as the jobs they perform—anonymously, for the most part—for their teams.
This is a list of 50 of the very best defensive midfielders in world football history. It spans much of the history of the game, but gives extra consideration to players whose careers have already finished.
If your favorite active player—someone like Sergio Busquets—isn't on the list, that's not necessarily because he isn't great. Rather, it's probably because he hasn't been playing long enough for us to get a proper perspective.
On to the list.