Ranking the Top 10 Midfielders in World Football: Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder...

Blake ThomasCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2011

Ranking the Top 10 Midfielders in World Football: Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder...

0 of 11

    2010 was one of the best years in the entire history of football, and a year which many have gone on to dub the "year of the midfielder."

    Some of the best players of the year were midfielders, among them Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder, and a number of others.

    Xavi and Iniesta, both midfielders, were commended for their performances by being finalists for the 2010 Fifa Ballon d'Or. This marked the first time in five years that the three-player shortlist contained at least two midfielders.

    But make no mistake, midfielders have always been an important part of the game. They link the defense with the attack, and try to provide a little of both to the team. Sometimes they are the engine of a team, and sometimes they are that extra little creative spark.

    Let's take a look at the 10 players who have earned their title as some of the world's best.  

10. Michael Essien (Chelsea)

1 of 11

    LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Michael Essien of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on December 4, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    On his day, Michael Essien is undoubtedly the best defensive midfielder in the world.

    The 28-year-old Ghanaian makes large contributions on the defensive and attacking ends, playing in any position from centre back to central midfielder.

    He is also known for having a extremely powerful shot, and scoring a handful of beautiful goals.

    Despite a recent drop in form, Essien is still a vital part of Chelsea's squad and one of the world's best midfielders.

9. Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)

2 of 11

    MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Esteban Matias Cambiasso of FC Internazionale Milano shoots the ball during the UEFA Champions League group A match between FC Internazionale Milano and SV Werder Bremen at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 29, 2010 in Mila
    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    While he isn't the most appreciated football player in the world, Esteban Cambiasso has proven how valuable he really is with his recent performances.

    A defensive midfielder with an eye for goals, he is a very productive distributor of the ball and a great tactical minded player.

    Cambiasso is a great defender and is a very talented tackler, and what he lacks for in physicality he makes up for with great positioning and tactical awareness.

    He played an important part in Inter's treble winning season, but was left out of Argentina's national squad.

8. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

3 of 11

    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's third goal and hs hat trick during the UEFA Europa League Group K match beteween Liverpool and SSC Napoli at Anfield on November 4, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Steven Gerrard is a player who will go down in history as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, and while critics say the 30-year-old's career is coming to a close, he keeps proving them wrong with his spectacular performances.

    Gerrard mainly plays as an attacking or central midfielder, and is regarded as the most complete midfielder in the modern game.

    He does great to assist teammates and score goals, but is also a valuable defensive asset, tracking back and stopping opposition attacks.

    The Englishman's never say die attitude and natural leadership make him one of history's greatest players.

7. Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)

4 of 11

    MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 04:  Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid lines up a free kick during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Valencia at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 4, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    A deep-lying playmaker, Xabi Alonso is the engine of Real Madrid and just one of Spain's extremely talented midfielders.

    A tactical genius, Xabi is arguably the best passer in the entire world, able to play long balls or shorts passes almost inch perfectly.

    He doesn't contribute many goals, but is a deadball specialist and a proven striker from distance.

    He isn't a flashy player, but his hardworking attitude and vision are what make him so very talented.

6. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)

5 of 11

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on January 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    At only 23 years old, Cesc Fabregas has already cemented his place as one of the finest midfielders in world football.

    An attacking or central midfielder, the Arsenal skipper is a wonderful playmaker who has been likened to fellow Spaniard Xavi. He is blessed with a unbelievable passing range and great vision and creativity.

    He is also a free kick and penalty specialist, something which has helped him emerge as a consistent assister and scorer of goals. Last season he set up and scored 19 goals in 36 matches.

5. Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)

6 of 11

    VERONA, ITALY - NOVEMBER 21:  Wesley Sneijder  of FC Internazionale Milano in action during the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Marc' Antonio Bentegodi on November 21, 2010 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio
    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Despite a recent drop in form, Wesley Sneijder is still on of the world's most adept attacking midfielders.

    Sneijder can pride himself in his exceptional passing abilities and fine playmaking.

    He also has exceptional shooting with either foot, and helped Inter claim the treble last season as well as helping the Netherlands to the World Cup final.

4. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)

7 of 11

    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

    Bastian Schweinsteiger is a flexible player who can play on either wing, but excels most when utilized as a midfielder.

    His brilliant passing skills and defensive capabilities have aided both club and country and seen Schweinsteiger emerge as one of the world's top players in just one year.

    "Schweini" mainly operates as a defensive midfielder, but can also take up a more advanced position and create opportunities for teammates, while still keeping a strong eye for goal.

    At 26, his career has started a little late, but he still has a bright future ahead of him with Bayern Munich and the German national team.

3. Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

8 of 11

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09:  Frank Lampard of Chelsea in action during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 3rd round match between Chelsea and Ipswich Town at Stamford Bridge on January 9, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Frank Lampard is a hard working box-to-box midfielder, but what makes him a really special player is his unmatchable work rate.

    Already 32, Lampard has been one of Europe's most consistent players for seven years now.

    In his last seasons with Chelsea, he scored 27 goals and assisted 20 in 50 matches, operating as a central or attacking midfielder. For any midfielder to do all that is unbelievable.

    He is an excellent passer and a deadball specialist, and he has recently returned from injury and been one of Chelsea's only hardworking players despite a recent streak of bad results.

2. Xavi (Barcelona)

9 of 11

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 02:  Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona runs with the ball during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Levante UD at Camp Nou on January 2, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 2-1.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Xavi is undoubtedly one of the best central midfielders in modern football and perhaps footballing history.

    He is the engine of Barcelona and Spain's teams, able to control the tempo of a game and dictate play with his passing skills.

    The 30-year-old is the ultimate playmaker, with brilliant vision and the ability to take freekicks as well. He usually attempts and completes over 100 passes a game, which definetely hands him the title of the world's best passer.

    He also has the occasional eye for goals, but really prides himself in setting up his teammates.

    Xavi played an important role in Spain's Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumphs, and was recognized for his hard work as one of the finalists of the 2010 Fifa Ballon d'Or.

1. Iniesta (Barcelona)

10 of 11

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 02:  Andres Iniesta of Barcelona runs with the ball during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Levante UD at Camp Nou on January 2, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 2-1.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Iniesta is an extremely talented midfielder. He is blessed with wonderful skills and great ball control.

    He is a very versatile player, who can play as a central midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a winger, or even a deep-lying midfielder.

    Iniesta is an extremely creative player and a wonderful passer of the ball, but he also has an eye for goals and is having the seasons of a lifetime for Barcelona.

    He helped lead Spain to glory in the 2010 World Cup, scoring the game winner in the final, and was one of the finalist for the 2010 Fifa Ballon d'Or.

Honorable Mention

11 of 11

    PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02: Kaka of Brazil looks dejected during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Netherlands and Brazil at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 2, 2010 in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, South
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Kaka, an attacking midfielder, has recently returned to Real Madrid after injury, but still has a long way to go before he can reclaim his spot on this list.

    Samir Nasri and Mesut Ozil are both talented young attacking midfielders, playing for Arsenal and Real Madrid respectively, but they seem to drift away in big games, and face stiff competition for starting places in their world class teammates.

    Yaya Toure, a defensive midfielder who has started to play in a more advanced role, is having a good season with Manchester City, but just misses the list.

    Daniele de Rossi is a great defensive midfielder who can contribute to attack and defense for AS Roma, but just misses the list.

    Other players I thought of include... Rafael Van der Vaart, Lucho Gonzalez, Yoann Gourcuff, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Diego, Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano and Alexandre Song.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.