Patrick Vieira, Frank Rijkaard, Roy Keane, Claude Makelele. All have one thing in common, and it’s not only their legendary status as one of the best of all times. Another thing that connects them is the position they played in; defensive midfielder. Every generation has its own group of players who excel in a certain position, and after the retirement of the mentioned players, new arrived and replaced them as the best in the world. In this article, we will check the top 10 defensive midfielders, ranked by one thing that matters nowadays; their market value.
1. Frenkie de Jong; Ajax; £67.50m
Ajax is known to be one of the clubs that produce the best players in the world, which is why it should not come off as a surprise that their football-star making machine also made the most valued defensive midfielder in the world. We are of course talking about Frenkie de Jong, who deservingly became the most valuable defensive midfielder as of 2019. From a player that was average at most, he became one of the best in his position with only 21 years of age. With that, it did not take long for other clubs to notice his potential, which landed him a contract with Barcelona, who already agreed to pay £67.50m to the Netherland club, who will say their farewell to Frenkie de Jong in summer.
2. Sergio Busquets; Barcelona; £67.50m
Formerly the most valued defensive midfielder with a market value of £72.00m, Sergio Busquets is one of the most well-known Barcelona players, where he played for his whole career and will most likely continue doing so. Ever since 2005, when he joined Barca U18, Busquets never left the team and as it seems it will also be the team where he will end his career. There is not a lot left to be said about the player that has not already been said. Sergio Busquets is an exceptional player and a huge part of Barcelona success in the last 11 years, ever since he joined the team. In his career, he won the LaLiga title 7 times, 6 Copa del Rey titles, won 3 Champions League titles, 3 UEFA Super Cups and 3 World Cup titles
3. Miralem Pjanic; Juventus; £63.00m
Just £4.5m short of being the most valuable defensive midfielder, Miralem Pjanic without a doubt deserves to be ranked as one of the most valuable and of the best defensive midfielder in the world. The 29-year-old has spent most of his career in the Italian peninsula, where he played for Roma and is now a part of the Juventus team. Ever since his arrival to Roma from Lyon, Miralem Pjanic quickly established himself as a huge potential with his incredible work rate and excellent performances, which caught attention from Juventus who signed him for a fee of £28.80m in the summer of 2016. Ever since Miralem Pjanic became the irreplaceable backbone of Juventus squad and consequently became one of the best at what he does.
4. Casimiro; Real Madrid; £63.00m
The potential of this 27-year-old Brazilian defensive midfielder was noticed by Real Madrid rather soon into his professional football career. At only 21 years of age, he was signed by the Spanish heavyweights for a rather low fee of £5.40m from the Brazilian team Sao Paolo. Soon after he joined Real Madrid, Casimiro was sent to FC Porto, where he spent 1 year as a loanee. In the summer of 2015, Casimiro re-joined his team Real Madrid. Since that year, Casimiro improved drastically in all aspects of the game and it did not take him long to become recognised as one of the best defensive midfielders which are reflected in his market value of £63.00m.
5. Jorginho; Chelsea; £58.50m
Jorginho, the Italian defensive midfielder, born in Brazil started off his professional football career in Hellas Verona in 2010, who sent him on a loan to Sambonifacese, where he remained for a season until he returned back to the Mastiffs. Within 3 years with Hellas Verona, his potential was noticed by Serie A giants, Napoli who bought him for a fee of £8.55m, which proved to be one of the best investments the team has made in recent years. In the 4 years that followed, Jorginho became a key player in Napoli, who let him go in 2018 when they agreed on a £51.30m offered by Chelsea. If he was worth the money is up to debate. Some believe he is overrated, however with a market value of £58.50m, it would be hard to deny he is an excellent player.
6. Rodrigo; Atletico Madrid; £54.00m
With only 22 years of age, Rodrigo already established himself as an exceptional player and one of the key men in Atletico Madrid. As a product of Atletico Madrid Juvenil B, he joined Villarreal U19 in 2015 on a free transfer. As the years passed, Rodrigo proved himself worthy to play in the main Villarreal squad, which happened in the summer of 2016. Rodrigo remained in the Villarreal squad for two years, where he accumulated 84 appearances. As time passed Rodrigo started showing his potential which was quickly noticed by Atletico Madrid, who realized they made a mistake in 2013 when they let him go for free. The price they had to pay for their mistake was £18.00m which was enough to convince Villarreal to let him return to his home team. Since his return to Atletico Madrid in 2018, his potential was used to its fullest, which allowed him to become one of the most expensive young defensive midfielders in the world. With only 22 years of age and a high potential, his transfer fee could easily be well over the market value.
7. Lucas Torreira; Arsenal; £49.50m
Lucas Torreira, the Uruguayan prodigy made a name for himself as one of the best young players in the world. His career started at Pescara, who signed him from Uruguayan team Wanderers U19 in 2014. As time passed, he was quickly thrown into the main squad, who decided to sell him to Sampdoria in 2015, who then loaned him back to Pescara. In the 3 years that followed, Lucas Torreira worked to become one of the best and the Italian Serie A was seemingly the right environment for him to do so. It did not take long for Lucas Torreira to be noticed by England side Arsenal, who brought him to the squad for a fee of £27.00m in summer of 2018. As it stands now, his value increased considerably and is now at £49.50m. As a key player in the Arsenal team, Lucas Torreira has more than enough opportunities to use his potential and grow to be one of the best that ever lived.
8. Thomas Partey; Atletico Madrid; £45.00m
Yet another Atletico Madrid player has found his way to our list as one of the most valuable defensive midfielders in the world. We are of course talking about the 25-year-old Ghana player Thomas, who is a product of Atletico Madrid academy. His career started off in 2012 when he joined Atl. Madrid B squad. In the years that followed, Thomas was loaned out to Mallorca and Almeria, where he gathered the needed experience and improved as a player. Only 3 years after, Atletico Madrid decided to give Thomas a chance to prove himself in the main team, and while his start was rather slow, Thomas is now considered one of the most important players in the team. Most recent transfer news link Thomas with the Red Devils, who are reportedly prepared to pay £45.00m for his services.
9. Granit Xhaka; Arsenal; £45.00m
A very well-known player, Granit Xhaka does not need a special introduction. A 26-years-old Swiss-born Albanian started off his career in Basel, where he played ever since the young age of 11. As the years passed, Granit Xhaka moved from U15 to U21 and finally became a part of Basel main team in 2010. Only two years later, he was approached by Borussia M’gladbach, who signed him for a fee of £7.65m, which proved to be a great investment, as they managed to sell him to Arsenal for an impressive fee of £40.50m in 2016. Ever since then, Granit Xhaka remained at the Gunners, where he accumulated well over 100 appearances (126), scored 11 goals and added 14 assists. In addition, he is also one of the regulars in Switzerland national team, where he made his debut in 2011.
10. Fabinho; Liverpool; £40.50m
We finish our list with a Brazilian defensive midfielder, Fabinho. In his career, Fabinho played in 5 different leagues, from Brazilian league to Portuguese league, Spanish league, French league and finally English league. With a rich history of gathering experience all over the world, Fabinho slowly but surely became one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. While he enjoyed a rather slow start, Fabinho proved himself in French Ligue 1, where he played for Monaco from 2015 till 2018. Three years proved to be enough for him to be noticed by Liverpool, who signed him for a fee of £40.50m and made him one of the regulars in the squad. In addition to being one of the regulars in the Liverpool team, Fabinho also made 7 appearances for Brazilian national squad.
With that, we end our list of the 10 most valuable defensive midfielders in the world. While the market value might not accurately represent how good the players are, it brings us as close as it can get to evaluate their potential, skills and other relevant things clubs look for in a player.