Top five defensive midfielders ever!

Hello everybody and I’m back with another one of my top five’s, continuing with defensive midfield. Sorry about the lack of material as I’ve been quite under the weather recently but I’m near to something resembling a human now!

My first defensive midfielder in the countdown is probably one of the most immediately recognizable footballers of all-time. Due to his dreadlocks and orange bright orange protective glasses, Edgar Davids wasn’t exactly a footballer whose talent meant he needed to shy away from the attention his appearance brought.

His style of play was very typical of a defensive midfielder, breaking up opposition attacks and launching effective ones for his own team. His reputation was enhanced once his boss at the time, Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal, gave him the nickname ‘The Pitbull’.

In a fine career which has so far spanned over two decades, Davids has made 537 appearances for nine different clubs so far including Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and he most recently came out of retirement in 2012 to be player-manager of League Two side Barnet.

Davids has won three Eredivisie, two KNVB cups, a Champions League, a UEFA Super, an Intercontinental cup, three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, two Suppercoppa Italia and an Intertoto Cup. Davids made 74 appearances for the Dutch International team and was also briefly appointed captain.

Edgar Davids sporting his famous look

Second up is the successful former French captain Didier Deschamps. Deschamps was the member of the winning France 1998 midfield who would do all the ‘dirty-work’, mopping up play and giving the ball to headline makers Zinedine Zidane and co. But Deschamps work never went unnoticed by his team as he was named captain for the World Cup winning 1998 campaign and was also named captain for the successful Euro 2000 campaign two years later.

At the time of his retirement, Deschamps was the highest capped French player ever, having made 103 appearances. He made 557 career club appearances which spanned over seven clubs; Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia.

As well as his international accolades, Deschamps won two Ligue 1 titles, two UEFA Champions League titles, three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, two Suppercoppa Italia, one Intercontinental cup, one UEFA Supercup, one Intertoto cup and an FA cup. He has also gone on to have a very successful managerial career.


Deschamps captaining France

My next pick is currently Man City’s Footballing Development Executive, Patrick Vieira. The lanky Frenchman rose to prominence when he signed for Arsenal in 1996 and he went on to become one of the greatest midfielders Arsenal and perhaps the Premiership has seen.

Vieira’s style of play was so elegant considering his sizeable frame that he became a nightmare for most opposition (apart from maybe a Mr. Roy Keane?) who came across him. Vieira made 651 career league appearances for six different clubs; Cannes, Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City.

He won six Serie A titles (one was revoked from his time at Juventus after the match-fixing scandal), two Supercoppa Italias, three Premiership titles, 5 FA cups, 4 FA community shields and he was also part of the France 1998 World Cup winning squad and a part of the successful Euro 2000 squad too. He was also Arsenal’s captain during their ‘Invincibles’ campaign and for the rest of their 49 game unbeaten run. Vieira also made 107 appearances for the French national team.


Vieira celebrating an Arsenal goal

Next up is the third Frenchman on my list but you will see why, not very players get their positional role named after them. Claude Makelele is football’s ultimate unsung hero, for years he was under appreciated until Chelsea snapped him up after Real Madrid refused to raise his wage.

It was at Chelsea where Makelele finally became appreciated tactically, he was the perfect foil for the beginning to Chelsea’s lavish spending. Simply sweeping in front of the back four, making a tackle and making a short pass with minimal fuss. He was such a hit in his time at Chelsea, that it then became dubbed ‘The Makelele Role’.

Makelele made 802 club career appearances for six different clubs; Nantes, Marseille, Celta Vigo, Real Madrid, Chelsea and PSG. During his career he won a Ligue 1 title, one Coupe de France, one Champions League, two Supercopa Espana, one Intercontinental cup, two La Liga titles, one UEFA super cup, two Premiership titles, two League Cups, one FA cup and a community shield. He also made 71 appearances for France, helping them to the 2006 World Cup final.


Makelele during his stint at PSG

The final defensive midfielder on my countdown is the most capped German of all-time, Lothar Matthaus. Matthaus was well known for being a complete and versatile player – great vision and passing, good positional sense, well-timed in the tackle and he had a ferocious shot.

Matthaus made 595 career club appearances which spanned for four different clubs; Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and MetroStars. He won seven Bundesliga titles, two UEFA cups, four DFB-Pokal, three DFB-Ligapokal, one DFB Supercup, one Serie A and one Supercoppa Italia.

Matthaus is the highest capped German player ever with 150 caps, he has won the 1990 World Cup and 1980 European Championship with the German National Team. He is the only player to have played in five World Cups, he holds the record for the most world cup appearances from an outfield player with 25.

He is the player who won the first ever World Player of the year and remains the only German to do so and to show his longevity he was named German footballer of the year at the ripe age of 38.

Lothar Matthaus

Matthaus lining up for Germany