The 25 best attacking midfielders in world football - ranked

  • Attacking midfielders more important than ever but classic number tens starting to go out of fashion
  • Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes and Martin Odegaard among the top performers in world football
  • 25 best players from around the world ranked as part of 90min's Welcome to World Class series
Image by Briony Painter
Image by Briony Painter /
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Attacking midfielders of the highest grade are like gold dust in modern football.

While systems around Europe are starting to phase out the classic attacking ten, there is still the need for creative midfielders to pull strings, whip in free kicks and score the odd banger from distance.

Here are the best 25 attacking midfielders in the world, ranked as part of our 2023 Welcome to World Class series.


25. Jonas Hofmann

Jonas Hofmann
Hofmann has played a key role for Leverkusen in 2023/24 / Lars Baron/GettyImages

Jonas Hofmann enjoyed some wonderfully productive years with Borussia Monchendgladbach in the Bundesliga before making the switch to Bayer Leverkusen in 2023.

The Germany international has been a regular in Xabi Alonso's side, supporting the likes of Victor Boniface and Florian Wirtz with his set-piece expertise and passing ability.


24. Morgan Gibbs-White

Morgan Gibbs-White
Gibbs-White could yet improve / Visionhaus/GettyImages

The main reason why Nottingham Forest are still a Premier League club right now, Morgan Gibbs-White has come into his own since taking the keys of their attack.

The 24-year-old is only getting better and better with each passing game.


23. Isco

Isco Alarcon, David Soria
Isco is reborn / Fran Santiago/GettyImages

You may have thought Isco's time on lists like this had been and gone.

The Spanish playmaker lost his way at Real Madrid and couldn't find it again at Sevilla. After a spell without a club, he joined another team in Seville, Real Betis.

He has been thriving in La Liga this season and is a joy to watch again.


22. Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher
Gallagher may have to leave Chelsea / Vince Mignott/MB Media/GettyImages

Conor Gallagher first impressed on loan at Crystal Palace and seemed to have carved out a long-term future at Chelsea.

Despite playing very well this season under Mauricio Pochettino, the club could sell him in the summer as they continue to struggle with their messy finances.

Whoever gets him could be laughing.


21. Eberechi Eze

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United - Premier League
Eze is a wonderful player / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

There are few more entertaining players in the Premier League than Eberechi Eze right now.

The Crystal Palace star can score stunning free-kicks and regularly opens up opposition defences with his instinctive creativity.

Now an England international, Eze will almost certainly earn a move away from Crystal Palace in the near future.


20. Dani Olmo

Dani Olmo, Eduardo Camavinga
Olmo is a Spain international / Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

After starring in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb, Dani Olmo joined RB Leipzig midway through the 2019/20 season and played a big role in Die Roten Bullen's progression to the Champions League semi-finals under Julian Nagelsmann.

Olmo slotted into Nagelsmann's vertical and fluid system seamlessly as he was used all over the pitch by the German manager. The Spaniard has since become a prominent member of the national team, notably contributing at both Euro 2022 and the Olympics.

Olmo is a sharpshooter who loves to beat players one-on-one and create for his teammates in the final third.


19. Brahim Diaz

Brahim Diaz
Brahim Diaz is finally playing for Real Madrid / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

Brahim Diaz has had an unusual career, with his most consistent performances coming during a two-year loan at AC Milan where he could actually start games.

He is now back at Real Madrid and while he does not start every game, Diaz is getting a healthy number of minutes and taking the chances when they come his way.


18. Julian Brandt

1. FC Köln v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
Julian Brandt is impressing at Dortmund / Jürgen Fromme - firo sportphoto/GettyImages

Julian Brandt has been a big name in the Bundesliga for a long time now and while some may have expected him to go on to slightly bigger things, the German is still an extremely impressive attacking midfielder.

Had Borussia Dortmund managed to deliver the German title on the final day of the 2022/23 season, Brandt would have been one of the players listed as crucial to the achievement.

Versatile enough to play almost anywhere in midfield and attack, Brandt grabbed nine goals and eight assists last season and is on track for more this term.


17. Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller
The OG space interpreter / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

The original Raumdeuter

Thomas Muller's proficiency at picking gaps meant an entirely new role was created in homage to the slippery German. Muller is a one-of-a-kind footballer.

He can finish off chances like a ruthless number nine, create for others with the utmost subtlety and interpret space akin to Galileo. Muller certainly isn't the most aesthetic of attacking midfielders - maybe it's because of his unusually long arms - but he's so incredibly effective at what he does.

Muller is not quite so important to Bayern anymore, but he is still a very good footballer.


16. Christopher Nkunku

Christopher Nkunku, Jose Sa
Nkunku is finding his feet / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Julian Nagelsmann helped Christopher Nkunku hone his craft during his time at RB Leipzig and the Frenchman exploded in the wake of the German manager's departure last summer.

Nkunku is a Swiss army knife. He's so versatile but much of his production last season came when Domenico Tedesco deployed him in a second-striker position. The discarded PSG youth prospect loves to operate from the left half-space and Tedesco was able to facilitate the most productive season of his career thus far in 2021/22.

His form saw him called up to France's squad for the very first time in March 2022 and Chelsea have since swooped in to take his talents to Stamford Bridge. A serious of injuries have disrupted his first season in England and how he will fit in when fit remains to be seen.


15. James Maddison

James Maddison
Maddison is endlessly creative / Visionhaus/GettyImages

It wasn't always plain sailing for James Maddison at Leicester City, with Brendan Rodgers happy to underutilise the Englishman due to his lack of defensive nous and sub-par work rate. However, he has evolved in these regards over the past couple of years to become one of the Premier League's most efficient playmakers.

He's a risk-taker in possession; a player that gets the crowd on their feet every time he receives possession in the attacking third. He has thrived since joining Tottenham, either side of a serious injury.


14. Joao Felix

Portugal v Bosnia Herzegovina: Group J - UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round
Felix needs to crack on / Zed Jameson/MB Media/GettyImages

A player with a fairly ambiguous position, Joao Felix still retains enough quality and promise for a high ranking, even if his loan at Chelsea didn't quite work out in the way he or Atletico Madrid would have wanted.

Felix has impressed intermittently while on loan at Barcelona this season, but the Portugal international still has much to prove.


13. Paulo Dybala

Paulo Dybala
Dybala is a joy to watch / Silvia Lore/GettyImages

Injuries have hamstrung Paulo Dybala over the past two seasons, but the Argentine is nothing short of joyous to watch in full flow.

The aptly named La Joya is a throwback playmaker who plays the game at his own pace. He likes to drift infield from the right and create with that wand of a left foot. However, Dybala is more of a goalscorer than he is a creator and despite suffering numerous injuries he still puts out good numbers.

His status as an outright superstar has been thrust into considerable doubt over the past few years and his move to Roma was an indication of his relative decline at the highest level.

For all his talent, Dybala simply isn't a player who aligns with the ideals of progressive, modern-day managers. Perhaps he was born a generation too late.


12. Xavi Simons

Xavi Simons
Top class / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/GettyImages

Having been exceptional for PSV Eindhoven, Xavi Simons earned himself a move to PSG during the summer and then a loan switch to RB Leipzig to test himself at a slightly higher level.

The young Dutchman has enjoyed a productive time in the Bundesliga, impressing with his elegant dribbling ability and sharp eye for goal, and he's easily one of the best players in the German top flight right now.


11. Mohammed Kudus

Lloyd Kelly, Mohammed Kudus
Kudus has shone at West Ham / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Mohammed Kudus had been linked consistently with Europe's elite before making the surprise move to West Ham in the summer of 2023.

He has been a revelation for the Hammers, scoring and creating almost every weekend. They may be fending off bids for him in 2024.


10. Julian Alvarez

Julián Álvarez
Alvarez in action / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Signed as a backup striker to Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez has been simply too good not to have in the starting lineup since joining.

Now, Pep Guardiola is utilising Alvarez as an attacking midfielder and, judging by his performances, it's a position he is more than capable of thriving in.


9. Kai Havertz

Kai Havertz
Havertz is starting to impress for Arsenal / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Kai Havertz made his name as an attacking midfielder in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen, though Chelsea often shoehorned the German into their starting XI by playing him up front.

Havertz never looked like a great fit as the Blues' striker and has since swapped Stamford Bridge for the Emirates in another exchange between the London giants.

Mikel Arteta has ended up using Havertz both in his midfield three and in attack with positive results, justifying the risk Arsenal took in bringing him across the capital.


8. Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva
Quality player / Christian Kaspar-Bartke/GettyImages

Bernardo Silva's versatility and established quality mean he's comfortable playing across midfield and attack for Manchester City.

He has been an incredibly valuable asset to the Cityzens since his arrival in 2017. The Portugal international is a brilliantly tidy player who can also provide a bit of cutting-edge when needed.


7. Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane
Wirtz is the real deal / Stefan Matzke - sampics/GettyImages

When the Bundesliga pioneered the return of football in 2020 following a lengthy COVID-induced break, Peter Bosz's Bayer Leverkusen were one of the sides desperate football lovers were keen to see. 

Kai Havertz was the name on the tip of everybody's tongues but Florian Wirtz also raised an eyebrow or two. It took some time for the young German to produce regularly for Die Werkself but by the time he suffered a devastating ACL rupture in March 2022, Wirtz had established himself as one of the world’s best teenage talents.

He took the mantle from Havertz with both hands and quickly emerged as Leverkusen's star attacking talent.


6. Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes - Soccer Player - Born 1994
Bruno Fernandes is crucial to Man Utd / Visionhaus/GettyImages

The pressure that comes with being a big-money Manchester United signing is unrivalled and so many before Bruno Fernandes wilted under the spotlight.

However, the Portuguese creator set the world alight during his first 18 months at the club. After signing in January 2020, Fernandes notched 15 Premier League goal contributions in 14 appearances during the second half of the season before scoring 18 times in the league the following campaign.

Fernandes has definitely suffered during some of United's more depressing moments over the past few years, but his output since joining has been remarkable.


5. Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala
Musiala is a special talent / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

England and Germany fought it out for the right to have this teenage sensation represent them on the international stage.

Jamal Musiala had played for the Three Lions at various youth levels but is German-born and quickly racked up over 20 appearances for Germany at just 20 years of age.

He has already established himself as a bona fide star with Bayern Munich, scoring the goal that helped his side pip Borussia Dortmund to the title in 2022/23.

Musiala can perform multiple roles but excels in an attacking midfield position due to his instincts in and around the box. He's an excellent dribbler, while his movement in the final third is Thomas Muller-esque.


4. Martin Odegaard

Martin Odegaard
Odegaard has flourished at Arsenal / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Former Real Madrid wonder kid Martin Odegaard has matured into quite the character. Already the captain of Norway, he was announced as Arsenal's new skipper before the start of the 2022/23 season.

Odegaard is blessed with a tidy left foot and is one of those players who boasts a wonderful 'feel' for the game. He understands timing and can pull off almost every pass in the book. His playmaking capacity has to be considered among the very best in the world.

The Norwegian star is playing a key role in Mikel Arteta's exciting project at Arsenal and has all the makings of a modern-day Gunners icon. He's going from strength to strength and is one of Arsenal's best players.


3. Phil Foden

Phil Foden
Foden is a superstar / Alex Livesey - Danehouse/GettyImages

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hailed Phil Foden's "special quality" in the past and the Spaniard has done an excellent job of facilitating the England international's rise at the Etihad.

Foden glides across the pitch before exuding the utmost technical quality with the ball at his feet. He's a player you just can't take your eye off at times, such is his virtuosity.

The two-time PFA Young Player of the Year is gritty and tenacious without the ball, while Pep has used him in a myriad of functions - all of which he performs to the highest level. Not many boast Foden's positional flexibility.


2. Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne is a devastating player / Mateusz Slodkowski/GettyImages

Few players combine strength, power, creativity and technical ability like Kevin De Bruyne.

The Belgian playmaker is incredibly difficult to stop when all of Man City's parts are moving with the precise synchronicity of a swan dance at the opera, showing devastating form during the second half of the 2022/23 season as they blitzed their way to the treble.

Give him too much space and De Bruyne will find the spare teammate at the back post. Close him down and he'll blast into space for one of his unstoppable drives.

His injury has seen him miss most of 2023/24, but he is back and creating goals again.


1. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham
Bellingham is thriving / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

Few could have predicted quite the immediate impact Jude Bellingham would have when he signed for Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund.

The England international was already revered for his consistency in the Bundesliga but broke out as a bona fide attacking star in his first few months under Carlo Ancelotti, supremely filling the iconic void left by Karim Benzema.

When you consider he looks like the nailed-on favourite to win the next Ballon d'Or, Bellingham has to take top spot among attacking midfielders.

The kid is tearing it up and shows no sign of stopping.


READ MORE ON THE BEST 25 PLAYERS FOR EVERY POSITION IN WORLD FOOTBALL

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