The winner of the midfield battle usually ends up winning the game, and that's no different in Football Manager 2022.
One of the best ways to help your side to victory is to find an elite defensive midfielder, who can shield your back line and offer something going forwards as well. In the right system, they can be the most important players in the squad.
So, with the Winter Update now out, here's a list of the best defensive midfielders you can sign, whatever your budget may be.
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A truly versatile midfielder, you won't get long out of Guardado, who is soon to turn 35, but you can't really complain for £1m.
31-year-old N'Diaye has experience from all across the globe. He's excellently well-rounded, and has at least 14 in every key stat for a ball winning defender. Not bad for a little over £3m.
Baumgartlinger will cost you just £2.5m, for which you'll get a veteran with 16 tackling and 18 work rate.
Former Bayern man Martinez is still more than good enough for a spot in a top league. He's not yet 33 so should give you a few years of service in exchange for £2.1m.
Another experienced head, Leiva is available for a cool £1m, for which you'll get a season of top-tier service.
Roca is available for just £5m, which is a real steal in this price bracket. He's got the potential to get even better but is already good enough to play a role for a top side, with his 16 passing the stand-out stat.
An obscure option but one which definitely needs to be considered. 26-year-old Romo can be picked up for just £3.5m and has a lot of nice stats for a deep lying player.
Fernando is statistically the best player you'll find in this price range. His mental stats are outrageous and great value for his £5.75m price tag, but the reality is he's about to turn 34 and offers no resale value.
Inter (on loan at Sampdoria)
If you can wait 12 months, you can land Sensi from Inter after his loan at Sampdoria comes to an end. He's definitely worth a £7m spend if you're able to wait it out.
You'll still get a good few years out of 31-year-old Pizarro, who will set you back a cool £4.7m.
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A regular feature on lists like these, Barrios is an excellent option at a very affordable £9m. He's a little light on the physical side but is mostly perfect for the ball winning midfielder role.
Napoli are ready to give you Lobotka for a cool £10.5m. He's probably more of a central midfielder but his 14 tackling makes him work in a deeper role.
One for the future, 23-year-old Martinez can grow into an elite option in just a few years. He'll cost you £20m and likely won't justify that immediately, but give him time and you won't forget it.
He may have only just signed Zebre from Gladbach, but Zakaria is still available for a dirt-cheap £9m once you can actually convince him to leave.
Utility man Roberto can be signed for £12.5m from Barcelona, but the catch is his wage demands are pretty sizeable. One to consider if that's how your budget is split up.
£9m will get you Tapia, who is among one of the best options at this price point. He has very low wage demands as well and doesn't seem to have figured out how good he actually is. You won't find many smarter deals than this.
Another ideal ball winning midfielder, Delaney is one of the better options available without completely breaking the bank, but his £16m price tag is still a little steep.
17 tackling is the most eye-catching stat from Demme, whose price tag of £13m is nothing to sneeze at.
Grillitsch offers the added bonus of being a capable option at centre-back as well as in midfield. He'll cost you £14m.
Bilbao veteran Garcia is in the final 12 months of his contract, but if you can' wait that long to sign him, he'll cost you £12m.
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Palinha is already a star at 25 years old and still has a little more room to grow into the perfect defensive midfielder. If he's your man, you'll pay around £26m.
Marten de Roon
Dutchman De Roon is a great option for the ball winning midfielder role and his value of £20m is better than a lot of other targets.
Atalanta are open for business and if you don't want De Roon, they'll sell you Freuler for £25m.
Gueye comes with some hefty wage demands but the fact he costs around £15m should make that a little easier to deal with.
Fernandinho is one of the best players in this position and is available for just £7m, but you'll have to pay him an enormous wage to leave City. He's also 36, so it's a short-term option.
Some top sides start chasing after Rodriguez pretty quickly, and rightly so. He's one of the better defensive midfielders on the game but will cost you just £27m which, when coupled with his comparatively small wage demands, is an enormous bargain.
Rodriguez's partner-in-crime, Carvalho's price tag of £32m isn't as appealing but still represents nice value for money.
Camavinga isn't top-tier quality right now, which makes his £68m price tag tough to swallow, but the Frenchman will become one of the best players on the game a few years down the line. This is the cheapest he'll ever be, so if you want him, get him now.
An ideal deep-lying playmaker, Cristante is free to leave Roma for £22m. He's got 16 passing, 17 heading and 19 teamwork as his top stats.
Handed a nice boost after the Winter Update, Chalobah is now more than good enough for any top side and the 22-year-old still has a lot of room left to go. Not bad for £32m.