The top 5 central midfielders in the world 2021 - ranked

90min's top central midfielders in the world - ranked
90min's top central midfielders in the world - ranked / 90min

December is largely considered the 'most wonderful time of the year' for two reasons - Welcome to World Class returning to your screens is the first, and Christmas just behind.

We've already rattled through the best goalkeepers, centre-backs and defensive midfielders in #W2WC21, so do go and check those out.

And now it's time to see how the world's best central midfielders rank when put against 90min's metrics.

In case you aren't familiar with our process, here's how we got here.

  • A world class footballer is defined as one of the top five players in the world in their position.
  • All players can fit into one of 10 on-field positions; GK, RB, LB, CB, DM, CM, AM, RF, LF, ST.
  • All players have been graded across ten different subcategories in the decision-making process - you can find more information on everything mentioned above here.
  • Performances for club and country are considered.
  • We want you to have your say - check out details on how to get involved below.

Enough talk, let's dive in...

All statistics are provided by StatsPerform over the period of January 1, 2021 to November 30, 2021 (inclusive of domestic and continental cup competitions).

5. Ilkay Gundogan (new entry)

Gundogan had a great career
Gundogan had a great career / 90min

Games played: 47
Minutes played: 3528
Goals: 16
Assists: 7
Shots: 86
Chances created: 79
Passes: 2627
Passing accuracy: 91.7%
Tackles: 40

Ilkay Gundogan has enjoyed a glittering career, first starring for one of the most endearing sides in recent memory - Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund - before making a home for himself among the elite at Manchester City.

However, until 2021 conversations about him being truly world class have always had to be whispered. No longer though, as this year Gundogan has added goals to his game, while maintaining a spotlessness in possession and boundless creativity that made him one of Pep Guardiola's favourite.

Gundogan kicked off 2021 with well-deserved, back-to-back Premier League player of the month awards and the good times have just kept on rolling in the form of a league and Carabao Cup double - as well as an appearance in a European Cup final.

No wonder you guys voted him onto this list in the fan poll.

4. Leon Goretzka (-)

Goretzka has secured back-to-back 4th-place finishes in W2WC
Goretzka has secured back-to-back 4th-place finishes in W2WC /

Games played: 34
Minutes played: 2456
Goals: 6
Assists: 6
Shots: 77
Chances created: 41
Passes: 1499
Passing accuracy: 87.1%
Tackles: 43

After roaring to global stardom with his lockdown transformation (and 2020 Champions League winners' medal, but that's a footnote in this story really), Goretzka has now fully established himself as one of the world's premier midfielders.

There isn't a single skill that he or usual partner Joshua Kimmich don't excel at between them, and while Robert Lewandowski grabs the headlines for the obscene number of goals he scores, he's helped by Bayern being built on solid foundations in midfield.

Now in the hands of one of the most promising tacticians in the world in Julian Nagelsmann, who knows what kind of levels Goretzka can elevate himself to? Maybe he'll go full Tim Wiese and join WWE.

3. Toni Kroos (down 2)

Kroos is obviously in the top four of W2WC
Kroos is obviously in the top four of W2WC / 90min

Games played: 33
Minutes played: 2604
Goals: 4
Assists: 12
Shots: 46
Chances created: 71
Passes: 2560
Passing accuracy: 93.7%
Tackles: 47

Don't let the 'down 2' next to his name distract you from the fact that Toni Kroos has been world class for nearly a whole decade now, and will continue to be world class long into the 2020s.

Now 31, Kroos is still churning out top performances week after week - and fans can now see him live again at a palace befitting of him like the Bernabeu, too.

2. Luka Modric (new entry)

Modric has rolled back the years throughout 2021
Modric has rolled back the years throughout 2021 / 90min

Games played: 41
Minutes played: 3279
Goals: 2
Assists: 9
Shots: 52
Chances created: 58
Passes: 2690
Passing accuracy: 88.4%
Tackles: 38

Five years Kroos' elder, Modric is starting to be wrapped up in cotton wool by Carlo Ancelotti as his career winds down. But when he plays - which is still plenty - he looks as young as ever.

Ballon d'Or notoriety has long passed and yet that seems not to have dented Modric's ambition, with Real Madrid well on their way to another La Liga title.

It's been a weirdly quiet year for Los Blancos on the trophy front, but the good times are nearing again and Modric's experience has been pivotal in a Madrid side full of budding youngsters.

1. Marco Verratti (new entry)

Verratti is an all-timer
Verratti is an all-timer / 90min

Games played: 26
Minutes played: 1931
Goals: 0
Assists: 5
Shots: 7
Chances created: 33
Passes: 1910
Passing accuracy: 90.4%
Tackles: 68

If the world were a fair and just place, then the Italian midfielder on this year's Ballon d'Or podium would have been Marco Verratti.

Unfortunately for him, that's just life. He'll instead have to live in solace with the fact that he's the top central midfielder in the world...according to us.

Anyone who had even half an eye on Euro 2020 would have told you that Verratti was the best midfielder there, and that success with Italy is earning him the recognition he finally deserves.

There are only two factors that have stopped him from becoming a unanimous pick among the all-time great midfielders - the fact he's played most of his career in France, and his fitness record. But you'd be hard pressed to find any game from Verratti where he's not been one of the top performers on the pitch by miles.