Welcome to World Class

Welcome to World Class: The Shortlist - Attacking Midfielders

Max Cooper
The attackers midfielders shortlist is revealed for 90min's Welcome to World Class series | #W2WC
The attackers midfielders shortlist is revealed for 90min's Welcome to World Class series | #W2WC / Matt Burt/90min

The attacking midfielder is a rare breed of player, and one of the bravest in existence. When your team is down in the dying minutes of a must-win game, and you have one last crack at carving out a clutch chance, there is only one person asked to shoulder that burden.

The man who can be consistently exceptional, and exceptionally consistent. As you can well imagine, there are not many of these world class talents kicking about, but we at 90min have been able to narrow them down to a shortlist of 10 elite players in this position.

But who are they? Let's check out who is in contention as our Welcome to World Class series nears a conclusion.

Luis Alberto

From Liverpool reject to Lazio superstar
From Liverpool reject to Lazio superstar / Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Club: SS Lazio
Country: Spain

Liverpool supporters would have never anticipated seeing Luis Alberto's name on this list, given the miserable three-year stint he endured in England. The Spaniard was out of his depth and not cut out for the big leagues, but in fairness, he was extremely young and raw at that time. A few years later, the man is a superstar.

The 28-year-old's move to SS Lazio in 2016 couldn't have gone any better. He has found a loving home, where his flamboyancy and willingness to take risks on the ball is cherished. Alberto, Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are three peas in a pod at Stadio Olimpico, and they are helping the Eagles soar to new heights.

Philippe Coutinho

Revitalised / Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Club: Barcelona
Country: Spain

We were probably fortunate enough to have seen the best (so far) of Philippe Coutinho on British shores. The Brazilian star flourished at Liverpool, becoming the key creator in their sparkling forward line, before swapping Anfield for Camp Nou in 2018. Since then, the 28-year-old's career hasn't progressed in the way he'd have hoped.

But, despite his troubles, we all know what Coutinho can do. That terrifying, thumping long-range strike with his right boot, the caressed, clipped passes to teammates, those unstoppable curlers into the top corner. It's all waiting to be unlocked once again.

Kevin De Bruyne

Looking like Superman
Looking like Superman / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Club: Manchester City
Country: Belgium

Kevin De Bruyne is one of the most complete footballers the Premier League has ever seen. Manchester City have been blessed with the Belgian star's presence for five years now, and he has grown to become the most crucial cog in a team of expensively-assembled superstars.

The 29-year-old's eye for a pass is unrivalled in the English top flight, and he can produce pinpoint assists that the rest of us can only marvel at. Without doubt, De Bruyne is one of the sweetest strikers of the ball in Premier League history, and his 20/20 vision and ruthless execution makes him an utter joy to behold.

Paulo Dybala

La Joya
La Joya / Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Club: Juventus
Country: Argentina

Juventus star Paulo Dybala may not have lived up to every lofty expectation as of yet, but the fact he has still cruised into this list tells us just how intense those demands are. The diminutive, left-footed Argentine immediately drew comparisons with a certain Lionel Messi, and his brace against Barcelona in 2017 sent those theories into overdrive.

The 27-year-old's career has plateaued since that moment, but there can be no doubts that on his day, he can change a game in the blink of an eye. The grace, the ghostly glide and the pure technique are very comparable to those of his national compatriot, and he still has time to hit those peaks on a more consistent basis.

Bruno Fernandes

So talented he's combining celebrations
So talented he's combining celebrations / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Club: Manchester United
Country: Portugal

How often can a player truly transform the fortunes of a club, let alone one the size of Manchester United? Well, since arriving from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes has done exactly that. The Portuguese midfielder is a real leader, an uncharacteristic trait of someone in his position, but he oozes calm and quality, while demanding the same from his teammates.

Fernandes lives on a different wavelength to most players - something that has become apparent when attempting to link up with the Red Devils' lesser talented stars. But he helps Man Utd operate on higher levels, and he could be the catalyst toward bringing glory back to Old Trafford.

Jack Grealish

Grealish has transformed into one of the best players in his field
Grealish has transformed into one of the best players in his field / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Club: Aston Villa
Country: England

Jack Grealish may not have made this list 12 months ago, but the Aston Villa man has flourished into one of the best attacking midfielders in world football with his boyhood club. The 25-year-old performed well in a struggling Villans side last season, scoring eight goals and providing six assists to help them avoid relegation on the final day of the campaign.

Villa have gone from strength to strength since that day, and so has their captain and talisman. Grealish is the lynchpin in this new-look, attacking side, already hitting five goals and eight assists this year. His performances have led to many calling for his name to be one of the first on the England teamsheet, and as he continues his meteoric rise, there appears to be no stopping him.

Kai Havertz

On his way to greatness
On his way to greatness / Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Club: Chelsea
Country: Germany

Forget the initial teething problems in the Premier League, Kai Havertz is a star in the making. The elegant 21-year-old took the Bundesliga by storm during his four seasons with Bayer Leverkusen, highlighting from the tenderest of ages that he's got what it takes to mix it with the big boys.

It may not have gone entirely according to plan for Havertz and Chelsea just yet, but the starlet is mere weeks away from exploding into life. And when he does find his feet, both he and the Blues will take some stopping. Get ready, England, you have a footballing prodigy on your hands.

Thomas Muller

Thom-assist Muller...? Thom-assist?
Thom-assist Muller...? Thom-assist? / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Club: Bayern
Country: Germany

Thomas Muller's reputation as an elite attacking midfielder has undoubtedly suffered over the years, mainly because so many of us have failed to understand exactly what he does. The Bayern man is not a creative midfielder who splits defences with wicked through balls from deep, nor can he ghost past players with the ball at his feet.

The 31-year-old is more of a ghost when it comes to positioning however. Muller is known in Germany as a 'space interpreter', occupying the areas on the pitch that other players don't think to utilise. His awareness, understanding of the game and anticipation put him one step ahead of his adversary, and this leads to him bagging a shed load of goals and assists - completely unmarked.

Marco Reus

Gliding / Lars Baron/Getty Images

Club: Borussia Dortmund
Country: Germany

Make no mistakes, before all the injuries and the setbacks, Marco Reus was a phenomenon. The German star broke through as a prolific goalscorer and provider at Borussia Monchengladbach, notching 18 goals in his final season at the club.

Reus' next four years at Borussia Dortmund were an undeniable success, scoring 49 times and laying on 16 assists. Unfortunately, injury hampered the couple of years that followed, and he suffered the heartbreak of missing Germany's successful 2014 World Cup adventure. He's back fit and firing now though, and is ready to make up for lost time.

David Silva

David Silva is leading the charge at Real Sociedad
David Silva is leading the charge at Real Sociedad / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Club: Real Sociedad
Country: Spain

Genuine world class is hard to replace - just ask Man City. You can throw all the money in the world at your problem, but in the end, there's only one David Silva. The Spaniard arrived in England in 2010 and dedicated the next decade to making the Citizens powerhouses of British football.

The appreciation of such a nimble, clever and graceful player grew over the seasons, and people began to see him for what he is: an orchestrator, a conductor, a man who can think that split-second quicker than everyone else. How Guardiola could do with a prime Silva right now.

The 10 attacking midfielders shortlisted
The 10 attacking midfielders shortlisted / Matt Burt/90min