Back in November, we did a video on the 7 best attacking trios in world football right now. It was a big hit, but being the fool I am, I didn’t think to follow-up on it.
Today I’m putting that right, by taking a look at the 7 best midfield trios in world football right now. As with the attacking trios video, we have ranked the players out of 10 in terms of their individual qualities and out of ten once more in terms of their talents as a unit to give a combined score out of 20.
Also as with our attacking trios video, we’re not just throwing the three best midfielders in a team together. To feature, the team must play with a midfield three on a regular basis, and I have largely gone with the three who have played together most frequently this season, rather than the three who I feel are the best, with the exception of injuries.
Here are our 7 best midfield trios right now:
7. Jorginho, Kante & Kovacic
It could be a three of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Ross Barkley, rather than Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, but we went with the latter since Kovacic has had more game time than Barkley this season, albeit not by much. In truth, it’s much of muchness with those two, and it wouldn’t affect the Chelsea trios overall ranking out of 20 or their position in this seven whoever we had gone with.
Kante is the outstanding player in the Chelsea midfield, having been absolutely sensational since his arrival in the Premier League in 2015. Since then, the Frenchman has won consecutive Premier League titles with two different clubs, made the PFA Team of the Year in both of those campaigns, won the Premier League Player of the Season award in 2017 and helped himself to a World Cup title with France in 2018.
Kante has been a source of controversy at the Bridge this season. Having signed a lucrative new deal over the summer, the tireless midfield disruptor has been dislodged from his natural berth in holding midfield by Maurizio Sarri, moving wider and further forward. Sarri said he wanted a technical player as his pivot in the middle of the park, but some have questioned moving Kante when he was one of the most effective players in the world in his position.
The man who replaced him there, Jorginho, has also come in for some criticism. Having started the season brightly, it soon became clear that everything Chelsea did went through the Italian. Teams targeted him, and neither Jorginho nor Sarri seemed to have a solution, with the midfielder having been largely restricted to playing it safe over the last few months.
Kovacic, meanwhile, who is on-loan from Real Madrid, gives you a bit of everything. He has good stamina, technique and an eye for a pass. This Chelsea trio haven’t quite clicked enough to put them among Europe’s elite, but they’re all good players, and they deserve 7th place.
6. Winks, Sissoko & Eriksen
On paper, one could make a case for Chelsea’s midfield three being superior to Tottenham’s, but on the pitch we’d take the Spurs trio. Tottenham can be quite fluid with their formations and Mauricio Pochettino has chopped and changed it depending on their opposition a few times this season, but we think they play a definite midfield three often enough to qualify for this seven.
The likes of Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier, Oliver Skipp and until recently Moussa Dembele could all also be considered here, but Winks, Sissoko and Eriksen has been Pochettino’s most favoured trio so far this term, so that’s why they’re the three we’ve gone with.
Winks tends to be the pivot, coming deep to get the ball, working hard and looking neat in possession. Rarely incisive in the pass but rarely careless either, the Englishman is constantly improving, and he could answer a couple of Gareth Southgate’s mifield dilemmas if he can become a mainstay in this Tottenham side.
Sissoko looked like a dreadful piece of business by Spurs at £30 million in his first 18 months to two years at the club, but Pochettino persevered, and once again the Argentine has been well rewarded. Sissoko has always had talent, but he’s far from a luxury player in the Spurs side these days. A strong runner both with and without the ball, Sissoko is a powerful presence in the Tottenham midfield, and he put in some excellent big game performances prior to his injury against Manchester United this season.
Finally, we save the best ‘till last with Christian Eriksen. Just a wonderful footballer who tends to operate at the apex of this midfield three, Eriksen has been fantastic ever since his arrival in North London from Ajax, but he gets better and better every season. His passing and crossing abilities are superb, his placement from range is devastating and on top of being a magnificent technician, he’s also relentlessly hard working.
Eriksen is a gem that Tottenham can’t afford to lose, and he ensures that they feature in this seven.
5. Wijnaldum, Henderson & Milner
This has been a very Premier League heavy seven so far, thanks in no small part to the fact that so many top flight English clubs are opting to play with a midfield three at the moment, and in fifth place is Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool trio.
Liverpool have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in midfield, although the players in question share an awful lot of attributes. I would probably include both Fabinho and Naby Keita in my strongest Liverpool midfield trio, with the talented but injury-prone Adam Lallana another option, as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he returns to full fitness, but Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner has been Klopp’s preferred three so far this term.
Wijnaldum was considered a luxury player at Newcastle, typically deployed in something of a free role, where he would drift in and out of games, occasionally looking a world beater and occasionally looking invisible. That’s all changed at Anfield, where Wijnaldum has played much deeper and been much more dependable.
Henderson is Liverpool’s club captain, typically operating at the base of the three where he brings grit, determination and lots of diagonal balls out to the flanks. There were question marks about Henderson’s role following the arrivals of Fabinho and Keita, but he has played 26 games already this season.
And lastly we come to James Milner, who has proved a magnificent piece of business as a free transfer by the Reds. A first class professional who would go quietly about his business even if Jurgen Klopp asked him to play in goal, Milner is fantastically versatile, intelligent both in and out of possession and he will run for days.
This Liverpool trio would take top spot in terms of energy and application, but perhaps just lacks some of the craft, guile and individual brilliance of those that feature ahead of it.
4. Khedira, Pjanic & Matuidi
Following a tough battle for the Serie A title last season, Juventus look a pretty safe bet to retain their title this term. Their midfield trio has been a big part of that, although the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t hurt, but it’s those midfielders who we focus on today. Again, Juve also have the likes of Emre Can and Rodrigo Bentancur to call upon in the midfield department, but Khedira, Pjanic and Matuidi would seem to be their preferred choice when all are at 100%.
It took me a while to really understand why Sami Khedira was so highly rated by so many top managers. No-one wins league titles in three different countries, a Champions League and a World Cup by accident, and Khedira is no exception. Such an intelligent defensive or central midfielder, Khedira’s positioning and awareness out of possession are exceptional, and his composure and thought on the ball isn’t far behind.
Pjanic is the pick of the three, by far, and looks comfortable in holding, central or attacking midfield. A magnificent passer of the ball with great vision, Pjanic is always looking for that killer pass, and he’s also an absolute menace from set pieces. Regularly among Serie A’s top goal providers, Lyon legend Juninho called Pjanic the best free-kick taker in the world, and we’d say he had decent credentials to be able to pass judgement.
Finally, we come to Blaise Matuidi, who appeared to be an absolute snip for the Italian giants at just €20-30 million euros depending on add-ons in 2017. Matuidi had been an important player at PSG, and he’s now a very important one in Turin. A master in the dying art of box-to-box midfield play, Matuidi is quick, sharp in the tackle and just relentless in the amount of miles he clocks up every game. The only concern would be how long Matuidi can keep up those energy levels aged 31.
3. Busquets, Rakitic & Arthur
Barcelona are spoilt for choice in the middle of the park, despite the departures of Andres Iniesta and Paulinho over the summer and Denis Suarez this January. Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are nailed on when fit, and then it’s a question of Arthur, Arturo Vidal, Sergi Roberto, Carles Alena and even Philippe Coutinho for that third spot. We think Coutinho looks settled among the forward line rather than in midfield now, so it was really a case of Arthur or Vidal, both of whom are fantastic footballers.
Arthur has been identified as a potential replacement for Xavi, which is easier said than done. The 22-year-old who joined Barca from Gremio plays with an intelligence beyond his years. His touch, technique and decision making are all excellent, and Lionel Messi has been quick to praise the talented Brazilian.
Fellow South American Vidal arrived at the Camp Nou from Bayern Munich in the summer, bringing an injection of bite and energy to the Barca midfield. Vidal has a phenomenal work rate and is fierce in the tackle, as well as having decent technique. You can take your pick, but when forced into a decision, we looked to the future and went with Arthur.
Busquets is a player we’ve spoken about frequently on this channel, and he was one of just five currently active players to make our list of the 100 greatest footballers of all time, so regular viewers and subscribers will know how highly I rate him. Busquets is one of the finest midfield pivots of all time, and one of the most intelligent footballers I’ve ever seen.
Then we come to Ivan Rakitic, who gives a bit of everything. He can play anywhere in the spine of a midfield, he works hard, he’s creative and he even presents a threat when shooting from range. The 2018 World Cup finalist is 30 now, and he’s about to eclipse 250 appearances at the Camp Nou, where he’s won 12 trophies in four-and-half years.
2. Casemiro, Modric & Kroos
I have no doubt that some people will disagree with Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos ranking so highly in this seven when Real Madrid are in the midst of a poor season. However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and I don’t believe Real’s plight can be put down particularly harshly on their form, even if they have been a little bit out of sorts. The combined loss of Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo is surely the defining factor.
What’s more, even though this is a current seven, we can hardly overlook what these three have achieved together. In fact, it won’t surprise you that these three are the only three in this seven to have made our list of the 7 greatest midfield trios of all time, or even to come close. Oh yeah, feel free to go and watch that video after we reveal top spot in this one if you haven’t already. It’s much more interesting…
Right, starting with Casemiro, this Real trio has a bit of everything. Casemiro is of course the deepest of the three, essentially operating as a midfield destroyer in front of the back four. The tireless, muscular and tough tackling Brazilian is very good at that, and all too happy to leave the creative duties to his comrades either side of him.
We’ll talk about Toni Kroos next, who is one of the finest passers of a ball in the modern era. Kroos’ style has never really changed from his early days at Bayern, operating as a classy deep-lying playmaker who rarely breaks a sweat. Kroos kept Real ticking as they won three consecutive Champions League’s, but take your eye off him for one second and he’ll split your defence in half.
And then we save the best until last with Luka Modric. I’ve been a big fan of Modric since his Tottenham days, although the pendulum has rather swung from the Croatian being labelled one of Real’s worst signings of all time in his debut season to claims now that he is the best footballer on the planet. I’m unmoved by what the Ballon d’Or or FIFA Best awards may say, anyone who goes that far is rather silly – and that’s being nice – but Modric is a remarkable player.
He has all the vision, creativity and technique that Kroos does, as well as covering a tremendous amount of ground in the middle of the park. Modric is a terrific all-round midfielder, combining artistry, technique, a brilliant footballing brain and iron lungs. He’s probably been the best midfielder in the world over the last three years, and if we looked at that period in its entirety, this trio would cruise into top spot.
Right, normally we reserve the spot between first and second place for honourable mentions in these kind of sevens, but I’m so assured in my seven that today we’re not going to.
Instead, I’m just going to clarify that teams with three very good central midfielders, let’s say Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid or PSG, just as four particularly notable examples, don’t feature not because we don’t rate their midfielders – far from it – but simply because we don’t feel that they predominantly approach games with a definite midfield three.
Furthermore, this seven is concerned only with club teams, no national teams, in case any of you were wondering on that front.
Right, before we get to top spot, don’t forget to subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already, but you can also follow me on Twitter at @HITCSevens, where I like to share some of the brightest and best comments we get. Not really, I tend to share the really stupid ones, which is far more entertaining. You can also send us any video ideas on there, tell us what you like, don’t like and sometimes hear how my Fantasy Football campaign is going.
Just a heads up on that, Elliot Pearce still tops our HITC Sevens mini-league, so congratulations if you’re watching Elliot, meanwhile Ludvig Akerlind and Hamish Langley occupy second and third place. Your clueless host is still way down in 64th, out of 1,002 of you, so it could be worse, but I’m still hoping for a late charge.
Okay, apologies to any of you who have no interest in that or no idea what it was even about, but here is your top spot…
1. Fernandinho, Silva & De Bruyne
It has been claimed in the comments section of some recent videos that I must have Kevin De Bruyne posters up in my bedroom, which despite my hilarious response, is not actually true. I do think the Belgian midfielder is a special player though, and we think with his recent return from injury Manchester City have the best midfield trio in the world.
I’m going to have to work hard on not sounding too gushy here, since Fernandinho, Silva and De Bruyne are all players I am huge fans of, and no I can reinforce that I am not a Manchester City fan.
Starting with Fernandinho, the Brazilian is ageing like a fine wine, he just gets better every season. His performance against Liverpool earlier this term was just first class. He breaks up play as well as anyone, he carries out Pep’s game plan to perfection and he’s no slugger on the ball either. Replacing Fernandinho could prove to be Guardiola’s toughest task at the Etihad.
Everything that can be said about David Silva at this point has already been said. The Spaniard is now in his ninth season with Manchester City, and one could make a good case for this being his best yet. You could also make a good case for Silva being City’s greatest ever player, certainly we’d say it was between him and Sergio Aguero, and the little magician is understandably adored by the blue half of the city.
Then there’s Kevin De Bruyne, who, I must stress, I do not fancy. De Bruyne was comfortably Man City’s best player last season, despite the team being absolutely superb from one to eleven. His touch, weight of passing and vision are second only Lionel Messi in world football right now, and I’m not sure we can pay him a bigger compliment than that.
In terms of both individual ability and their quality as a unit, this Man City trio is outstanding, so they get our pick as the best midfield trio in world football right now.