10 Best Premier League midfielders of all time

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are two of the Premier League's greatest midfielders
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are two of the Premier League's greatest midfielders
Sai Teja

Over the years, the Premier League has been blessed with an incredible assortment of talented superstars. Players who have created legacies for themselves that will last for eras of football to come.

Be it defenders, midfielders, forwards, or goalkeepers β€” the league has witnessed some players transcend the status of mere footballers to become icons and legends of the land.

It is said, though, that it is in midfield where games are won and lost. The personnel in the middle of the park have always been a critical aspect of building title-winning sides. Every great league-winning team has had memorable performances put in by stellar controllers of the game from midfield.

Here, we take a look at the ten best midfielders the Premier League has ever seen.

#10 N'Golo Kante | Leicester City, Chelsea

Kante celebrating his second league title
Kante celebrating his second league title

The diminutive midfielder from Paris has come a long way since making his Premier League debut for Leicester City. N'Golo Kante was one of the driving forces behind the Foxes' fairytale Premier League-winning season in 2015/16.

Kante, on his day, is arguably the best ball-winner in the world. Whether that is deeper in midfield while playing as a pivot or higher up while pressing teams, he can do it all. The 29-year-old has an engine that allows him to press relentlessly and disrupt the opposition's play on a regular basis. So much so, his former teammate Eden Hazard went on to say this about the Frenchman;

"Sometimes, when I'm on the pitch, I think I see him twice. One on the left, one on the right. I think we play with twins!"

Kante won his second Premier League a year after arriving at Chelsea from Leicester under Antonio Conte. Drawing plaudits from football professionals, faithful, and experts alike, Kante will go down as one of the best Premier League midfielders by the time he retires. He's played 127 league games and scored nine goals in that period.

#9 Yaya Toure | Manchester City

Yaya Toure was simply unstoppable
Yaya Toure was simply unstoppable

One of the colossal figures in Manchester City's relatively recent history, Yaya Toure was a one-man-show. The Ivorian was blessed with an unbelievably diverse skillset that allowed him to dominate games on his own.

Standing at 6'2", Toure was a rare blend of player who could not only impose himself physically on the midfield but also elegantly manoeuvre the ball. His technique and ball control were sublime, allowing him to breeze past opposition players like they weren't there.

His goalscoring ability was nothing short of stunning and he had a catalogue of stellar solo goals at Man City. Toure was an excellent striker of the ball and combined this ability with his surging runs into the opposition half.

On his day, Toure was simply unstoppable. He played 230 league appearances, scoring 62 goals and registering 30 assists in his spell in England. The Ivorian has three Premier League trophies to show for.

#8 Cesc Fabregas | Arsenal, Chelsea

Fabregas remains one of the best passers in Premier League history
Fabregas remains one of the best passers in Premier League history

After breaking onto the scene as a prodigious 17-year-old, Cesc Fabregas took the Premier League by storm. He was Arsenal's youngest-ever goalscorer and made himself an undroppable name for Arsene Wenger. After a stellar stint at Arsenal, he returned to his former club Barcelona and enjoyed further success in Spain.

Upon his return to England, amid much controversy, the Catalan joined Arsenal's city rivals Chelsea. He led the Blues to Premier League glory in his first season at Stamford Bridge and proved to be an incredible acquisition for them.

His ability to ping exquisite long passes to every area of the pitch is matched only by a few legends of the game. Fabregas was a metronome like no other, and his ability to control the tempo of the game transformed that Chelsea side. He broke opposition lines for fun, finding then-Chelsea striker Diego Costa through hurdles of opposition players regularly.

Fabregas has played 350 Premier League games, scoring 50 goals in that period. His tally of 111 assists in the league is only second to that of record-holder Ryan Giggs, and is one of only four men to reach the 100-assist milestone.

Also Read: All Premier League top scorers by season

#7 Kevin De Bruyne | Chelsea, Manchester City

Kevin De Bruyne is on the brink of Premier League history
Kevin De Bruyne is on the brink of Premier League history

The second active Premier League player on the list, Kevin De Bruyne is in the conversation for being the best midfielder in the world, let alone the Premier League. The imperious Belgian has been unstoppable in the 2019/20 season, but his dominance extends beyond this campaign.

De Bruyne is one of the most complete midfielders to have graced the Premier League. He's an expert passer and shooter whose playmaking ability is second to none. The 29-year-old's ability to find his teammates with the most mind-boggling deliveries into the box is incredible. On the other hand, he's also a powerful runner with the ball, driving into the opposition box regularly.

Under Pep Guardiola, he's added more aspects to his game and has functioned as the centrepiece to one of the most expensive sides in football history. In the 2017/18 season, he was the only player in Europe to register over 60 chances created and 60 tackles, highlighting his ability to help the team.

De Bruyne is inching closer to breaking Thierry Henry's record for 20 assists in a season, and is all but certain to do it in the remaining fixtures. He's also the only player to have three seasons with over 15 assists in the league.

So far, the two-time Premier League-winner has played 152 league games, scoring 34 and assisting 64. By the time he retires, De Bruyne will finish higher up on this list.

#6 David Silva | Manchester City

El Mago is a pivotal figure in Man City's history
El Mago is a pivotal figure in Man City's history

Arguably the most celebrated Spaniard to have graced the league, David Silva is genuinely a magnificent footballer. Having played in the Premier League since 2010, the diminutive playmaker has been the epitome of consistency.

Be it out wide, as a traditional #10 or even as a free-roaming advanced midfielder (under Guardiola); Silva has seamlessly transitioned from role to role. Much like Yaya Toure, the 34-year-old has been one of the pivotal figures for Manchester City's unbelievably successful decade in England.

He possesses a unique understanding of the game, continually appearing in little pockets of spaces to receive a quick one-two or to lay the ball for his teammates. Silva's ability to position himself in between the lines and operate from those areas while resisting opposition press is phenomenal. He can beat an opposition player on the dribble and has an immaculate touch, allowing him to wiggle out of tight spaces with ease.

'El Mago' has had a remarkable career in England, and is just eight assists short of reaching the 100-assist mark in the league. He's played 306 games, scoring 39 and assisting 92 goals in the ten years he spent with the Cityzens.

Also Read: All Premier League winners by year

#5 Patrick Vieira | Arsenal, Manchester City

Vieira is one of Arsenal's finest in the Premier League era
Vieira is one of Arsenal's finest in the Premier League era

Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira is widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive midfielders in Premier League history. The Frenchman led Arsenal during their historic and unprecedented 'Invincibles' season in the 2003/04 campaign.

Vieira was one of the best there was for a host of different reasons, ranging from his tactical intelligence to his excellent reading of the game. Although many could classify him as a traditional 'defensive' midfielder, in truth, he was much more than that.

The towering Frenchman was essentially a box-to-box midfielder who dominated the middle of the park. His unique physique and unbelievable athleticism also enabled him to win the ball back with utmost ease. He could participate in the build-up, surge forward into the box as well as score crucial goals from a distance.

As hard as it might be to believe, Vieira's leadership was one of the most standout qualities apart from his apparent gifted talent on the ball. He led by example and defended his badge with everything he had. Vieira was at the heart of three Premier League-winning squads and won a Player of the Year award to go with it.

He appeared 307 times in the Premier League and scored 31 goals, setting up a further 34 for his teammates. Vieira, to this day, remains one of the greatest midfielders and captains the Premier League has ever seen.

#4 Roy Keane | Manchester United, Nottingham Forest

Keane was the driving force behind the great Manchester United sides
Keane was the driving force behind the great Manchester United sides

The most successful captain in the Premier League era, Roy Keane, was an enigma. On the footballing side, he was unparalleled in his prime in several aspects, most notably those of aggression on the pitch and winning the ball back. Keane could carry the ball higher up the pitch, break opposition attacks, and cover every blade of grass on the field.

He was, however, a highly controversial figure as well. The Manchester United icon was an era-defining player for the Red Devils and led his side by example. His mentality went hand-in-hand with his powerful physique and relentless energy to last the full 90 minutes despite covering the length of the pitch. Speaking on the legendary Irishman, former teammate Gary Neville elucidated;

"His greatest gift was to create a standard of performance which demanded the very best from the team. You would look at him busting a gut and feel that you'd be betraying him if you didn't give everything yourself."

Although Keane, like Vieira, is perceived as a traditional holding midfield player, he succeeded at playing in a more advanced role. In his 366 appearances, he scored 39 goals and set up a further 33. Keane has a whopping seven Premier League titles to his name and led the Red Devils to a historic treble in 1999.

#3 Frank Lampard | West Ham, Chelsea, Manchester City

Lampard is the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history
Lampard is the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history

Chelsea's club legend and current manager Frank Lampard was a phenomenon and had a stellar playing career with the Blues. He moved to Stamford Bridge from West Ham in 2001 as a promising player in his early 20s and left as their record goalscorer and arguably their greatest ever player.

Lampard was an influential midfielder who has played in a variety of roles throughout his career. Having played relatively higher up in a more attacking role early on, he gradually transitioned into a deeper-lying midfielder. The Englishman's accurate passing, vision, and ability to control a game meant that he was able to play deeper and still prove to be a threat.

Lampard's surreal ball-striking ability was a different threat entirely that opposition players had to deal with. His ability to strike the ball from both open play and dead-ball situations was incredible. The very fact that he's the only midfielder on the list of 10 highest goal scorers in Premier League history speaks volumes about his goal threat.

His 177 goals (fifth-highest) and 102 assists (fourth-highest) mean that he's one of only three players to have 100+ goals and assists in the league. The three-time Premier League winner also has a Player of the Year award for his superb 2004/05 season.

#2 Steven Gerrard | Liverpool

The most complete midfielder in Premier League history
The most complete midfielder in Premier League history

Liverpool's most exceptional player in the Premier League era, Steven Gerrard is one of the most mythological players in English football history. He was a man who could practically do everything on the pitch, and on many occasions, he did precisely that.

Gerrard is undoubtedly the most complete player to have ever graced the Premier League. He could pass the ball with unbelievable accuracy, make tackles, dictate play, and lead his side all at the same time. Not to mention his ability to tear the net with his ferocious strikes from range, which came in clutch moments as well.

The most breathtaking aspect of all of his achievements is that he maintained an incredible level of performance despite difficult circumstances. The Englishman did not have the luxury of being part of Premier League-winning sides in the past. However, that didn't stop him from becoming one of the greatest players in the league's history, let alone the greatest midfielders.

The fact that he ranks second despite being the only player on this list without a league title is a testament to Gerrard's footballing ability. Outside of the league, he's the only player in history to have scored goals in the finals of the FA Cup, EFL Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League β€” winning all of them. He played 504 games in the league over 17 years, scoring 120 goals and assisting 92.

Undoubtedly a legend of the game.

#1 Paul Scholes | Manchester United

The greatest midfielder in Premier League history
The greatest midfielder in Premier League history

Paul Scholes is considered as the best Premier League midfielder of all time. The Englishman was at the heart of Manchester United's most illustrious period, alongside the likes of Roy Keane, Gary Neville, and others star names. Scholes received plaudits from all over the world for his footballing intelligence and ability.

The legendary Englishman was an expert playmaker who combined his unparalleled vision with near-perfect execution. He could find his teammates with the most breathtaking passes that split open defences within a matter of moments.

Scholes was lauded for being a complete player as he had the positional understanding to play a range of roles. He had a relatively wider role for England, and for the Red Devils, he played everywhere in midfield. Scholes played in a two-man pivot, as an attacking midfielder, as well as a defensive midfielder later on. He was the metronome that made Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest Manchester United sides tick.

Real Madrid icon Zinedine Zidane once famously named Scholes as his hardest opponent, saying;

"My toughest opponent? [Paul] Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder. Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation... There is no doubt for me that he [Paul Scholes] is still in a class of his own."

Over his 499 Premier League appearances, Scholes racked up 107 goals and set up a further 55 assists, and has an astounding 11 league titles to his name. Paul Scholes is truly a Premier League great, and one of the greatest of his generation.

Edited by Sai Teja


Quick Links:

More from Sportskeeda
Fetching more content...