Football matches are often decided in midfield. The battle at the center of the pitch goes a long way towards dictating who is going to have the final say. Therefore, midfielders are one of the most important factors in football.
The midfield cannot be covered or patrolled by an individual. There needs to be a unit of midfielders, each with a task of their own. There are defensive midfielders who relentlessly snap at the heels of the opposition, break up their play and recover possession for his side.
Then there are the central midfielders who wriggle out of tight spaces, keeping the ball moving with their precise passing. They are generally excellent with the ball at their feet. There are also attacking midfielders whose defensive duties are limited and are given the freedom to assist the frontline in their forays into the final third.
A midfield unit needs all types of midfielders. It's difficult to get the right combination going but some teams have been lucky enough to get the perfect players in each position. Without further ado, let's take a look at the five greatest midfield trio of all time.
#5 Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids and Zinedine Zidane (Juventus)
Juventus were a force to be reckoned with in the final years of the 20th century. Central to their exploits at the time were the midfield trio of Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids and Zinedine Zidane. The star-studded Bianconeri side, coached by Marcello Lippi, reached two consecutive Champions League finals in a row but lost both times.
Deschamps was excellent as a defensive midfielder. His exceptional reading of the game, which has now helped him become a wonderful coach, enabled him to impede opposition attacks to great effect. He was also good with the ball at his feet and was a reliable distributor of the ball.
Playing in front of him was the duo of Edgar Davids and Zinedine Zidane. Dutchman Davids was an all-action midfielder whose tenacity and dynamism made him one of the greatest of all time. He was not only great at winning the ball back but also shone going forward thanks to his vision and passing range.
Davids was such a natural with the ball at his feet and was known as "The Mayor of the Street" in his younger days. The magical Zinedine Zidane completed the trio. Zizou is one of the greatest footballers of all time. He skated all over the football field and it's hard to find a midfielder more imaginative than the Frenchman.
Zidane had an incredible passing range, dribbling ability, vision and impeccable technique. Together the trio only played two seasons, but it was enough to leave an indelible mark on the game.
#4 Lothar Matthäus, Pierre Littbarski and Thomas Hassler (West Germany)
What sets the trio of Lothar Matthaus, Pierre Littbarski and Thomas Hassler apart from the rest is that none of them were 'destroyers' or 'spoilers'. This simply means that none of them were known for their ability to break up opposition attacks.
Destroyers are a feature in midfield trios. But the West Germany side that won the FIFA World Cup in 1990 had three technically brilliant midfielders who dominated every side they came up against.
Lothar Matthaus was the designated destroyer of the three but to call him the muscle would be a great disservice to his immaculate ability on the ball. A brilliant tackler and a tireless worker, Mathaus was tactically intelligent and an excellent passer of the ball.
Littbarski, known for his great sense of humour, was one of the greatest dribblers at the time. Though he played much of his career on the wings, he thrived as a central midfielder for West Germany thanks to his technical ability.
Thomas Hassler was the quintessential number 10. He was a world-class playmaker who had quick-feet and the agility to wriggle out of cul-de-sacs and score just as well as he could assist his teammates. Together, the three were unstoppable and they led West Germany to a World Cup triumph in 1990.