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Ranking the top 5 midfielders of the 21st century

Luka Modric is one of the top midfielders of the 21st century.
Luka Modric is one of the top midfielders of the 21st century.

Football fans have been lucky to see some of the best players since the turn of the century. In an era boasting some of the best players of all time, fans truly have had an embarrassment of riches.

While each position on the football field deserves its own praise, it can be argued that midfield is the area that makes a team tick. We have seen several types of midfielders: registas, box-to-box midfielders, defensive midfielders and so on.

On that note, let's take a look at the top five midfielders of the 21st century.


#5 Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)

Sergio Busquets
Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets has been a mainstay in midfield for both Spain and Barcelona.

In a career spanning over 12 years, Busquets rose to fame with his unorthodox yet supremely effective playing style. After being handed the reins in midfield at the tender age of 20, Busquets hit the ground running.

Busquets has an unbelievable record for club and country, winning every major trophy he has ever competed in. With Barcelona, Busquets has won a mammoth eight La Liga titles. He also has seven Copa del Rey wins to his name, as well as six Supercoppa titles.

Sergio Busquets also won the UEFA Champions League thrice with Barcelona - 2009, 2011, 2015 - the ones in 2009 and 2015 being part of continental trebles. Often regarded as a role model by his younger peers, Busquets is known for stamping his authority on games, thanks to his quick passing and tactical fouls at times.

With Spain, Busquets was part of the golden generation that won two UEFA European Championships either side of a FIFA World Cup triumph. Having played in many major tournaments, Busquets has been an integral part of the tiki-taka setup that Spain embodied.


#4 Toni Kroos (Real Madrid, Germany)

Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos is one of the best German players to have played the game.

Making his senior debut in 2007, Kroos has been a regular on the football scene for almost 14 years now. Renowned for his inch-perfect passes and eye for goal, Kroos often takes it upon himself to pull strings from midfield.

After spending seven years with Bayern Munich, he joined Real Madrid in 2014. Kroos has had an incredibly successful career and will certainly go down as a club legend at both European giants.

Kroos has a vast array of trophies in his cabinet. He has won league titles in Spain and Germany six times in addition to winning four domestic cups. He has also won the prestigious UEFA Champions League with both clubs, winning it with Bayern in 2013 and a staggering four times with Real Madrid (2016-2018 and 2022).

Also a regular with Germany, Kroos was a key figure in Die Mannschaft's FIFA World Cup-winning run in 2014 and is one of the best midfielders of his generation.


#3 Luka Modric (Real Madrid, Croatia)

Luka Modric is a five time UCL winner with Real Madrid
Luka Modric is a five time UCL winner with Real Madrid

Luka Modric is arguably one of the best midfielders in the game's history.

Originally playing at Dinamo Zagreb, Modric was signed by Tottenham Hotspur in 2008. He spent four years with the north London outfit before signing for Real Madrid in 2012.

His stint with Real Madrid has been nothing short of spectacular. Modric has won three La Liga titles as well as one Copa del Rey and three Supercups. However, his most impressive accomplishment with Real Madrid is the five UEFA Champions League titles he has to his name.

Part of a historic squad in Real Madrid's history, Modric and co. went on to win an unprecedented four Champions League titles in five years. Modric has been an integral player in Los Blancos' setup and also won the European Cup in 2022, beating Liverpool in the final.

In international football, Modric captained Croatia to the FIFA World Cup final in 2018. Although Croatia lost to France, Modric took home the FIFA Golden Ball as well as the coveted Ballon d'Or after an impressive season for both club and country.


#2 Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, Spain)

Xavi Hernandez is currently the manager of Barcelona
Xavi Hernandez is currently the manager of Barcelona

Xavi Hernandez is widely regarded as one of the best to have played the game.

Coming up through the ranks at Barcelona's La Masia academy, Xavi made his professional debut in 1998. He went on to spend 17 long years at Camp Nou that saw him win every major competition he played in.

Xavi was renowned for his immaculate passing. Thanks to his immaculate passing prowess, Xavi was always in the center of the park dictating play. He was adept in controlling the tempo of games and his general reading of it.

Xavi won eight La Liga titles during his time with the club. He also won three Copa del Reys and six Supercopas. Often considered a key player in Barcelona's set-up, Xavi also won four UEFA Champions League titles, with the first coming in 2006 and the last in 2015.

For Spain, Xavi, along with his club teammate Andres Iniesta, were key players in Spain's success. Known for their tiki-taka style of play, Xavi perfectly encapsulated the vision Vicente del Bosque had for the side.

He won a hat-trick of major tournaments - Euro 2008, FIFA World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 - in what can be considered a world-class haul by all standards. Currently, he is Barcelona's head coach and will look to return the club to it's glory days, much like what was the case when he was a player at the Camp Nou.


#1 Andres Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain)

Andres Iniesta is one of the greatest players of his generation
Andres Iniesta is one of the greatest players of his generation

Andres Iniesta takes the pick as the best midfielder in the game since the turn of the century.

Another La Masia product, Iniesta was highly rated by fans and players alike. Often branded the perfect footballer, Iniesta was known for his immaculate control in tight spaces and his defence-splitting passes.

Iniesta made his club debut for Barcelona in 2002 and went on to spend 16 long and successful years at the Camp Nou. He won the UEFA Champions League four times in addition to a rich haul of nine league titles. He also won six Copa Del Reys and six Supercopas.

Iniesta was supremely influential for the Spanish football team as well. Regarded as their midfield maestro, Iniesta was key to their success at UEFA Euro 2008, where he made the Team of the Tournament.

Iniesta was also a key player at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he scored the winner in the final to help his country win the competition for the very first time. He was named the Man of the Match in the final and continued his form at Euro 2012 as well, where Spain successfully defended their title.

Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the final, with Iniesta grabbing yet another Man of the Match award. His performances throughout the tournament garnered appreciation as he went on to win the Player of the Tournament award as well.

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Edited by Bhargav
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