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The Best Midfielders in Premier League History

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

The Best Midfielders in Premier League History
The Best Midfielders in Premier League History

The Premier League has been a stage for footballing brilliance, a melting pot of talent from across the globe. While every position on the pitch has seen its share of legends, it's the midfield where the magic often unfolds.

From orchestrating play to breaking up attacks, the best midfielders in Premier League history have left an indelible mark on the beautiful game. In this journey through time, we'll explore the careers and contributions of these midfield maestros, who have defined an era and earned their place in the annals of English football history.

1. Paul Scholes: The Midfield Maestro

Paul Scholes, often hailed as the "Ginger Prince," was the embodiment of a complete midfielder. His vision, passing range, and ability to score from anywhere on the pitch made him a rare talent. Scholes spent his entire career at Manchester United, where he won numerous league titles [11 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 5 FA Charity/Community Shields, 2 UEFA Champions League titles, 1 Intercontinental Cup and the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup] and played a pivotal role in the club's dominance. Scholes' incredible ability to dictate the tempo of a game, along with his knack for scoring crucial goals, made him a fan favourite and a nightmare for the opposition. His performances in the heart of the midfield were a key factor in United's success under Sir Alex Ferguson.

2. Steven Gerrard: The Liverpool Legend

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool icon, was a force of nature in the Premier League. His leadership, incredible work rate, and ability to drive his team forward made him one of the best midfielders of all time in the Premier League. Gerrard's loyalty to Liverpool and his countless memorable moments, including the "Gerrard Final" in the 2006 FA Cup, cemented his status as a club legend. Gerrard's knack for scoring dramatic goals, his precise passing, and his tenacity in winning back possession made him a complete midfielder. He was the heartbeat of Liverpool for over a decade and remains one of the most celebrated players in Premier League history. During his time at Anfield, he secured two FA Cups, three League Cups, the FA Community Shield, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup in 2001.

3. Frank Lampard: The Goalscoring Midfielder

Undoubtedly, Frank Lampard is the greatest Chelsea midfielder of all time. Signed from West Ham for £11 million by Claudio Ranieri in 2001, he went on to become the club's all-time leading scorer with 211 goals in 648 appearances. Lampard was the quintessential goalscoring midfielder. His ability to arrive late in the box and score consistently made him a unique talent. Lampard's vision, passing, and work rate added to his versatility. Lampard's impact on Chelsea's success, including multiple Premier League titles, was immeasurable. His contributions as a midfielder who could both create and score goals set a new standard for the position. While donning the Blues' no. 8 jersey at Stamford Bridge, he clinched three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two FA Community Shields, the UEFA Champions League in 2012, and the UEFA Europa League in 2013.

4. Roy Keane: The Fierce Competitor

Roy Keane, the former Manchester United captain, was a midfield general like no other. His fierce determination, strong tackling, and leadership qualities were unrivalled. Keane was the driving force behind United's success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning numerous league titles and other prestigious honours. Keane's no-nonsense approach to the game made him a dominant presence in midfield. His ability to motivate his teammates and lead by example made him a true legend of the Premier League. He secured seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four FA Community Shields, and in 1999, he lifted the UEFA Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup.

5. Patrick Vieira: The Arsenal Enforcer

Patrick Vieira, the talismanic French midfielder, was the engine of Arsenal's midfield during their "Invincibles" season. His physicality, ball-winning ability, and knack for scoring crucial goals made him an imposing presence. Vieira's partnership with Emmanuel Petit and later with Gilberto Silva formed a formidable spine for the Gunners. Vieira's leadership on the pitch and his ability to dominate midfield battles set him apart. His performances at Arsenal saw him clinch three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and two FA Community Shields as he left an indelible mark on the Premier League.

6. David Silva: The Magician

David Silva, a Manchester City legend, personified the art of a midfield magician. With his exceptional close control, dribbling skills, and visionary playmaking, he ranks among the finest Premier League midfielders ever. Silva's proficiency in unlocking defences and delivering vital assists was a defining feature of his style. His pivotal role in Manchester City's rise to prominence in English football is immeasurable. His midfield displays exuded creativity and elegance, contributing to his collection of four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, five Football League/EFL Cups, and two FA Community Shields during his tenure at the Etihad Stadium.

7. Kevin De Bruyne: The Modern Midfield Marvel

Kevin De Bruyne, often referred to as one of the best midfielders of the modern era, has been a driving force behind Manchester City's recent successes. His vision, passing range, and ability to dictate the tempo of a game make him a standout midfielder. De Bruyne's versatility allows him to play in various midfield roles, from a deep-lying playmaker to an attacking midfielder. His precise through balls and crosses have unlocked countless defences, while his ability to score from long range adds another dimension to his game.

Still plying his trade at the Etihad Stadium, Kevin De Bruyne's inclusion in the list of Premier League's best midfielders is a testament to his impact on the league and his position among the all-time greats sets him apart as a midfield marvel. As things stand, De Bruyne has won the Premier League title five times with City. In addition, he has won two FA Cups, five League/EFL Cups, the FA Charity/Community Shield, and the UEFA Champions League. He'll be top 5 once his career comes to an end.

8. Cesc Fàbregas: The Spanish Maestro

Cesc Fàbregas, known for his exceptional passing and footballing intelligence, left a significant mark on the Premier League during his spells with Arsenal and Chelsea. His ability to pick out precise through balls and create scoring opportunities was unparalleled. Fàbregas' contributions to Arsenal's midfield and later to Chelsea's title-winning campaigns showcased his class and creativity. His vision and assists made him one of the Premier League's best midfielders of all time. He earned accolades including the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield during his time at Arsenal, and at Chelsea, he secured the Premier League, FA Cup, and Football League Cup, further solidifying his status as a football icon.

9. Yaya Touré: The Towering Presence

Yaya Touré, the Ivorian powerhouse, left an indelible mark on the Premier League during his Manchester City tenure. His imposing physicality, skill in advancing the ball, and knack for scoring long-range goals rendered him a formidable midfield presence. Touré's profound influence on City's ascent to greatness was evident in his versatile and impactful midfield performances. His displays radiated versatility and impact, culminating in his collection of three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two Football League/EFL Cups, and one FA Community Shield during his Etihad Stadium career.

10. Claude Makélélé: The Unsung Hero

Claude Makélélé, the French midfielder, was the unsung hero of Chelsea's success in the mid-2000s. His ability to shield the defence, break up opposition attacks, and distribute the ball efficiently allowed Chelsea's attacking talents to flourish. Makélélé's role in redefining the defensive midfield position in the Premier League was pivotal. His performances in the "Makelele role" laid the foundation for Chelsea's Premier League dominance. Claude Makélélé's performances also exuded a sense of control and mastery that defined his legacy. He earned two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one Football League/EFL Cup, and one FA Community Shield during his tenure at Stamford Bridge.

Bonus - N'Golo Kanté: The Tireless Dynamo

N'Golo Kanté, the French midfield dynamo, became a linchpin for Chelsea. His boundless energy, ball-winning ability, and capacity to cover vast areas of the pitch made him a standout midfielder. Kanté's instrumental role in Chelsea's Premier League and Champions League successes in the late era of Roman Abramovic demonstrated his importance. His performances in midfield epitomised the modern, box-to-box midfielder. N'Golo Kanté clinched the Premier League title with Leicester City, and after his transfer to Chelsea, he repeated the feat the following year. In addition, he added four FA Cups, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup to his illustrious list of achievements.

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