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Ten of the Best Midfielders in the World

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Strikers may score most of the goals, but many of the game’s real artisans reside in midfield. Here are 10 of the best midfielders in the world.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal & Real Madrid)

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 23: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid in action during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 23, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
Paul Gilham / Getty Images

Ronaldo's favored position is in wide midfield, although he can also function behind the striker or as a center forward. One of the most eye-catching players in the world game, Ronaldo's array of skills make him worth the admission fee alone. His step over is world renowned, and he scores an abnormally high number of goals for someone who does not regularly play as an out-and-out striker.

2. Xavi Hernandez (Spain & Barcelona)

Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez
Getty Images

Now into his 30s, Xavi's greatest attribute is his passing. Capable of being both economic or expansive in possession, Xavi can dictate a game's rhythm. He has become invaluable for Barcelona as the years have gone on, and although not a prolific scorer from midfield (he has only got into double figures once in his career), his runs into the box and ability to take free-kicks are invaluable for club and country. One of the very best central midfielders of the last 10 years.

3. Andres Iniesta (Spain & Barcelona)

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta
Getty Images

Iniesta enjoys what appears to be an almost telepathic understanding with teammate Xavi. Scorer of Spain’s World Cup winning goal against Holland in the 2010 World Cup final, the midfield star is one of the country’s most loved players and is even spared the usual hostile reception that Barcelona players receive when they visit Real Madrid. An excellent dribbler, who is superb at linking midfield and attack. Player of the tournament as Spain retained the European Championships in 2012.

4. Cesc Fabregas (Spain & Barcelona)

Spain and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas
David Cannon / Getty Images

Fabregas was desperate to join former club Barcelona in the summer of 2010, but Arsenal rejected two bids from the Catalans and refused to even entertain the idea of selling their captain. One year on, Barca got their way and Fabregas got the move he so desired after many hours at the negotiating table. The Spaniard was the heartbeat of the Gunners midfield, his passing and creativity making him the first name on the team sheet.

5. David Silva (Spain & Manchester City)

Alex Livesey / Getty Images
The tough confines of the Premier League do not appear ideally suited to the Spanish midfielder’s subtle skills. But after a slow start following his move from Valencia to Manchester City in 2010, the playmaker has emerged as one of the best players in the league. If Silva had not made it as a player, he would have wanted to become a surgeon, which comes as little surprise given the way he slices through Premier League defenses with those deft through balls and incisive dribbles.

6. Luka Modric (Croatia & Real Madrid)

Jamie McDonald / Getty Images
Tottenham stood firm during the summer of 2011, rejecting two mega-money bids from Chelsea for their Croatian playmaker. Spurs were rewarded for their refreshing stance with more inspired displays from the midfielder, who may not score as many goals as he should, but compensates for that with the sort of tempo-setting displays that make him such a precious commodity in world soccer. Resembling Xavi in style, Real Madrid finally snared Modric from Tottenham in 2012 for a reported fee of $50 million.

7. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast & Manchester City)

Gallo Images / Getty Images
Watching the Manchester City star slip through the gears as he carries the ball through midfield is reminiscent of a Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira in his pomp. Yaya felt undervalued at Barcelona but has emerged as one of the key players in City’s ambitious project. The 2011 African Footballer of the Year has deceptive pace, is tigerish in the tackle and scores his fair share of goals in a more attacking role than he was previously accustomed to.

8. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany & Bayern Munich)

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images
The Bayern Munich star is one of the best all round players in world soccer. Capable of setting the tempo of a game with his impressive passing repertoire, he can also shoot from distance and is considered one of the leaders in the Bayern dressing room. It is not a coincidence that this youth product has survived many managerial sackings and regular squad clear outs to establish himself as a key man at the Allianz Arena.

9. Arjen Robben (Netherlands & Bayern Munich)

Arjen Robben has few equals on the wing
Lars Baron / Getty Images

Robben has that deadly combination of pace and skill that frightens defenses. He also has end product, with an impressive goalscoring record over the years. Injuries have undermined him, but when on song, there are few better wide players in the world game.

10. Mesut Ozil (Germany & Arsenal)

His big money move from Real Madrid to Arsenal in September 2013 took many by surprise. But Real needed to balance the books after their world record signing of Bale and had made it clear to Ozil that he was not guaranteed regular starts. Known as a player who needs to feel appreciated, a long phone call with Arsenal's German-speaking manager Arsene Wenger persuaded Ozil that his future lied at the Emirates Stadium.

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