There's no right or wrong when it comes to football's most burning questions and this one probably provides more dilemmas than it does answers.
Listing the ten most valuable defensive midfielders in the world according to popular site transfermarkt makes for interesting reading, and it gives rise to a series of questions and never-ending debates.
What is a defensive midfielder exactly? Why is Thomas Partey included in this list? If Tomáš Souček is a DM, why does he score so many goals?
🥽 Transfermarkt's top 10 most valuable
- 🇩🇪 Joshua Kimmich - €90m
- 🇧🇷 Casemiro - €70m
- 🇪🇸 Rodri - €64m
- 🇧🇷 Fabinho - €60m
- 🏴 Declan Rice - €55m
- 🇬🇭 Thomas Partey - €50m
- 🇵🇹 Rúben Neves - €50m
- 🇮🇹 Jorginho - €50m
- 🇳🇬 Wilfred Ndidi - €45m
- 🇩🇿 Ismaël Bennacer - €40m
Selecting the best defensive midfielder in the world is a subjective exercise that boils down to personal preference and interpretation from one football fan to another.
The most valuable DM in the world, Bayern's Josh Kimmich, isn't even a midfielder by trade but has been converted into one from his more natural right-back position.
He's already got 10 assists in 16 Bundesliga appearances this season, making a mockery of the theory that defensive midfielders can't and shouldn't make creative contributions in the final third of the pitch. He's also supplied three goals in four UCL matches this term. Kimmich is no ordinary footballer.
Wilfred Ndidi, Rodri (who has become the heartbeat of a Man City side in simply scintillating form) and Casemiro are all more conventional, defensive-minded midfield players but they're technically adept and able to pass the ball over short or long distances. Without them, their teams are lopsided and lack balance.
Just look at Leicester's last six losses in the Premier League; Ndidi was absent for the home defeat against Leeds on January 31st, he operated in central-defence because of a midfield injury crisis when the Foxes went down to Everton, and he was also injured for reverses against Fulham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and West Ham.
Coincidence? Probably not. The Super Eagles man is such a steadying influence in the centre of the park and when he's not there, his incredible value becomes even more obvious. Not many players in Europe can win the ball and then recycle it as quickly as Ndidi does.
Arsenal's summer acquisition of Thomas Partey was a long-time coming. Gunners fans had been crying out for an authoritative presence in the heart of their midfield and Partey has looked the part, when he's been fit.
Mikel Arteta's team is a more progressive and coherent unit with the Ghanaian's all-round class; the Arsenal boss will be hoping that Partey returns from his latest injury setback sooner rather than later.
Fabinho's brilliance and versatility have been sorely missed by Liverpool in 2021. The Brazilian started his career at right-back, settled into a holding midfield role with Monaco (where he was also the designated penalty-taker) and his evolution into a deep-lying, tough-tackling playmaker at Anfield was complete.
With injuries ravaging Jürgen Klopp's squad, Fabinho produced a string of brilliant displays in the centre of defence before he was struck down with an injury of his own. In the same vein as Ndidi at Leicester, Fabinho is conspicuous by his absence.
And then there's another group of players we haven't even thought about yet. Can N'Golo Kanté, Fede Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga or Brazil and Juve maestro Arthur qualify as defensive midfielders or are they more dynamic than that?
There's also the legendary Real Madrid pair of Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos to consider.
🔥 Honourable mentions:
- 🇨🇭 Denis Zakaria (Mönchengladbach)
- 🇮🇹 Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)
- 🇭🇷 Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan)
- 🇫🇷 Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)
- 🇮🇹 Sandro Tonali (Milan)
- 🇫🇷 Tiemoué Bakayoko (Napoli)
- 🇨🇮 Boubakary Soumaré (Lille)
- 🇦🇷 Leandro Paredes (PSG)
- 🇨🇿 Tomáš Souček (West Ham)
Gone are the days when defensive midfielders were untidy on the ball and not required to contribute positively in possession. Ever since Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo were bossing matches in their prime, the deepest-lying players in the engine room are responsible for creating and maintaining their team's tempo, as well as disrupting that of their opponents.
Where would football be without the brains and brawn of the mythical "DM"?