Who are 20 of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world currently?

Who are 20 of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world currently?

Ciku Njuguna
May 14, 2024 at 2:40 PM
In this article:
Frenkie de Jong logo
F.de Jong
FC Barcelona logoMNetherlands logo
Sydney Lohmann logo
S.Lohmann
Bayern Munich II (w) logoMGermany logo
Asisat Oshoala logo
A.Oshoala
Bay FC (W) logoFNigeria logo
Granit Xhaka logo
G. Xhaka
Bayer Leverkusen logoMSwitzerland logo
Martin Odegaard logo
M. Odegaard
Arsenal logoMNorway logo
Eduardo Camavinga logo
E.Camavinga
Real Madrid logoMFrance logo

Found at the centre of the field, box-to-box midfielders or centre midfielders are the heart of a football team. Surrounded by the defensive and offensive teams, the central midfielder must have an exceptional ability to score and block goals. Discover the role of football players in this position and the top 20 best box-to-box midfielders.

The best box-to-box midfielders in the world currently
Oshoala (f. left), Frenkie de Jong (left), Ødegaard (right) and Lohmann (f. right). Photo by Eric Alonso, Tim Clayton/Corbi, Harry Langer/DeFodi Images and Roland Krivec. Modified by author.
Source: Getty Images

Table of Сontents:

Who is a box-to-box midfielder? These are football players who occupy the central position on the field. Sports Brief has used up-to-date performance data from credible sources such as Transfermarkt, FotMob and the official team to rank the best box-to-box midfielders in the world as of May 2024.

The best box-to-box midfielders in the world

Who are the best box-to-box midfielders in 2023/24? Top CM players include top-flight footballers such as Kevin De Bruyne, Jude Bellingham, Frenkie de Jong, and Leon Goretzka. They are known for their exceptional interception, tackle, clearance and passing skills. We list the best box-to-box midfielders, their profiles, and stats.

Player

Club

Passing accuracy

Tackle success

Dribble success

Gavi

FC Barcelona

91.4%

53.8%

60.0%

Hakan Çalhanoğlu

Inter Milan

92.3%

50.0%

51.7%

Bruno Guimarães

Newcastle United

85.2%

63.6%

57.5%

Federico Valverde

Real Madrid CF

90.9%

52.4%

70.5%

İlkay Gündoğan

FC Barcelona

90.1%

62.0%

71.4%

Jamal Musiala

Bayern Munich

81.9%

59.6%

62.5%

Mohamed Diomandé

Rangers FC

88.7%

44.0%

72.2%

Sydney Lohmann

FC Bayern Frauen

74.2%

54.2%

71.4%

Grace Geyoro

Paris Saint-Germain FC

87.7%

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Vilde Bøe Risa

Atletico Madrid Femenino

81.9%

45.0%

58.3%

Pedri

Barcelona FC

86.8%

48.3%

74.1%

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid CF

89.4%

57.9%

79.5%

Toni Kroos

Real Madrid CF

94.5%

62.5%

64.7%

Nicolò Barella

Inter Milan

86.6%

56.2%

65.9%

Thomas Müller

Bayern Munich

78.2%

66.7%

60.9%

Eduardo Camavinga

Real Madrid CF

90.9%

64.6%

62.1%

Granit Xhaka

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

92.1%

64.0%

71.4%

Martin Ødegaard

Arsenal FC

86.9%

48.6%

34.8%

Asisat Oshoala

Bay FC

63.5%

25.0%

62.5%

Frenkie de Jong

FC Barcelona

93.1%

61.9%

60.5%

20. Gavi

Gavi, one of the best box-to-box midfielders
Spain's Gavi celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA EURO qualifier match against Norway at Ullevaal Stadion on October 15, 2023, in Oslo, Norway. Photo by Maja Hitij-UEFA.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Pablo Martín Páez Gavira
  • Date of birth: August 5, 2004
  • Age: 19 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Nations League, La Liga

Gavi wears number six for FC Barcelona and plays as a CM for Spain's national team. The youngster missed part of the 2023/24 season owing to a cruciate ligament tear and is expected to return on June 30, 2024. According to FootyStats, Gavi created 483 successful passes out of 52 in the 2023/24 season, with a 91.3% completion rate.

19. Hakan Çalhanoğlu

FC Internazionale's Hakan Çalhanoğlu
FC Internazionale's Hakan Çalhanoğlu, in action, during the Serie A TIM match against Cagliari at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on April 14, 2024, in Milan, Italy. Photo by Mattia Ozbot-Inter.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Hakan Çalhanoğlu
  • Date of birth: February 8, 1994
  • Age: 30 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Baden Cup, Italian Super Cup (3), Italian Cup (2), Serie A

Çalhanoğlu is a right-footed midfielder who plays for Inter Milan and the Türkiye national football team. He can occupy all midfield positions and is known for his free kicks. In an interview with Serie A's official YouTube account, Inter’s head coach, Vincenzo Montella, praised Çalhanoğlu, saying,

“He is a great talent with excellent technique. In recent years, he has become the best midfielder in the world or at least one of the very best.”

18. Bruno Guimarães

Newcastle's Bruno Guimarães
Newcastle's Bruno Guimarães (front) celebrates after scoring against Fulham FC during a match at Craven Cottage on April 06, 2024 in London, England. Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Bruno Guimarães Rodrigues Moura
  • Date of birth: November 16, 1997
  • Age: 27 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Copa Sudamericana, Brazilian Cup, Olympic medalist

Guimarães plays central and defensive midfield. In the 2023/24 season, he created fourteen big chances, made 2,068 passes, and had six assists.

17. Federico Valverde

Federico Valverde in action
Real Madrid's Federico Valverde in action during a La Liga EA Sports match against FC Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 21, 2024. Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Federico Santiago Valverde Dipetta
  • Date of birth: July 22, 1998
  • Age: 25 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Uruguayan Champion, Spanish Super Cup (3), Champions League, Spanish Cup, UEFA Supercup, FIFA Club World Cup (2), La Liga (3)

Federico is a Uruguayan footballer who plays for Real Madrid. He has played over 300 games and scored over 20 goals. As of May 2024, he has started in 30 La Liga matches, scoring one goal, five assists, 37 shots, and 1,898 passes.

16. İlkay Gündoğan

The best box-to-box midfielders
FC Barcelona's İlkay Gündoğan in action during the LaLiga EA Sports match against Real Betis at Estadio Benito Villamarin on January 21, 2024. Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Bruno Guimarães Rodrigues Moura
  • Date of birth: October 24, 1990
  • Age: 33 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: German Regionalliga West Champion, German Super Cup (2), English Super Cup (2), English League Cup (4), English Champion (5), Champions League winner

Germany's 2023 Footballer of the Year, İlkay Gündoğan, ranks among the best box-to-box midfielder ever. With over 50 appearances for Barca in the 2023/24 season, Gündoğan has managed five goals and 12 assists. The number 22 footballer can occupy defensive and attacking midfield positions.

15. Jamal Musiala

Germany's Jamal Musiala
Germany's Jamal Musiala in action during an international friendly match against France at Groupama Stadium on March 23, 2024, in Lyon, France. Photo by Eurasia Sport Images.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Jamal Musiala
  • Date of birth: February 26, 2003
  • Age: 21 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: UEFA Supercup, German Super Cup (3), German Champion (4), FIFA Club World Cup

At 17 years and 115 days, Jamal became the youngest player to debut for Bayern Munich. The former Chelsea Academy player made 37 appearances in the 2023/24 season, scoring 12 goals and eight assists.

According to FootballReferences, Musiala has made 2,429 completed passes out of 2,929 attempted passes since 2019. His career pass completion rate of 82.9% is similar to his scouting completion rate of 82.7%.

14. Mohamed Diomandé

Rangers' Mohamed Diomandé celebrates.
Rangers' Mohamed Diomandé (l)and Oscar Cortes (r) celebrate during a Cinch Premiership match against Heart of Midlothian at Ibrox Stadium on February 24, 2024. Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Mohamed Baba Diomandé
  • Date of birth: October 30, 2001
  • Age: 22 years as of May 2024

Diomandé is a product of Right to Dream, one of the best football academies in the world. In the 2023/24 season, the top CM has received 100% starting chances in the Scottish Premiership Top Six Split with a 17% goal participation as of May 6, 2024. In an interview with Rangers Review, the Ivorian revealed his most preferred position, saying,

“I can play anywhere in the middle. I can play No 6, No 8 and No 10. I use every opportunity to help the team, wherever the manager plays me.”

13. Sydney Lohmann

The best box-to-box midfielders
Germany's Sydney Lohmann (l) and Zambia's Racheal Kundananji (r) in action during an international friendly at Sportpark Ronhof Thomas Sommer on July 7, 2023. Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Sydney Lohmann
  • Date of birth: June 19, 2000
  • Age: 23 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Under-17 European Champion (2)

Sydney Lohmann plays for FC Bayern Women in the Frauen-Bundesliga. The CM also plays as a striker, right winger, and left winger. According to FotMob, her strengths lie in aerial duels, touches, and shot attempts. In the 2023/24 season, she had 224 successful passes with a 74.2% pass accuracy, 71.4% tackles won, and 54.9% duels won.

12. Grace Geyoro

Grace Geyoro runs with the ball.
Paris Saint-Germain's Grace Geyoro runs with the ball during a UEFA Women's Champions League match against Olympique Lyonnais at Parc des Princes on April 28, 2024. Photo by Aurelien Meunier/PSG.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Onema Grace Geyoro
  • Date of birth: July 2, 1997
  • Age: 26 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: National Uder-19 Challenge, French Cup (2), D1 French Champions

Onema Grace Geyoro is a top-flight football player who wears the number eight jersey for Paris Saint-Germain in the French Division 1 Féminine league. The Congolese star took the captaincy of PSG and ranks highly among the best box-to-box midfielders globally. In the 2023/24 season, she scored ten goals in 18 league matches.

11. Vilde Bøe Risa

Vilde Bøe Risa of Norway in action
Vilde Bøe Risa of Norway shoots the ball during a UEFA Women's Nations League match against France at Stade Auguste Delaune on October 31, 2023. Photo by Catherine Steenkeste.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Vilde Bøe Risa
  • Date of birth: July 13, 1995
  • Age: 26 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: 2019 Algarve Cup

Risa is a Norwegian football player who plays in the central and midfield positions. As one of the best box-to-box midfielders in women's football, FotMob records her strengths in touches, shot attempts, Aerial duels and chances created.

In the 2023/24 season, she started in 19 of 26 matches, creating 37 chances and making 874 successful passes, 124 accurate long balls, and 1,358 touches.

10. Pedri

The best box-to-box midfielders
FC Barcelona's Pedri (l) in action during the UEFA Champions League match against PSG at Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, France, on April 10, 2024. Photo by Ibrahim Ezzat/NurPhoto.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Pedro González López
  • Date of birth: November 25, 2002
  • Age: 21 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup, Spanish Champion

Pedri began playing for FC Barcelona in August 2020 after successfully climbing the ranks of UD Las Palmas. He ranks highly among the best box-to-box midfielders. Pedri is fast on his feet and possesses an uncanny skill in creating chances.

9. Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham in action.
Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham in action during the LaLiga EA Sports match against Cadiz CF at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on May 04, 2024, in Madrid, Spain. Photo By Irina R. Hipolito/Europa Press.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Jude Victor William Bellingham
  • Date of birth: June 29, 2003
  • Age: 20 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: German Cup, La Liga, Spanish Super Cup

Bellingham is an English midfielder who plays for Real Madrid. The versatile footballer can also play as a striker, left winger, attacker, and left midfielder.

According to Sortitoutsi, he is the third-best box-to-box midfielder on FM24. He has played in 38 matches for over 3,000 minutes and scored 22 goals for the team. In the 2023/24 season, he made 1,194 successful passes out of 1,335.

8. Toni Kroos

The best box-to-box midfielders
Real Madrid's Toni Kroos in action during LaLiga EA Sports match against Girona CF at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on February 10, 2024. Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Toni Kroos
  • Date of birth: January 4, 1990
  • Age: 34 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: World Cup, Champions League (5), FIFA Club World Cup (6), La Liga (4)

German footballer Toni Kroos is an all-rounded midfielder who plays for Real Madrid. He has played 476 matches for seventeen seasons, most with Real Madrid (460). In the 2023/24 season, he made 1,999 successful passes, 205 accurate long balls, and 2,459 touches.

7. Nicolò Barella

Nicolò Barella, the best box-to-box midfielders
FC Internazionale's Nicolò Barella in action during a Serie A match against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico on February 10, 2024, in Rome, Italy. Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Nicolò Barella
  • Date of birth: February 7, 1997
  • Age: 27 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Italienischer Zweitligameister, European Champion, Italian Super Cup (3), Italian Cup (2)

Barella fits the true definition of a box-to-box midfielder. In 2020/21 and 2022/23, he was recognised as the best midfielder in Serie A. As of May 2024, he has played in 401 matches for Como 1907, Cagliari Primavera, Cagliari Calcio, and Inter Milan.

6. Thomas Müller

Thomas Müller, the best box-to-box midfielders
Bayern Munich's Thomas Mueller controls the ball prior to a Bundesliga match against VfB Stuttgart at MHPArena on May 4, 2024. Photo by Silas Schueller/DeFodi Images.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Thomas Müller
  • Date of birth: September 13, 1989
  • Age: 34 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: World Cup winner, Champions League (2), FIFA Club World Cup (2), Bundesliga (12), German Cup (6), German Super Cup (8), UEFA Supercup (2)

The raumdeuter or space invader, Thomas Müller, is a specialist in his field. In the 2023/24 season, he played in 38 matches, scoring seven goals with eight assists.

Muller can be a centre-forward, second striker, attacking midfielder, or winger. He has a 73% passing accuracy and a 46.16 % crossing accuracy.

According to his UEFA profile, the versatile player can play as a centre-forward, second striker, attacking midfielder, or winger. He has a 73% passing accuracy and a 46.16 % crossing accuracy.

5. Eduardo Camavinga

Real Madrid's Eduardo Camavinga in action
Real Madrid's Eduardo Camavinga in action during the La Liga EA Sports match against Cadiz CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain, on May 4, 2024. Photo by Alberto Gardin/NurPhoto.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Eduardo Celmi Camavinga
  • Date of birth: November 10, 2002
  • Age: 21 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Spanish Super Cup (2), Spanish Cup, UEFA Supercup, UEFA Nations League winner, La Liga (2)

Eduardo Camavinga is one of the most important players on Real Madrid's roster. He is a utility player who plays left-back, defensive midfield, and central midfield.

4. Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka plays the ball
Leverkusen's Granit Xhaka plays the ball during a Bundesliga match against Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2024. Photo by Jürgen Fromme/Firo Sportphoto.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Granit Xhaka
  • Date of birth: September 27, 1992
  • Age: 31 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Under-17 World Cup Champion, Swiss Champion (2), Swiss Cup, English Super Cup, English FA Cup (2), Bundesliga

Xhaka has made around 14,865 passes, creating 22 big chances, 349 crosses, 907 accurate long balls and 24 assists. Out of 349 career appearances, he made 48 as a central midfielder, where he scored 13 goals and eight assists. The Swiss footballer earned comparisons to Bastian Schweinsteiger, one of the greatest box-to-box midfielders ever.

3. Martin Ødegaard

Martin Ødegaard of Arsenal in action
Martin Ødegaard of Arsenal in action during a Premier League match against AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on May 04, 2024. Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Martin Ødegaard
  • Date of birth: December 17, 1998
  • Age: 25 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: 2016/17 EUFA Supercup, 2019/20 Spanish Cup, 2023/24 English Super Cup

Norwegian footballer Martin Ødegaard is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League today. In 33 appearances in the 2023/24 season, he has scored 16 goals, made 1,808 passes, and won 119 of 166 duels.

According to Premier League's Talking Tactics, Ødegaard has created the highest number of chances from open play and through balls in the league.

2. Asisat Oshoala

Asisat Oshoala of Bay FC in action
Asisat Oshoala of Bay FC sprints during a match against Washington Spirit at Audi Field on March 23, 2024, in Washington, DC. Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Asisat Oshoala
  • Date of birth: October 9, 1994
  • Age: 29 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Women's African Cup of Nations (3), Women's FA Cup, Chinese Women's Super League (2)

Asisat Oshoala stands out as the best African female footballer. The versatile Nigerian queen of the pitch can play as a striker, forward, or midfielder.

1. Frenkie de Jong

Frenkie de Jong (front) in action
Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong (front) in action during a UEFA Champions League match against PSG at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on April 16, 2024, in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Jean Catuffe.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Frenkie de Jong
  • Date of birth: May 12, 1997
  • Age: 26 years as of May 2024
  • Titles: Dutch Cup, Dutch Champion, Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup, La Liga

Frenkie de Jong has distinguished himself as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world. In 2019, he won Ajax Amsterdam's Midfielder of the Year award and the UEFA Champions League Midfielder of the Season.

De Jong often occupies Sergio Busquets' position at Barcelona. He has a 93.79% pass accuracy and the highest ball recoveries in the 2022/23 season.

Quick trivia

The best box-to-box midfielders in pro clubs have honed clearance skills and made great passes and strikes. Here are some interesting facts about the position.

1. What makes a good box-to-box midfielder?

Building an excellent central midfielder requires stamina, strength, spatial awareness, and tactical abilities.

2. Who are the best box-to-box midfielders of all time?

Some of the exceptional central midfielders of all time include Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard, Patrick Vieira, Sócrates, Johan Neeskens, Steven Gerrard and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Legendary footballers such as Sir Bobby Charlton also rank highly as the best box-to-box midfielder of all time.

Final word

Central midfielders contribute a lot to the team. The best box-to-box midfielders are versatile players who intercept opposing teams' shots and create scoring chances for their teams.

READ ALSO: Who are 10 of the best Croatian footballers ever to play the sport?

Sports Brief has published a ranked list of the most exceptional football players of Croatian origin. The article includes active and retired players who have dominated global football, such as Luka Modrić, Davor Šuker, Robert Prosinečki, Zvonimir Boban, and Mateo Kovačić. Click the link above to learn more about the best Croatian soccer stars.

Authors
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Ciku Njuguna
Ciku Njuguna is a journalist with 3 year’s experience in content creation based in Kenya. She currently covers sports personnel as well as team biographies.
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