B90M’s Rating Index for Central Midfielders (CMRI)

Now is the time for the midfield engines. Where will Andres Iniesta, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, Jordan Henderson, Miralem Pjanic and Claudio Marchisio fall?

The weighting system for the CMRI considers:

Goals, Assists, Key Passes, Passing, Shooting Efficiency, Shooting Accuracy, Foul Ratios, Tackling, Possession Loss, Dribbling and even team possession are all factored into the calculations to produce a ranking that accounts for just about everything a central midfielder does.

There might be surprises that go against the conventional thinking but the CMRI doesn’t lie because of the breadth of statistics that are considered.

First, the numbers 40 to 26 and then our list.

40. Sami Khedira, Index score: 55.88

39. Jeremy Tolisso, Index Score: 56.36

38. Gabi, Index Score: 56.42

37. João Moutinho, Index Score: 57.04

36. Kevin Strootman, Index Score: 57.12

35. Radja Nainggolan, Index Score: 57.14

34. Alessandro Florenzi, Index Score: 57.57

33. Ruben Pardo, Index Score: 57.69

32. Yohan Cabaye, Index Score: 58.17

31. Claudio Marchisio, Index Score: 58.46

30. James Milner, Index Score: 58.72

29. Mark Noble, Index Score: 59.05

28. Adrien Rabiot, Index Score: 59.23

27. Koke, Index Score: 59.41

26. Blaise Matuidi, Index Score: 59.58

25Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

Index rating: 59.92

Raw score: 57.60 (28th)

Age: 27

Games: 102

Minutes: 7,255

Goals and Assists: 14 (13)

Strongest category: Interceptions and tackle ratio.

Weakest category: Shot accuracy and possession loss.

Kicking off our top 25 is Manchester United midfielder, Ander Herrera. The Spanish international brings balance to the United midfield with his energy and balanced style of play. Indeed, the Spaniard has a keen understanding of the game, as shown by his versatility to play anywhere in the centre of the park. It is a pity that a player of his ability is denied consistent minutes for his country but that’s the price one pays for daring to be a Spanish midfielder in this era. Still, his importance to the Red Devils must be noted as he has established himself as a player manager Jose Mourinho can rely on.

24Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)

Index rating: 60.45

Raw score: 57.64 (27th)

Age: 24

Games: 102

Minutes: 8,161

Goals and Assists: 6 (3)

Strongest category: Pass volume and interceptions.

Weakest category: Goals and assists and shot efficiency.

It has taken some time but Granit Xhaka looks to have finally gotten the keys to the Arsenal engine room after his big money transfer from Borussia Monchengladbach. What the Swiss captain lacks in pace and dynamism, he makes up for with a tremendous passion for and reading of the game. His ability to pull the strings at the base of midfield is a priceless asset in the current football climate, something his manager Arsene Wenger knows all too well. If there is one criticism to be had of Xhaka, is his penchant for making rash challenges. Should he learn to be more measured with his tackling, the Gunners will have quite a player on their hands.

23İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City)

Index rating: 60.94

Raw score: 59.05 (23rd)

Age: 26

Games: 59

Minutes: 4,655

Goals and Assists: 7 (8)

Strongest category: Pass volume and dribbling.

Weakest category: Tackling and fitness.

İlkay Gündoğan must feel cursed as a footballer. A player of immense talent, the German has made a positive impression whenever he has gotten the chance to play a run of games. The problem for Gündoğan is that does not happen anywhere near often enough. It is a shame how many seasons are consistently cut short for him due to serious injury. One can only imagine how good he would be if he could just stay fit.

22Dele Alli (Tottenham)

Index rating: 60.98

Raw score: 60.43 (17th)

Age: 20

Games: 50

Minutes: 3,770

Goals and Assists: 16 (10)

Strongest category: Goals and assists (1st) and shot accuracy.

Weakest category: Ball retention, pass volume and accuracy.

Dele Alli has burst onto the scene over the past two seasons. The young midfielder has made himself into a key figure in Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs team with his knack for scoring. Indeed, 16 goals from midfield in your debut season deserves recognition. At only 20 years old, the sky is the limit for the young Englishman. Look forward to see him become a mainstay of our rankings for years to come.

21Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United)

Index rating: 61.44

Raw score: 60.39 (18th)

Age: 32

Games: 61

Minutes: 4,391

Goals and Assists: 10 (8)

Strongest category: Pass volume.

Weakest category: Tackling and shot accuracy.

Legend. Despite his disappointing spell so far with Manchester United, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s career is nothing baulk at. Age has certainly not been kind to the former German captain as injuries piled up but his accomplishments speak for themselves. Blessed with a natural understanding of the game, Bastian played a number of different positions to distinction before settling as central midfielder. A career such as his deserves a more worthy end.

20Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

Index rating: 61.54

Raw score: 59.20 (22nd)

Age: 26

Games: 108

Minutes: 9,340

Goals and Assists: 13 (23)

Strongest category: Ball retention.

Weakest category: Dribbling and fouling.

It is said that 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and the rest is covered by Jordan Henderson. Blessed with a natural engine that is second to none, the Liverpool captain has made steady progress since arriving from Sunderland in 2011. Under Jürgen Klopp, it seems the Englishman has gone up yet another level, marrying his great stamina with efficiency in possession at the base of midfield. Should he continue his growth, climbing our rankings will be a formality.

19Gonzalo Castro Randón (Borussia Dortmund)

Index rating: 61.63

Raw score: 60.33 (19th)

Age: 29

Games: 90

Minutes: 6,632

Goals and Assists: 12 (26)

Strongest category: Goals, assists and key passes.

Weakest category: Pass accuracy

Just inside our top 20 we have Dortmund’s Gonzalo Castro. The versatile German international has played a number of positions in his career, highlighting his understanding of the game. Regularly contributing with either a goal or assist, Castro has proven to be a key figure in Thomas Tuchel’s team since arriving in 2015. At 29 his chances to add to his five caps for Germany may be slim; however, that is by no means a slight on his quality as a footballer.

18Borja Valero Iglesias (Fiorentina)

Index rating: 61.76

Raw score: 59.66 (21st)

Age: 31

Games: 109

Minutes: 9,045

Goals and Assists: 12 (19)

Strongest category: Key passes and drawing fouls.

Weakest category: Tackling and interceptions.

Despite not being a household name, Borja Valero has made quite an impression in Italy for Fiorentina. Yet another victim of the wealth of talent that Spain enjoyed in midfield, Valero has just one appearance for La Furia Roja to his name, and at 31 years old that most likely won’t be changing any time soon. Still, blessed with an eye for a pass and a cool head under pressure, the Spaniard regularly pulls the strings for the Viola from the centre of the pitch; a deserved, if unexpected entry in our rankings.

17Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

CMRI Index rating: 62.47

Raw score: 61.31 (15th)

Age: 26

Games: 91

Minutes: 6,666

Goals and Assists: 21 (19)

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Strongest category: Goals and assists (5th)

Weakest category: Tackling and possession loss

After a majestic 2013/14 campaign where he appeared to finally be fulfilling his potential, Ramsey has been at the heart of scrutiny from Arsenal fans in the better part of two and a half seasons.

Though his passing and interception numbers have remained steady, he loses the ball at a high rate and his end product has dwindled since. Not yet in his prime, however, Ramsey still has a chance to reclaim the form that made him a darling amongst supporters in that aforementioned, injuries not withstanding of course.

16Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid)

CMRI Index rating: 62.49

Raw score: 60.24 (20th)

Age: 22

Games: 103

Minutes: 6,041

Goals and Assists: 5 (9)

Strongest category: Dribbling (3rd), tackling (2nd) and pass completion

Weakest category: Shot efficiency, possession loss, and interceptions

Having finally seemed to have settled at the Santiago Bernabeu, Kovačić is the first of three Real Madrid central midfielders to appear on this list. The Austrian-born Croatian international is known for his normally neat and tidy passing, solid tackling and has a high dribble success rate.

While end-product is lacking, Kovačić’s link up play and vision have made him a reliable alternative in that position for Real Madrid, who currently lead La Liga having yet to lose a match.

15Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham)

CMRI Index rating: 62.54

Raw score: 60.46 (16th)

Age: 29

Games: 94

Minutes: 6,054

Goals and Assists: 5 (3)

Strongest category: Tackling (1st), dribbling (1st), and passing

Weakest category: Goals and assists

One of the most underrated players at his position, Dembélé is a true workhorse at the heart of Tottenham’s midfield, possessing the best tackling and dribbling stats of any CM in Europe since the start of 2013/14. His ball-winning and ability to create space and open up passing lanes makes him a huge asset to Mauricio Pochettino’s team.

Like Kovačić, you won’t see Dembélé light up the goals and assists columns, but his ‘dirty work’ contributions are what draws adoration every he takes the pitch at White Hart Lane.

14Rafinha Alcântara do Nascimento (Barcelona)

CMRI Index rating: 62.91

Raw score: 63.10 (10th)

Age: 23

Games: 72

Minutes: 4,395

Goals and Assists: 11 (6)

Strongest category: Shot efficiency (2nd), tackling (3rd) and dribbling

Weakest category: Possession loss

Though not as heralded as his older brother, Thiago Alcântara (more on him later), Rafinha has proven an efficient player when called upon at Barcelona. After a highly promising 2013/14 on loan at Celta Vigo, Rafinha found opportunities few and far between at the club, partly due to injury.

He has made the most of them this season though, scoring five goals in 10 appearances for the Blaugrana, with 92% pass accuracy and is smooth on the ball. Should he continue this efficiency, Rafinha could become a more regular fixture at the Camp Nou despite the strong competition he faces at that position.

13Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich)

CMRI Index rating: 62.91

Raw score: 61.41 (13th)

Age: 29

Games: 104

Minutes: 7,408

Goals and Assists: 23 (14)

Strongest category: Goals and assists, and passing

Weakest category: Dribbling, and shot efficiency

Still one of the better two-way mids in the world, the feisty Chilean has been somewhat hit and miss since arriving at Bayern Munich in 2015. At his best, Vidal is a premier passer and ball winner with a mean right boot and always leaves his mark on an opponent, literally and figuratively.

However, as he closes in on 30 and with his minutes decreasing, the seven-time domestic title winner and two-time Copa America champion might not have too much more opportunity to play at an elite level for an elite club.

12Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

CMRI Index rating: 63.30

Raw score: 61.39 (14th)

Age: 23

Games: 115

Minutes: 9,418

Goals and Assists: 27 (25)

Strongest category: Goals and assists, and dribbling (4th)

Weakest category: Interceptions, possession loss, and pass completion

Not where you were expecting the world’s most expensive player to place, were you? The flashy French international midfielder is undoubtedly one of the best young talents around and has settled nicely after a slow start to his Old Trafford return. End product, strong close control and strength have made him the force he is dating back to his Juventus days.

His defensive contributions are still lacking and given his eye for the spectacular, his passing numbers suffer a bit. Nevertheless, his age, natural ability and versatility, Pogba has a great chance to elevate his status while facing the pressure of an exorbitant price tag.

11Luka Modrić (Real Madrid)

CMRI Index rating: 64.19

Raw score: 61.90 (12th)

Age: 31

Games: 90

Minutes: 7,169

Goals and Assists: 5 (14)

Strongest category: Pass completion (5th) and dribbling

Weakest category: Goals and assists, and shot efficiency

Called ‘Luka Magic’ by some of his fans, Modric has been an elite level talent at his position since his days at Tottenham. Questions arose about his ability to adapt to Spanish football in his first season at Madrid in 2012/13, but boy has he put those doubts to rest since.

His apex came the following season when he was arguably the best around at his position and has since continued to a model of consistency thanks to his world class dribbling ability and passing range. Though injuries have slowed down this proverbial engine some, Modric is still a well oiled machine crucial to the hub of Los Blancos.

10Andres Iniésta (Barcelona)

CMRI Index rating: 64.91

Raw score: 62.68 (11th)

Age: 32

Games: 95

Minutes: 6,763

Goals and Assists: 4 (13)

Strongest category: Passing, dribbling, and tackling

Weakest category: Goals and assists, and shot efficiency

Nicknamed El Illusionista (The Illusionist), Barcelona’s little magician continues to wield his proverbial wand at the Camp Nou week in and week out when available. Cracking the top 10 is a player whose impact far outweighs the more popular statistics and whose ingenuity adds that extra bit of fluidity to Barca’s superstar-laden attack.

His absences so far this season have disrupted the rhythm and shape of Luis Enrique’s team, with Lionel Messi having to drop deeper than usual to collect the ball and Barcelona finding goals harder to come back. Iniesta still has much left to offer the club he has been a part of since age 12, so much so that Barcelona are trying to extend his contract until 2020.

9Marco Verratti (PSG)

CMRI Index rating: 66.26

Raw score: 65.05 (9th)

Age: 24

Games: 92

Minutes: 6,418

Goals and Assists: 4 (15)

Strongest category: Pass volume (1st), pass completion (3rd), shot efficiency (5th), dribbling (5th), and foul ratio

Weakest category: Goal contributions, key passes, and possession loss

Europe’s pass master with a stratospheric 97.7 passes per game at 91.3% accuracy and the heir apparent in the national team to the original master, Andrea Pirlo, the Italian makes a good showing in our CM rankings’ debut.

The envy of many a top club and the subject of enquiries, Verratti’s best days are being wasted in France. He has expressed loyalty to the PSG project but if he wants to test and prove himself outside of Champions league then he should answer the calls from Italy, Spain and England.

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8Dani Parejo (Valencia)

CMRI Index rating: 66.29

Raw score: 65.08 (8th)

Age: 27

Games: 113

Minutes: 9,401

Goals and Assists: 27 (20)

Strongest category: Scoring, shot efficiency and accuracy, tackle ratio and foul ratio

Weakest category: Interceptions

Undoubtedly the surprise of the top ten, Dani Parejo is rewarded for years of solid performances in Valencia’s midfield. Recognised as one of the most underrated players in Spain, Parejo’s stock has nevertheless taken a hit after poor recent form and questionable behaviour amidst a crisis at Valencia. The midfielder is reportedly on his way out with a spate of second and third tier clubs interested in a bargain on a quality player.

A formidable goalscorer and in his mid 20s, Parejo is just one of many Spaniards to feature here and underlines why Spain is the current factory for quality midfielders.

7Santiago Cazorla González (Arsenal)

CMRI Index rating: 67.23

Raw score: 65.68 (6th)

Age: 32

Games: 91

Minutes: 7,485

Goals and Assists: 13 (24)

Strongest category: Key passes (3rd), pass volume, shot accuracy, dribbling, and foul ratio (4th)

Weakest category: Possession loss, shot efficiency, tackling and interceptions

The little magician isn’t the Gunners’ best or influential player but he’s probably their most important player. A hole is created every time he is missing, even at 32 years old. Santi isn’t the player you replace at a whim and those who are better at this time are already in top teams. Santi has undergone a reinvention as a deep lying playmaker as his shot has deserted him.

Class hasn’t though and it’s no surprise that a man who is firmly among the elite in every stat excepting tackling and interceptions – a major reason why a more traditional DM is the perfect foil – ranks so highly. When he leaves the game, a void greater than his short stature will form, not only because of his talents, but because of the man he is.

6Ivan Rakitić (Barcelona)

CMRI Index rating: 67.87

Raw score: 66.49 (5th)

Age: 28

Games: 114

Minutes: 8,183

Goals and Assists: 26 (20)

Strongest category: Scoring, shot efficiency, possession loss (1st), and foul ratio

Weakest category: Pass volume, shot accuracy, dribbling, and tackling

Calling him a replacement for Xavi Hernandez is a stretch because of their differing playing styles. However, he is now an important cog in the post-Guardiola Barcelona midfield.

Possibly the holder of the best box to box midfielder in the world tag, Rakete has stamped his brand on the Barcelona way with his directness and assuredness in possession. Instead of control, his contribution is running, timely goals and assists and contributions on both sides of the ball.

5Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

CMRI Index rating: 68.25

Raw score: 65.45 (7th)

Age: 27

Games: 109

Minutes: 8,856

Goals and Assists: 6 (28)

Strongest category: Pass volume (4th), pass completion (1st), possession loss (2nd) and foul ratio

Weakest category: Shot accuracy, shot efficiency, dribbling, and interceptions

One half of what is arguably the best midfield duo in Europe, the German who has just turned 27 cracks the top five. A supreme passer, Kroos has known success at both the club and country level. His contribution to those victories cannot be understated.

Though weaker in some of the finer points of defensive work, Kroos control certainly mutes the need for much of the tackling and intercepting volume of a weaker midfield.

4Gnégnéri Yaya Touré (Manchester City)

CMRI Index rating: 68.45

Raw score: 67.45 (4th)

Age: 33

Games: 104

Minutes: 8,184

Goals and Assists: 38 (15)

Strongest category: Scoring (1st), shot efficiency (5th), and dribbling

Weakest category: Tackling, interceptions and foul ratio

A bulldozer and a menace in his prime, at least in league play, Yaya Toure rides the 20 goal league goals of 2013/14 to fourth. Never the best defensively, Yaya made his name as a scorer of goals forged from unstoppable runs through the middle of defenses. Though his production has declined with age and he’s no longer an automatic selection, he remains a valuable man to have around if, for example, the injury prone Ilkay Gundogan is out for an extended period of time.

Though his ranking could plummet next season after those 20 goals are discounted, this serves as acknowledgement of the player who most embodies the Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba. 

3Francesc Fàbregas Soler (Chelsea)

CMRI Index rating: 68.65

Raw score: 67.7 (2nd)

Age: 29

Games: 117

Minutes: 8,728

Goals and Assists: 17 (43)

Strongest category: Assisting (1st), key passes (4th), pass volume (5th) and shooting accuracy (3rd)

Weakest category: Dribbling, tackling, and intercepting

One of the very best passers in Europe, Cesc Fabregas hasn’t always showcased his very best but when he has it is some sight to behold. Having first made his name at Arsenal, the Spaniard was one of three high profile departures, his to Barcelona. That move was supposed to be the dream and cement him amongst the game’s elite as a natural successor to Xavi Hernandez, not unique on this list.

However, it didn’t work and his next move was back to the Premier league and Chelsea. A magical first season was followed by the inconsistency that has prevented from being a clear cut choice for the best central midfielder in the game. His class still shines through on the backs of the best assist numbers of all CMs.

2Miralem Pjanic (Juventus)

CMRI Index rating: 69.01

Raw score: 67.58 (3rd)

Age: 26

Games: 115

Minutes: 8,836

Goals and Assists: 26 (32)

Strongest category: Scoring and assisting, shooting accuracy, and key passes (1st),

Weakest category: Tackling, possession loss, and foul ratio

He may have been a Paul Pogba replacement but Miralem Pjanic deserves every bit of his second place ranking here. Juventus have acquired a player for less than a premium price who is versatile, creative and a supreme free kick taker. Had it not been for his tackling ability he might have snatched top spot.

Still, this confirms what many have known for a long time, the Bosnian is a hot commodity on the market, and in the prime of his career Juventus would be wise to hold on to him.

1Thiago Alcántara do Nascimento (Bayern Munich)

CMRI Index rating: 70.00

Raw score: 69.1 (1st)

Age: 25

Games: 65

Minutes: 4,211

Goals and Assists: 7 (10)

Strongest category: Pass completion and volume (2nd), dribbling (2nd), interceptions (2nd) and key passes

Weakest category: Possession loss

Who? In a strong and competitive class of midfielders, the older of the Brazilian-descended brother duo comes out on top. Oft injured but class through and through whenever he graces a football field, Thiago’s dribbling, passing, and intercepting ability gives him the nod.

A La Masia academy product, and Xavi’s prospective successor, Thiago left Barcelona after sporadic playing time in the 2011/12 season for German giants Bayern Munich. Now more accomplished and looking near the finished article, Thiago is the first true surprise at the top of our rankings. Interestingly, he’s the third former or current Barcelona man to top our rankings so far.