Football is an amazing sport, the best sport ever (a big shout out to basketball). Growing up, a lot of us loved playing football. Everyone loved to play in the attacking position which was seen as the ‘star player’s’ position. The strikers are the goalscorers so we all wanted to score goals and brag amongst our peers. Getting sent to play in the defensive positions was worse than a death sentence. So, the defensive positions and players were seen as inferior to the attacking players and positions.

As we’ve grown in age and knowledge of the game, these notions have died down as it has become clear that every position is very important for a team to succeed. 

The Defensive Midfielder

The defensive midfielder role is arguably the most underrated role in football. While the spotlight is on the attackers, the defensive midfielders go about their jobs quietly getting little or no mention.

Over the last decade, we have been blessed with an array of wonderful defensive midfielders; Patrick Viera, Claude Makelele, Sergio Busquets, Michael Carrick, Xabi Alonso, and most recently the likes of Nemanja Matic, Casemiro and Ngolo Kante. 

Depending on the formation employed there is usually one or sometimes, two defensive midfielders in team of 11 players. 

Attributes of a Defensive Midfielder

A defensive midfielder possesses the following attributes:

  1. Defensive skills
  2. Physicality 
  3. Positioning
  4. Distribution
  5. Leadership 

Roles of a Defensive Midfielder

The defensive midfielder role has evolved over the years. Here, I would be discussing 3 common roles of a defensive midfielder.

Ball Winning Midfielder

The name says it all. This midfielder breaks up play, intercepts passes and harries opposition players. The ball winning midfielder doesn’t possess passing as one of his best assets but he wins the ball back and gives it to his more attacking minded and creative teammates. Ball winning midfielders include Gennaro Gattuso and Ngolo Kante.

The Midfield Controller

The midfield controller controls the midfield. This midfielder is arguably the most complete of the defensive midfielders as he possesses both defensive traits like tackling, interceptions, ball winning and attacking traits like incisive passing, good ball playing ability, shooting and driving with the ball. An example of the midfield controller is Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.


The regista is an Italian term, in English called the deep-lying playmaker, for the player who drops out of midfield to get the ball from the defence where they have the space and time to control the tempo of the game, orchestrate play, and start attacks with exquisite passing. Deep-lying playmakers are often known for their vision, technique and passing. Popular registas in the past decade include:  Michael Carrick, Xabi Alonso, Xavi and the regista of all registas; Andrea Pirlo.


 The defensive midfielder is one of the most important positions in football. Try to watch out for this position when next you watch a football game and feel free to educate your friends. Cheers

This article was written by Ekpe-iko Hodovai; connect with him on IG here  

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