There are many different kinds of midfielder, with each type requiring different skills. However, the accepted wisdom is that to be effective in the vast majority of the midfield positions, a player needs stamina and pace. They also need good passing skills and great vision.
With this in mind, here is our list of midfielders with these skills in abundance (and much more besides).
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
You can’t argue with the stats. Ryan Giggs played 963 games for Manchester United and had won 13 Premier League titles when he retired in 2013. He’s also the only player to appear in both of the Ferguson-era Champions League final wins (1999 and 2008).
With 34 trophies in total, Ryan Giggs is the most successful footballer in Premier League history. Although, Roy Keane left Giggs out of his all-time Manchester United XI, giving the explanation that having a “great career doesn’t make you a great player”.
When assessing just how good Ryan Giggs was, you can take into account the Welshman’s dazzling – not to mention vital – goal against Arsenal in the semi-final of the 1999 FA Cup, and his amazing pace and stamina as a young man.
You can also consider the sheer length of Giggs’ senior career (1991-2013), and his ability to adapt his game in line with a loss of pace as he got older. Few would argue that he’s among the best midfielders ever to grace the Premier League.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Cristiano Ronaldo is the only Manchester United player in the Premier League era to win World Player of the Year (2008). As a fresh-faced teenager, Ronaldo caught the plane over from Portugal in 2003, and set about making a name for himself in English football.
While initially dismissed as a “show pony” who put tricks above his team, he slowly began proving everyone wrong as he gained in experience and strength.
Ronaldo completely destroyed Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup final – United’s last win in that competition. He had really come of age by the 2007-08 season, however, during which he scored 42 goals and was the key member of what is arguably Ferguson’s best ever team, winning both the Premier and Champions Leagues.
Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
Proclaimed by Gary Neville as “the best player I ever played with” and described by Zinedine Zidane as a “complete footballer”, Paul Scholes is another Manchester United player that deserves a place on this list.
United played free-flowing, attacking football under Ferguson and Scholes was often central to their attacks. He dictated the flow of the game by choosing the right pace at the right time, which in turn would get his team pushing forward.
Scholes also had a great shot; this came from great technique, paired with awesome power, even from long range.
Scholes has won the Premier League 11 times, the FA Cup three times, the League Cup twice, the Champions League twice and the FIFA Club World Cup once.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Steven Gerrard was the catalyst that drove the Liverpool team he captained to many victories, some of which might have seemed impossible.
The 2005 Champions League final, in which the Reds came from three goals down to win the game on penalties, is a prime example as Gerrard as the pushing, driving force he was for the club.
Along with Scholes, Gerrard is perhaps one of the two most complete players to ever play in the Premier League.
His passing range was sublime, and he was blessed with both pace and power. Unlike Scholes, Gerrard was also a tough-tackling midfielder. He has been named in the PFA Team of the Year a record eight times.
Choosing the best four midfielders in the history of the Premier League is tough and it might seem a little odd that three of the four midfielders in this list played for Manchester United.
But as we say in our profile of Giggs, the stats don’t lie. Giggs spent 22 years playing football at the very top level. Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or for the first of five times while at United. Scholes is held in the highest esteem by the elite of world football; from Zidane to Guardiola – they all love him.
Last on the list is Gerrard. This is because despite not winning as many trophies as the others on this list, the former Liverpool skipper was undoubtedly one of the very best midfielders in Premier League history.