Football Features

The best midfielders at Euro 2024 ranked

By Harry Edwards

The best midfielders at Euro 2024 ranked

Published: 16:00, 11 June 2024

There’s so much variation in central midfield.

Even though most of the formations used nowadays stick to either two or three central midfielders, there are so many different ways the team can be set up around them. And there are so many different ways those central midfielders can be used.

As football philosophies have evolved, so have central midfielders. And at Euro 2024, there will be a host of quality midfielders on show. But the question is, who is the best? And how do you separate them?

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To create a list, we’ve used the Twenty3 Discovery Tool to find the best central midfielders and best attacking midfielders using our ‘Squawka Score’.

For this list, we’ve looked at players playing in Europe’s top seven leagues. We also limited our search to players with over 1,500 minutes in the league in 2023/24 and with 2+ international starts, pitting them in the groups we feel best match their playing style.

Central midfielders

5. Hakan Calhanoglu

  • Country: Turkey

Gone are the days when Hakan Calhanoglu was merely a luxury No.10, strolling around the pitch to create chances and bumping his numbers up from set-pieces. Nowadays, he’s an elite force at the base of midfield, conducting play for runaway Serie A champions Inter.

Last season in Serie A, Calhanoglu was first among Inter players in Serie A for passes attempted/completed (2,150/1,986) and touches (2,648), while maintaining that ability from dead ball situations with two set-piece assists and a whopping 10 penalties scored. But there’s also a defensive grit around the Turkish midfielder now, also finishing first among his peers for tackles (66) and possession won in the defensive third (68).

All important assets at any major tournament.

4. Joey Veerman

  • Country: Netherlands

Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners both scored highly, but both are missing from Euro 2024 due to injury — the former pulling out less than a week before the Netherlands’ opening match. And so, that leaves Joey Veerman with the keys to the Oranje midfield.

Veerman was a creative force of nature for PSV last season, notching a whopping 16 assists — as well as five goals of his own — as Peter Bosz’s side swept away the Eredivisie. Now 25 years old, Veerman is finally starting to attract attention around Europe and while he’s a set-piece expert, much of his play also comes from deep, helping build from back to front.

There is a lot of unexpected pressure on his shoulders this summer.

3. Jerdy Scouten

  • Country: Netherlands

Another Dutchman, Jerdy Schouten was also part of the PSV side that won the Eredivisie by dropping points in just five of their 34 league games. Schouten played 29 times in total, with 211 ball recoveries and 54 tackles. He featured in 703 sequences ending in the final third, completed 162 passes into the final third and won 136 duels.

Schouten’s performances across the season earned him a recall to the Dutch national team, and he is likely to start alongside Veerman if recent lineups are to go by. Also 27, this is the moment for Schouten to prove himself to European football fans.

PSV could make or break the Netherlands’ chances at the Euros.

2. Rodri

  • Country: Spain

No top midfielder list is complete without Rodri. The Spaniard is one of the best around, even if he does keep getting overlooked for awards. This season in the Premier League, Rodri made a whopping 235 recoveries, with only Bruno Guimaraes (237) making more among outfield players, while also ranking top for touches and passes completed. Everything Manchester City do goes through Rodri, with the Spaniard also featuring in 193 sequences ending in a shot and completing 277 passes into the opposition half.

Rodri has a similar role in the Spanish national team, for whom he has racked up 50 caps. While he had fleeting appearances in the earlier stages of his career, now, if a game matters, Rodri will be in the starting XI for Spain. He has taken over from Sergio Busquets in that holding role, having previously had to make do with playing at centre-back at the 2022 World Cup.

1. Toni Kroos

  • Country: Germany

These will be Toni Kroos’ final matches in football. The German has announced that he will retire at the end of the European Championships, and he’ll dream of doing so after lifting the trophy on home soil. There were times when Kroos’ Real Madrid career looked to be over, but he has fought back and was a regular starter as they won the La Liga and Champions League double — whether that be at the base of their midfield or in a duo. The German had a retention rate of 91.55% in La Liga, while also completing 90.28% of his forward passes and 85.87% of his long passes, which is impressive when you remember just how varied long passes can be.

Kroos played his way back into the Germany fold at the start of the year, with his international career having previously looked done. He hadn’t featured since Germany crashed out of Euro 2020 in the quarter-finals. But Kroos returned with two assists in two games as Germany won back-to-back matches against France and Netherlands, looking to have put a tough 2023 behind them.

Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan could form one of the most effective partnerships at the tournament. Not to mention the most experienced.

Honourable mention: Joao Neves

  • Country: Portugal

The next big thing to come out of Benfica. Joao Neves is only 19 but he has the world at his feet and could sign for practically any club in the world if he so wished. Neves sits at the base of Benfica’s midfield as part of the double pivot and allows his partner to roam safely in the knowledge that the defence is protected. Neves racked up 65 tackles in the Primeira Liga in 2023/24 with 35 interceptions, 198 duels won and 34 clearances. He also completed 89.92% of his passes, with only Goncalo Inacio having more touches in the Primeira Liga.

Neves only made his Portugal debut in October and has started just once for the Selecao, with Joao Palhinha favoured ahead of him. But all he needs is an opportunity and he’ll make that spot his own.

Attacking midfielders

5. Antoine Griezmann

  • Country: France

It’s not always been his go-to position at club level but for France, Antoine Griezmann has been an incredible attacking midfield force for years. The Atletico Madrid star has conducted things between the line, supplying the ammo for Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud to wreak havoc and in doing so, has helped Les Bleus to World Cup and Nations League titles, as well as further World Cup and European Championship finals.

Griezmann heads to Germany off the back of a 24-goal, eight-assist season across all competitions, while at international level, his record of 44 goals and 38 assists in 129 appearances speaks volumes to his dual importance as a goalscoring threat and creative dynamo.

4. Bruno Fernandes

  • Country: Portugal

At club level, Bruno Fernandes notched 14 direct goal involvements (8g/6a) in his final 14 games of the season across all competitions, playing a massive role in Manchester United’s memorable FA Cup success. At international level, he’s arguably been even better, with nine goals and eight assists in 13 caps since the start of 2023 alone.

We all know about Fernandes’ prowess from penalties and set-pieces, but it’s also worth noting he finished fifth in the Premier League for open-play expected assists (8) in 2023/24, with only one of his eight assists in the competition coming directly from a set-piece.

3. Xavi Simons

  • Country: Netherlands

Xavi Simons goes into the Euros off the back of a good season on loan at RB Leipzig, and many potential suitors will no doubt be watching, hoping they can pry him away from Paris Saint-Germain. The 21-year-old was directly involved in 19 goals in the Bundesliga in 2023/24, scoring eight himself while providing a further 11 assists. Only one player, Alex Grimaldo (13) provided more assists in the Bundesliga than the Dutchman. Tricky on the ball, Simons completed 60% of his take-ons with 84 overall, while also having 117 touches in the opposition box. His creativity was good too, with an open-play xA of 7.65 and 14 big chances created.

Simons made his Netherlands debut in December 2022 at the World Cup, though his tournament was restricted to just seven minutes in the final group stage game against the United States. However, since the start of 2023, Simons has started 11 of Netherlands 13 games. He finally scored his first senior Oranje goal in their final pre-tournament 4-0 win over Iceland.

2. Jude Bellingham

  • Country: England

What a season Jude Bellingham has had. He’s already a Spanish champion, brushing off the heartbreak of last year’s Bundesliga final day collapse at Borussia Dortmund, and could still beat his former side for the Champions League. The Englishman is high in the ranks of favourites to win the Ballon d’Or. Bellingham scored an incredible 19 La Liga goals in his maiden campaign for Real Madrid, taking up a lot of the goalscoring responsibilities left by Karim Benzema. He also chipped in with six assists. Bellingham was involved in everything for Real Madrid, featuring in 147 sequences ending in a shot and having 149 touches in the opposition box.

It feels like the hopes of a nation rest on Bellingham’s shoulders this summer. What better way for the 20-year-old to cap off his spectacular campaign than ending the Three Lions’ long wait for a trophy? It was at Euro 2020 that he briefly held the record as the youngest-ever player in European Championships history, racking up 29 England caps to date. There have just been three goals, as Gareth Southgate tries to work out how best to fit this new Bellingham into the team, but it’s got to work.

1. Florian Wirtz

  • Country: Germany

One of the gems of Bayer Leverkusen’s team, Florian Wirtz has already had a remarkable story. He’s gone from being one of Germany’s next big things, to having his progress halted due to a long-term injury, to being one of Germany’s next big things. And we mean BIG. Wirtz was one of just two players to hit double digits for goals and assists in the 2023/24 Bundesliga alongside teammate Grimaldo, though the German was the first to do it. He also featured in 187 sequences ending in a shot for Leverkusen, while having 183 touches in the opposition box and completing 79 take-ons.

Injury has limited Wirtz’s time with Germany to just 16 appearances — which is still incredible considering he’s only recently turned 21 — but now he appears irreplaceable. Wirtz has started in 11 of Germany’s last 15 games, and scored just seconds into their 2-0 win over France. He has been playing in a slightly wider position, but could fill the central role for Die Mannschaft if Julian Nagelsmann so desires. With Jamal Musiala and Thomas Muller around, he’s not short of options — and that’s without mentioning Leroy Sane, who often operated behind Harry Kane for Bayern Munich last season.

Honourable mention: Cole Palmer

  • Country: England

Cole Palmer had a barnstorming season for Chelsea and simply has to be mentioned. It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to say he was the reason they managed to qualify for Europe with a sixth-placed finish. The 22-year-old was directly involved in 33 goals in the Premier League, more than any other player in the division, pipping Erling Haaland on the final day. With 22 goals and 11 assists, Palmer was also one of five players to hit the double-double in the Premier League, with only Ollie Watkins providing more assists. He had 140 touches in the opposition box and featured in 203 sequences ending in a shot, not to mention having 109 shots and creating 72 chances.

Nobody would have called Palmer even as an outside chance for Euro 2024 at this stage last season. But he’s made himself impossible to ignore. Palmer made his England debut last year and has only had two starts so far, so may have to make an impact from the bench at this summer’s tournament. Especially with the likes of Bellingham and Phil Foden around. But that impact could be a sizeable one.

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