The above three are undoubtedly the three greatest midfielders to ever play in the Premier League. One was a charismatic leader who could drag his horrendous teammates out of unwinnable situations through sheer force of will alone, one was a complete midfielder who could control, create, defend and produce the spectacular while the other was a midfielder like no other who often chalked up numbers that would’ve made strikers proud. So who among these three can claim the title of being the best midfielder that has ever graced the English game? The answer: neither one of the three. You may say I’m being contradictory to my own point, but read the very first line of the article again. The three players in the picture are the three greatest to play in the Premier league, not the best. If you look at their careers, very few players, let alone midfielders can come close to them, but if you look solely as their abilities as a footballer and their respective peaks, there is one midfielder who is better than them all.
The midfielder that I’m talking about is one of the most complete midfielders to have ever played the beautiful game. At his peak, he was a hulking presence who could out muscle everyone but had the technical ability of a classic Spanish midfielder. He could carry the ball from one side of the pitch to another, beating people with ease while shrugging off opponents as if they weren’t there. He could also station himself right outside the box to smash home a rebound, curl a shot into the top corner or make a late run and score. He could also put in a good defensive shift whenever his team needed him to. During his peak, this midfielder completed 68 passes per game at a success rate of 90%, completed 1.30 take ons at a success rate of 75% (higher than Messi), won the ball back approximately 2.3 times a game, created 1.23 chances per game, but most incredibly, scored 0.62 goals per game and gave 0.28 assists per game. For context, Toni Kroos, one of the best passers in world football completed on average 73 passes per game last season at a success rate of 93% while most top strikers average around 0.8 goals per game. The midfielder I’m talking about is non other than the multi-talented Yaya Toure.
The 2013/14 season was arguably the most entertaining Premier League season of all time and due to this reason, Yaya Toure’s achievements could’ve been given less attention than they warranted. After all, the headlines were dominated by Luis Suarez’s 31 goal haul, Sturridge’s 21 goal haul, that infamous Gerrard slip and the title battle between Liverpool and Man City. However, what Yaya Toure did that season deserved just as much praise and attention as the exploits of Suarez and co.
Yaya Toure wasn’t purely a statistical freak show that year. He started most of Man City’s attacking moves from their own half. He was the driving force behind Man City’s attack that year. Something that is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he played as a central midfielder behind attacking talents such as David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Moreover, the quality of goals he scored that year was incredible. He scored an absurdly high number of long range strikes that season. He scored 10 free kicks alone that year. Ten free kicks. This proficiency from range was one of the primary reasons city could beat teams that parked the bus against them. In addition to his long range golazos, he scored numerous goals by driving at the opponent with the ball at his feet. He ran straight at his opponents, forcing them to back off and he either shot and scored or gave a pass to a player on the wing and scored from the cut-back. Just watch the video at the end of the article and see the sheer quality of goals he scored that year.
The 13/14 campaign that Yaya Toure is the best individual season a midfielder has ever had in the Premier League and is one of the best individual season any player has ever had in the Premier League. To have a season as complete as he did is no mean feat. That season was the zenith of his career. That season was the best version of Yaya Toure ever, and is the reason Yaya Toure is the best midfielder to have ever played in the Premier league, just not the greatest.