Continuing with our series to unveil our take on the best footballers of the year, we’ll take a look at the top performing midfielders in 2014.
This is perhaps the most complicated list to make, as 2014 saw one of the best World Cups in the recent time where a number of talented and skillful midfielders saw their rise. Even at the club level we saw the rise of teams led mainly by their midfielders.
Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid (who won the final of the Champions League) are perhaps the teams that most clearly have shown the impact talented midfielders can have.
So here are Sportzwiki’s Top 5 midfielders of 2014:
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich & The Netherlands):
With an astonishing year and easily his best year till date, one cannot argue his place in top 5 midfielders of 2014. Starting with an impressive performance with Bayern Munich there was no doubt that who is going to be a German Champion in 2014. Robben played an important role for the Bavarians in both the German Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League where they got knocked out by eventual winners Real Madrid in semis-finals.
Bayern Munich lost just twice in the Bundesliga 2013-14 season where Robben scored 11 times and assisted 6 times. In the current season, Robben just bettered his performance where he has already scored 10 goals and assisted thrice with half of the season still left.
And who can forget his brilliant individual performances in World Cup against defending champions Spain? Scoring twice against the same side who stopped them from winning the 2010 World Cup, one of his goal against Spain became the earlier contender for the goal of the tournament where Robben rushed ahead of Sergio Ramos in a record speed where he managed to score past Casillas comfortably.
His World Cup ended in Semis against Argentina, on a whole he scored 3 goals and assisted once in the World Cup 2014.
Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid, Manchester United & Argentina):
Angel Di Maria’s year would have been ended on a very high note if Argentina had won against Germany in the finals of the World Cup but that doesn’t take away his overall performances for the year of 2014.
He contributed to Real Madrid’s 2–1 victory over Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey Final with the opening goal. Di María was the top assist maker in La Liga for the season, contributing 17 as a whole.
In 2014 UEFA Champions League Final, an amazing zig-zag dribble past 3 players resulted in a shot which was desperately saved by Thibaut Courtois, but teammate Gareth Bale was there to head the rebound into the net in the 110th minute, giving Real Madrid a 2–1 lead over city rivals Atlético Madrid in an eventual 4–1 win. Di María was named man of the match by UEFA after the game, and was presented with the honour by Alex Ferguson.
One could argue that Angel Di Maria was overshadowed by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Heading to World Cup now, In Argentina’s round of 16 match against Switzerland, Di María scored the only goal of the game after 118 minutes, from a Messi assist. During the quarter-final match against Belgium, Di María suffered a muscle tear in the thigh and was later taken off the field which ended his World Cup. Argentina went on to final after a gap of 24 years, however they lost to Germans in extra time.
In August 2014, Di María signed a five-year deal with Manchester United for a transfer fee of £59.7 million, the fifth most expensive transfer of all time and the highest fee ever paid by a British club.
Di Maria didn’t failed to impress his new club where he scored against QPR in his first home game debut at Old Trafford through a free kick. Later He also provided an assist for Juan Mata’s goal in the same match, winning the vote for ‘Man of the Match’.
Later Di Maria won Manchester United’s Player of the Month for September after racking up two goals and two assists in his first four matches for United. One week later, he won his second individual trophy at United after his goal against Leicester, in which he chipped the goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, was voted as Manchester United’s Goal of the Month for September.
Luka Modric (Real Madrid & Croatia):
Luka Modric was undoubtedly one of the best central midfielders in the world for 2014 with the sheer ability to deliver deadly long balls, accurate short passing and a genius footballing brain.
With Xabi Alonso besides him for majority of the season, Modric really shut his critics with a fabulous performance in 2014. Though they came third in La Liga after a good start Modric had some other plans for Champions League. It was his corner when Madrid were trailing 1-0 against their bitter rivals Atletico Madrid in UEFA Champions League final where defender Sergio Ramos headed past Thibaut Courtois to level the score right in the end where almost all thought that Atletico are sure European Champions. After 12 years, Real Madrid had won for what they have been hunting for years, La Decima.
He was included in the UEFA Champions League Team of the Season, and received the LFP for the “Best Midfielder” of the Spanish first league of that season.
In the new season, Modrić signed a new contract until 2018, and with the departure of Alonso, he was partnered with newly arrived Toni Kroos. Modrić began the season winning UEFA Super Cup over Sevilla and assisting twice for Bale, first against Real Sociedad in Spanish league and second with outside of the foot against FC Basel in Champions League. In the 2–0 away win against Villarreal, Modrić scored his seventh goal from outside of the box.
All in all, he had a very impressive year with Real Madrid if not with Croatia, becoming Real Madrid’s spine of the team.
Koke Resurrección (Atletico Madrid & Spain):
His performance for Atletico Madrid in the Spanish La Liga and UEFA Champions League is enough to include him in top-5 midfielders of 2014.
He was a consistent performer for Atletico in Champions League where they proved to be an underdog at every stage of the tournament. With the likes of Diego Costa, Gabi, Arda Turan, Diego Godin around him they just got better and better with each match.
In March, he scored his first derby goal to help his team to a 2–2 home draw in the Derbi madrileño against Real Madrid.
Koke scored his first goal in the UEFA Champions League, netting the only goal of a quarter-final against Barcelona to send Atlético to the semi-finals for the first time since 1974. He finished the domestic league season as the player with the second most assists with 14 as Atlético won the league title for the first time in 18 years after drawing 1–1 with Barcelona at Camp Nou in the final matchday. He was a nominee at the LFP Awards at attacking midfielder, losing out to Barcelona’s Andrés Iniesta.
Over the last 3 seasons, Koke is second to only Cesc Fabregas in terms of assist with an impressive 30 assists. Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria shortly follow him.
Koke was named in Spain’s 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup and was also included in the final list for the tournament. He made his debut in the tournament after replacing Xabi Alonso at half-time as the champions trailed 0–2 to Chile at the Maracana in the second group game, but could not change the score-line as elimination was confirmed.
Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich, Real Madrid & Germany):
A World Cup winner, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal winner’s medal and a FIFA Club World Cup winner. Yes, Toni Kroos has won all these medals in 2014. Millions dream of it and only few succeed, Toni Kroos is one of them.
Coming into the Champions League as a defending champions Bayern did well until Real Madrid came knocking to their doors, getting eliminating in semis in their own stadium was nothing short of a nightmare. But it was just a start for Toni Kroos in 2014.
There was hardly a competition in Bundesliga where Bayern dominated the whole season where they finish 19 points ahead of Borussia Dortmund who came 2nd. Toni Kroos was also the part of Bayern’s team where they once again edged past 2-0 over Borussia Dortmund after extra time.
Then came the biggest sporting event on the planet, The FIFA World Cup.
In the team’s opening match, a 4–0 defeat of Portugal, Kroos started in midfield and assisted Mats Hummels for Germany’s second goal. In the semi-final against the host nation Brazil, Kroos scored two goals in two minutes apart (24′ and 26′) in Germany’s 7–1 win which not only shook the whole nation but also the whole world.
Toni Kroos later recorded his fourth assist of the tournament, crossing for Thomas Muller’s opening goal, and was named man of the match by FIFA for an outstanding performance. Kroos has been nicknamed Garçom by the Brazilians for precisely delivering most passes to the strikers in that infamous semi-final. Germany went onto win the World Cup by defeating Argentina after extra time, winning their 4th World Cup in which they have to wait for 24 long years.
In July, Kroos was named in the 10-man shortlist for FIFA’s Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player.
The Castrol Performance Index, the official statistical analyzer of the World Cup, rated Kroos as the best player at the 2014 World Cup, with a rating of 9.79 out of 10.
Later that month, Real Madrid announced that they had reached an agreement for the transfer of Kroos, signing a six-year deal for an undisclosed fee. The press reported that Kroos had cost between €25 million and €30 million which still is a bargain considering how good he is.
Last week Toni Kroos became the first footballer to win back to back FIFA Club World Cup, first with Bayern Munich (2013) and now with his new club, Real Madrid.