1. We've added a new Women's Team sub-forum to discuss all things related to the new United Women's Team.

    Also, the FCUoM forum has been closed due to inactivity, with its threads moved to the Football Forum. To discuss FCUoM and Salford City moving forward, please use this sticky thread.
    Dismiss Notice

Who are the top 5 box-to-box midfielders of all-time?

Discussion in 'Football Forum' started by Fortitude, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. Feb 10, 2018
    #1

    Fortitude TV/Monitor Expert Scout

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2004
    Messages:
    7,891
    Location:
    Inside right
    Following on from the Greatest Midfields thread, I'm curious to know who the Caf believe to be the best B2B midfielders of all-time.

    The definition of B2B is being competent in defense, neutral or attack. By this criteria alone, many players fall short.

    I am going to hazard a guess that on a United forum, Keane and Robson will get an overwhelming majority of the vote, but where do they really sit in the grand scheme of things?

    I think Falcao is the best B2B in history, but if it were based on merit, then Lothar Matthaus must surely be the #1 pick for all that he was central to winning. But then again, where does the likes of Xavi fit into the picture? He played central midfield, but he could hardly be considered a box-to-box, all-purpose, multi-functioning midfielder, right? After all, take away his passing, and he is a very ordinary player

    Me personally, I'd go with.

    1. Falcao
    2. Neeskens
    3. Matthaus
    4. Schweinsteiger
    5. Keane

    Reasoning: IMO, Falcao is the most skilled CM there has ever been - at least on film - and he could do things with a ball that none of the others could whilst possibly not being as good defensively as them. He could more than hold his own behind the ball and was positionally astute to a level that would be deemed world class in its own right. In modern football, he would be moved to AM because his skills are too undeniable to be 'wasted' with defensive duties. Falcao's skillset is like an amalgamation of numerous great midfielders rolled into one: Easily one of the best distance shooters in history; comfortably one of the best dribblers from midfield; two-footed to top percentile levels; combination passing to equal Xavi; one-touch to equal Busquets; long-passing not far off Pirlo and co.; an ability to convert in the box like a ghosting attacking midfielder; stamina; acceleration; pace; heading; volleying. Falcao has no weaknesses or deficiencies. Even if he isn't the best at a particular facet, he'll be top 5 in the majority of categories for a midfielder. If we were to score each attribute out of 100, across the board, it tallies to an extraordinary points total that I don't believe anyone else can match.

    Falcao was the highest paid player in the world for a period of the 80's and was also vying with Platini to be the best player in the whole of Serie A. His legend has actually diminished greatly with time so whilst Platini is still considered a true great, you have to dig a lot deeper to find similar comments regarding Falcao despite him being a par player during their playing careers.




    Neeskens, for me, is the best pure b2b the sport has seen if you want someone to do a number of jobs in that role, linking the team and being an understated force that lets 'bigger' names shine and takes no glory for himself, unless you need a penalty converted. A better version of the Modric persona, if you will. Fast, mobile, two-footed, techincally adept, dogged, tireless, clean in the tackle, intelligent, flexible, multi-functional, consistent, dependable. The adjectives keep coming because Neeskens was a stellar player well worth a place in a world all-time xi in his own right. So understated is he that it's hard to get a decent compilation vid off Youtube to put up for him. Ridiculous.


    Lothar Matthaus. As I stated initially, he has claim to be the #1 on any b2b CM list. He had everything you want in a CM and his goal contribution and ability to drive a team forward is the stuff of legend. In terms of the player Matthaus was during his prime, many consider him an AM because of the amount of times he would drive into the box. The thing is, however, Matthaus would gladly do that from the half line over and over again whilst maintaining studiousness on the defensive end, too. For that reason, he is really hard to definitively categorize as either a CM or an AM, as he was both rolled into one until Father Time had a say. I don't believe him to be better at being Neeskens (the epitome of box-to-box doggedness) than Neeskens, as no-one is that, nor was he a better footballer than Falcao on a technical level, but what he has over both of them is a will to win that bordered on insanity. Like Keane, you don't get a higher level of drive, you just get par so whatever you level at others in this respect, you have to do for Matthaus as he is inferior to none in that regard.

    If Falcao is a champion-winning pure breed and Neeskens is some kind of lab-made terrier, Matthaus is the Pit-Bull that doesn't know when its beaten. He would go up against anyone or any team and expect to find a way to win. His battles with Maradona are legendary and there's a kind of drive in Matthaus that galvanises a team, a club or a nation equally. In many ways, he's the better version of Roy Keane just because his God-given talent was [far] greater. The same way Keane led and drove both club and country, Matthaus did, just with considerably more ability.

    The challenge for any midfield that faced Matthaus was simply matching his drive and stamina. He would work tirelessly to find any chink in an armour and as he was a supreme athlete, he would gladly just run a team to death if their players couldn't manage that for 90 minutes. Like Lampard, Matthaus would make the same runs over and over and over his intent, always, was to switch things up when he'd softened up his opposing numbers and blast one home.

    Brilliant in the tackle, solid passing, positionally aware, fast, mobile, strong, nasty Matthaus, like his persona was like a Terminator, and you could fairly argue that if Falcao had that kind of will to win, he could have done more in the game than he did, even for Neeskens, you could say with a Matthaus-level of will to win, maybe he'd have a World Cup winners medal instead of a runners-up one. Matthaus, Varela, Maradona, Keane and this type are a category of their own when it comes to will to win. Matthaus gave the impression he was willing to die out there.




    Schweinsteiger. His time at United may have tainted him somewhat, but what preceded it, especially during his peak, was a level not many CM's have reached in the game. As he's a modern player, I won't wax lyrical as he doesn't need it.




    Keane. I think Keane has to occupy the 5th spot over better footballers such as Bozsik, Robson, Ocwirk, Coluna, Sastre and so forth because he showed with Ireland that he could be an Island all by himself that could drive a bunch of relative cloggers to heights they would get nowhere near without him. It's all well and good doing what he did in a World Class United side, but to then exceed that with inferior team-mates is the stuff of legend. Keane's performances that got Ireland to Saipan were simply incredible. In terms of raw ability, he falls some way short of everyone on this list both those listed and the ones I've put him in ahead of, but it goes to show that utilization of what a player has is just as important, if not more, than outright ability. Keane is not out of place on any list that discusses all-time B2B CM's. All the nonsense revolving around Keane that doesn't pertain to his actual performance and ability on the pitch has created a lazy haze by which he's labelled a thug and all the other shite that seeks to discredit the player he was.






    Players like Scholes, Pirlo, Xavi are difficult to label as CM's in the presence of such beasts who were two-way powerhouses, which is why I don't consider them suitable in the slightest to be in such a discussion.


    Who are your 5, and why?
  2. Feb 10, 2018
    #2

    SwSw Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2017
    Messages:
    387
    In no particular order since i can't really decide.

    Keane, Basti, Lampard.
  3. Feb 10, 2018
    #3

    luke511 Full Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2013
    Messages:
    2,967
    I can only comment on players that I've experienced in my life time, so for me it'll have to be:
    Keane
    Viera
    Pogba
    Schweinsteiger
    Vidal

    Honourable mentions - Gerrard, Essien, maybe Lampard if he counts.
  4. Feb 10, 2018
    #4

    Ian Reus Ended 14 years of Grand National sweepstakes

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2014
    Messages:
    4,501
    Location:
    Belfast
    Keane.
    Viera.
    Zidane.
  5. Feb 10, 2018
    #5

    harms Full Member Scout

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2014
    Messages:
    13,073
    Location:
    Moscow
    1. Lothar Matthäus. The guy was a complete package — capable of handling the opposing #10 (even if it was Maradona himself), dictating the play and scoring countless goals.
    2. Frank Rijkaard. While he was more defensive than Matthäus/Falcão etc., he was the main man in Sacchi's 4-4-2 — and also a great playmaker and scorer of big goals. Simply love the man.
    3. Paolo Roberto Falcão. The most technically gifted, and the best playmaker, complete package and a sight to watch.
    4. Johan Neeskens. At times even outscored Cruyff and equally capable to play anywhere on the pitch
    5. Paul Breitner. Love the guy — and, like Matthäus, he was a prolific goalthreat from the centre of midfield (and his partnership with Rummenigge — majestic)

    Both Roy Keane and Bryan Robson are somewhere near, definitely in my top 10. + Tigana, Schweiny, Davids, I think that's it for me. Vieira/Tardelli and a few others are unlucky to miss out
  6. Feb 10, 2018
    #6

    Keeps It tidy Hates Messi

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    14,147
    Location:
    New York
    Might as well just call it the best midfielders of all time because we are about to get all types of midfielders on here. I already see someone mentioned Zidane.
  7. Feb 10, 2018
    #7

    harms Full Member Scout

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2014
    Messages:
    13,073
    Location:
    Moscow
  8. Feb 10, 2018
    #8

    esmufc07 Elvis has theft the building Scout

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Messages:
    29,729
    Falcao is a striker.
  9. Feb 10, 2018
    #9

    100 binary bot

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    8,248
    Location:
    HELLO
    so is Keane
  10. Feb 10, 2018
    #10

    Charles Miller Full Member Verified Moaner

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,208
    Watching Lothar Mathaus in that time, i never realized he was a b2b tbh.. thought he was a 10.
  11. Feb 10, 2018
    #11

    Jagga7 Full Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2011
    Messages:
    5,106
    Location:
    BET365
    From the players I've seen,
    Keane
    Viera
    Gerrard
    Ballack
    Redondo
  12. Feb 10, 2018
    #12

    Manchester Dan Full Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2013
    Messages:
    2,305
    Supports:
    Man City
    Nice write up, cheers. I don’t know enough about past players to get involved in an all-time discussion. In the modern era I think Lampards goalscoring record is special.
  13. Feb 10, 2018
    #13

    Lay Correctly predicted Portugal to win Euro 2016

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2013
    Messages:
    7,375
    Location:
    England
    I wanted to make this post :(
  14. Feb 10, 2018
    #14

    RedRonaldo Full Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Messages:
    8,697
    Sure Robson should be somewhere at the very top of the box-to-box category?
  15. Feb 10, 2018
    #15

    Ecstatic Full Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2015
    Messages:
    11,124
    Location:
    Neymar's land
    Supports:
    PsG
    You need to mention this guy too

  16. Feb 10, 2018
    #16

    Ecstatic Full Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2015
    Messages:
    11,124
    Location:
    Neymar's land
    Supports:
    PsG
    England: Robson
    Italy: Tardelli
    Netherlands: Neeskens, Davids
    France: Vieira, Tigana, Fernandez
    Brazil: Falcao
    Germany: Matthaus
  17. Feb 10, 2018
    #17

    MyOnlySolskjaer Creator of Player Performance threads

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2014
    Messages:
    11,392
    Location:
    Player Performance Threads
    Finding it hard to argue anything better than Schweinsteiger in his prime.
  18. Feb 10, 2018
    #18

    Invictus Poster of the Year 2015 Staff

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    11,145
    Location:
    I am your Nakama!
    Supports:
    Piracy on the High Seas
    :mad:

  19. Feb 10, 2018
    #19

    Ecstatic Full Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2015
    Messages:
    11,124
    Location:
    Neymar's land
    Supports:
    PsG
    @Invictus

    It seems you didn't see I edited my post :D

    after I read your reply
  20. Feb 10, 2018
    #20

    Ish Lights on for Luke

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Messages:
    21,098
    Location:
    Where fans' expectations are too high
    Pogba up there already, ahead of powerhouses like Gerrard (though id say both him and Lampard were most effective as a sort of 8/10 hybrid role in a 3 man midfield so not quite mainstays in a midfield 2) and Essien?

    There’s one playa who I never really watched enough of, so I always find it difficult to rate him. Redondo.

    @Vato @Brwned @Invictus how good was he, say next to a Roy Keane?
  21. Feb 10, 2018
    #21

    Keeps It tidy Hates Messi

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    14,147
    Location:
    New York
    Come to think about it I will go with Xavi as the best. Because when you think about it he did move box to box.
  22. Feb 10, 2018
    #22

    paulscholes18 Full Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Messages:
    11,196
    Keane
    Matthaus
    BFS
    Robbo
    Ballack
  23. Feb 10, 2018
    #23

    Denis' cuff Full Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2007
    Messages:
    6,201
    Location:
    here
    Always considered a “libero” in his time but Beckenbauer did it all in both boxes so no.1 for me

    Beckenbauer
    Davids
    Robson
    Neeskens
    Vieira



    Pogba? :) not sure if serious
  24. Feb 10, 2018
    #24

    Invictus Poster of the Year 2015 Staff

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    11,145
    Location:
    I am your Nakama!
    Supports:
    Piracy on the High Seas
    Wouldn't classify him as a box-to-box midfielder, truth be told. More of a deep lying playmaker or possession oriented holding midfielder depending on how the team is constructed and who is playing with him in midfield - think of an amalgam of Pirlo and Busquets with better ball retention and evasiveness in confined spaces because of his maneuverability and fine dribbling ability - which allowed him to waltz through opposition midfields or individual markers.

    For those two categories, you could argue that he's among the greatest and most talented players of all time, and the most gifted central-ish midfielder from South America after the likes of Didi (when he played slightly deeper) or Falcão. However, he spent some fruitless years at Tenerife as regards the elite level in club football, and refused to play under Passarella for Argentina - which affected his legacy, and you get a sense that never truly realized his talent to its full extent. Magnificent player at his peak though - the real heartbeat of Madrid and a genuine dazzler from midfield before Pérez went overboard with the Galácticos project, and definitely in the elite-ish tier for midfielders in an All-Time context (same broader level but you can't really compare him with Keane per se given the contrast of styles, but I'd rank Redondo over the likes of Busquets in isolation, Alonso, Pirlo).

    On a side note, I've been going back and forth regarding young Kaizer and whether he should be placed on a box-to-box list...definitely in the running for the best midfielder of all time apart from being THE Libero, and while the control he gave to his team was probably more suited to a deep lying playmaker, holding midfielder or tempo controlling midfielder maestro role when he played as nominal midfielder, that might just be a tad bit restrictive for someone so impactful - and he was perfectly capable of ravaging opposition defenses with penetrating runs as well:



    ^ Whoops, too late - @Denis' cuff has already listed him as numero uno.
  25. Feb 10, 2018
    #25

    Fortitude TV/Monitor Expert Scout

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2004
    Messages:
    7,891
    Location:
    Inside right
    Removed Beckenbauer from the list because he didn't spend enough of his career there, especially vis-a-vis a list full of specialists for the position.

    I'd have him #1 if he were a career b2b without question, however.
  26. Feb 10, 2018
    #26

    Fortitude TV/Monitor Expert Scout

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2004
    Messages:
    7,891
    Location:
    Inside right
    Falls way short in both attack as a whole and goalscoring. He'd be in the Gattuso destroyer mid category, and fantastic at that, he was.
  27. Feb 10, 2018
    #27

    giorno Full Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2016
    Messages:
    9,047
    Supports:
    Real Madrid
    How....why...come on...no. I mean it's close, but Pirlo dominated at a higher level more consistently
  28. Feb 10, 2018
    #28

    luke511 Full Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2013
    Messages:
    2,967
    I may be a bit biased but there's not many midfielders in the history of football that can pull off the stuff Pogba does when he's playing at his very best.
  29. Feb 10, 2018
    #29

    Invictus Poster of the Year 2015 Staff

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    11,145
    Location:
    I am your Nakama!
    Supports:
    Piracy on the High Seas
    Redondo is a unique case in my book because like I mentioned earlier, he never truly realized the full extent of his talent on a very sustained basis so his ranking will vary from person to person: club career was almost finished because of injuries at 30 after only half a decade at Madrid (whereas Pirlo aged like fine wine and had a resurrection at Juventus after his exploits at Milan to play well into his mid 30s), and he didn't feature regularly for Argentina beyond the mid '90s and by the time Bielsa recalled him it was already too late - so he obviously didn't dominate at a higher level more consistently and didn't accomplish as much comapred with Pirlo for Milan and Italy and Juventus. However, I'd take Redondo over Pirlo in a hypothetical team I'd build because I have profound appreciation for his individual skill set and reckon he's more system-independent than Andrea - which is reflected in the personalized ranking.
  30. Feb 10, 2018
    #30

    Ish Lights on for Luke

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Messages:
    21,098
    Location:
    Where fans' expectations are too high
    Yeah but imo, Pogba has the tools and potential...but I wouldn’t quite put him there yet. Not until he hopefully matures a bit more and leads his teams to some glory anyway.
  31. Feb 10, 2018
    #31

    Jaybomb Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2016
    Messages:
    4,460
    Keane is the best I’ve seen.

    Nowadays it’s Vidal.
  32. Feb 10, 2018
    #32

    SirSteve4 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    5
    I’m old enough to have had the pleasure to watch Bryan Robson play - I think Robbo matched Matthaus in terms of determination and not far behind in skill. The amount of times Robbo almost singlehandedly dragged an average United side to victory with a crunching tackle on the edge of his own box only to burst into the opposition box to score with a thunderous shot, was a thing of beauty.

    He would have been a starter in any team in the world during his prime.

    Enough has been said of Keane, a one man midfield.

    Honorable mention to Paul Ince - for a season or two he was the Guvnor.
  33. Feb 10, 2018
    #33

    Ish Lights on for Luke

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Messages:
    21,098
    Location:
    Where fans' expectations are too high
    @Invictus

    Thanks for the write up bud. Appreciate it and yeah, I’d have thought he was probably more of a eloquent “DM” (not in the destroyer mould) as opposed to an all action b2b midfielder in the mould of keane and Vieira.

    Loved the few matches I did see him in though.
  34. Feb 10, 2018
    #34

    Raees Boing Boing Baggies

    Joined:
    May 16, 2009
    Messages:
    25,129
    Location:
    User requested ban till 01.06.2019
    Great OP and hard to disagree with any of the choices.

    I'd put Masopust in the top 5 and special mention to the likes of Effenberg and possibly Seedorf (controversial maybe but he was kind of box to box). One could also argue whether Di Stefano counts too.

    Was Schuster in his younger days a Box to Box. Good to see Breitner mentioned, from England I think Giles and Bremner and Souness deserve a mention.

    I rate Souness and Robson higher than Keane.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
  35. Feb 10, 2018
    #35

    Inigo Montoya Leave Wayne Rooney alone!!

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2008
    Messages:
    17,144
    Bryan Robson was better than all of them
  36. Feb 10, 2018
    #36

    Gio 4 times Redcafe Draft Winner

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2001
    Messages:
    14,832
    Location:
    Bonnie Scotland
    Hard to include Keane on that basis.
  37. Feb 10, 2018
    #37

    poleglass red Full Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2015
    Messages:
    836
    Seriously?
  38. Feb 10, 2018
    #38

    Vialli_92 Full Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Messages:
    2,316
    Location:
    Ireland
    Supports:
    Juventus
    Nice joke
  39. Feb 10, 2018
    #39

    Mciahel Goodman Worst Werewolf Player of All Times Staff

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Messages:
    28,912
    Keane
    Viera
    Gerrard
    Toure

    Toure was a beast in his prime. Surprised no one mentioned him.
  40. Feb 10, 2018
    #40

    Moby Dick

    Joined:
    May 20, 2011
    Messages:
    31,935
    Location:
    Nicki Minaj's Secret Bedroom