This year, goalscorers have been in the news for their offensive prowess. But, to give them all the credit would be incorrect. We pick out five midfielders who we thought had a terrific season and deserve to be the shorlisted for the Midfielder of the year.
Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The Spanish midfielder has been in the form of his life at Stamford Bridge. His staggering return of 20 goals and an equally astounding 35 assists in this season has been the driving force behind every Chelsea attack. Even though Chelsea were not in the hunt for the Premier League trophy in the second half and were knocked out in the Champions League due to administrative factors, Juan Mata kept going and played a huge part in the Europa League triumph under Rafa Benitez. His partnership with Eden Hazard and Oscar was at times mesmerising and their combination play was sometimes worth the price of admission ticket alone. Some spectacular goals, some terrific assists, Mata did not let his guard down on the pitch this season in any circumstances and has conducted himself impeccably off the pitch too. Possibly the best Spanish midfielder in England and probably in all other leagues this season.
Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
The Manchester United midfielder has been the quiet class behind the swashbuckling Robin van Persie at Manchester United. In a season in which Manchester United won the league quite comfortably, Carrick has kept United ticking even without a solid support in midfield beside him.Ai??Ai??Even though van Persie walked away with all the plaudits with the supporters, Michael Carrick was voted Player of the season by his team mates. The Ai??retiring Sir Alex Ferguson concurred that this was indeed Carrick’s best season yet. Michael Carrick’s contribution earned him special praise from Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger too. “I would choose Carrick,” Wenger said. “He is a quality passer. He could play for Barcelona, he would be perfectly suited to their game…Ai??I think Carrick is an underrated player in England and sometimes not only should the goalscorer be rewarded but the real players at the heart of the game.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger(Bayern Munich)
The German midfielder’s European career so far is littered with heart breaks at both club and international levels. Having endured the pain of losing in the Champions League final at home last season, Schweinsteiger has lifted his game to the highest levels this season ensuring Bayern Munich thwarted every opponent in their way before going on to win a treble in Jupp Heynckes’ final season at the Bavarian club. Be it his tactical prowess or physicality, ball retention or shape retention, possession football or counter-attacking football, Schweinsteiger has applied himself judiciously in each scenario and his team have come up trumps. Now with Javi Martinez as an ally and Pep Guardiola as his manager, the German midfielder can only hope to take his game up by a notch.
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Last year, it was Andrea Pirlo who ran the ship for Juventus. This year it is Arturo Vidal. The Chilean was impressive last season and this year he has been more than impressive. Physically strong, technically adept and tactically aware Vidal is a fascinating player to watch. From breaking down attacks to initiating them and then creating and scoring excellent goals, Vidal is one of the most complete midfielders in world football today. Combining his abilities with a relentless work ethic, he is an embodiment of Conte’s Juventus and is probably on his way to super stardom. With a return of 13 goals and 10 assists in Serie A and Champions League, Vidal has had a terrific season and has earned praise from his manager.Ai??”Vidal has grown exponentially as a player since arriving here. He’s important for us and always gives 110 percent,” the Juve coach Antonio Conte said.Ai??”Arturo has managed to combine his intensity and excellent technique with a strong tactical knowledge.”
Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund)*
Call him Dortmund’s Xavi or Sahin 2.0, Gundogan is the engine of Klopp’s team. The holding midfielder had a stellar season with Dortmund. Dortmund failed to win each of the six games in which Gundogan failed to take the field in Bundesliga. Ai??This season two of his best games would be the first leg of the semifinal clash against Real Madrid and the one against Manchester City in Manchester where he was pitted against Xabi Alonso and Yaya Toure respectively. In both the games he controlled Dortmund’s tempo, sprayed the ball throughout the park, broke down opposition’s attack by intercepting or winning the ball and provided solidarity to their defense. In Klopp’s words, “Many players can play in a small space, play fast and do a lot of great things but to have such vision, such a passing game, such an eye for the situation, is extraordinary and makes him an extraordinary player.”
Ai??* – With inputs from Arnav Bose