Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain) 17 games, 1 goal **
In Barcelona's possession game, the role played by Busquets is rarely given its due credit. For almost no midfielder possesses better positional awareness or is more adept at quickly cycling the ball to evade opposition pressing. This season he has continued to play his normal game and give the world's leading club a rock solid base from which to build.
Michael Carrick (Manchester United and England) 20 games, 0 goals **
If one word could characterise Manchester United’s season so far it would be “frantic”. Despite topping the table at Christmas they have rarely looked in control, even against weaker sides. The one man who does provide that surety in central midfield is Carrick whose clever and measured passing has been a rare beacon of calm as those around him lose their heads.
Maxime Gonalons (Lyon and France) 18 games, 2 goals *
One of the finest passers in Ligue 1 this season has been Lyon’s superb midfielder. Unflashy, the French youngster is a master of retaining possession, but has the vision and the skill to launch a well aimed long ball when needed. Not a player who has generated to much hype in recent years, but he certainly has the quality to establish himself in both the French national team and, if the price is right, in one of Europe’s biggest leagues.
Benat (Real Betis and Spain) 16 games, 4 goals *
Recent seasons have not been kind to Betis who have found themselves firmly in the shadow of neighbours Sevilla. One bright light has been Benat, the Basque playmaker who has carved a reputation as a first class set piece expert. Though he didn’t make Spain’s squad for Euro 2012 the year marked his debut for the national team which, given the depth of midfielders that La Roja enjoy, indicates quite how good a player he is. That ability also indicates that he probably won’t be at Real Betis for much longer.
Sandro (Tottenham and Brazil) 21 games, 1 goal *
Though he had a part to play in Spurs’ fourth place last season, the presence of Luka Modric and Scott Parker meant that Sandro was not always an automatic choice under Harry Redknapp. The departure of the Croat and injury to Tottenham’s player of the season have afforded the Brazilian more opportunities and he now seems the focal point of a strong midfield. One criticism is a tendency to allow his over-eagerness lead to unnecessary and sometimes dangerous free-kicks.
Esteban Cambiasso (Inter and Argentina) 19 games, 2 goals *
Cambiasso’s career had appeared to be in decline since his 2010 Champions League victory, but the 2012-13 season has witnessed a return to form. Often employed further forward than his traditional sitting role, he has revelled in the additional responsibility and has posed a credible goal threat when arriving in the box. With Inter appearing to falter in the league they need the calm head of Cambiasso to steady the ship.
Victor Wanyama (Celtic and Kenya) 20 games, 5 goals *
Kenya is not a country renowned for the calibre of its footballers. Along with brother McDonald Mariga, Wanyama is already a credible candidate as his nation’s greatest ever player, and he is still only 21. His tireless energy and discipline are characteristics for which his compatriots are probably better known, but he has impressive ability on the ball which means he can be noted for more than just his athleticism.
Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt and Switzerland) 15 games, 2 goals *
Only returning to the Bundesliga in the summer, Frankfurt are one of the league's traditional big boys. Yet despite their illustrious history few expected them to be in the top four at Christmas. That they are can partially be attributed to the performances of Schwegler, a Swiss international who has been at the club for three years. The midfielder is primarily a regulating passer who wins the ball an passes it to those more able, though he does enjoy a speculative long distance effort from time to time.
Etienne Capoue (Toulouse and France) 17 games, 3 goals *
Toulouse have endured a mixed start to the season, losing as many games as they have won and generally floating around mid table. Capoue's performance meanwhile have been anything but mixed, with a string of powerful displays in the centre of the team's midfield. At his best he's a player who can seemingly do everything, as a proficient passer and tackler and possessing an ability to time his bursts forward well. Certain to move to a bigger club before long.
Mario Suarez (Atletico Madrid and Spain) 14 games, 1 goal *
The midfield engine room of Koke, Gabi and Mario Suarez has played an integral part in Atleti's phenomenal start to the season. The trio are largely unheralded but perform vital work in allowing the likes of Arda Turam and Falcao to play. The height of Suarez is unusual for a player in his position, but allows him to gain an advantage for his side in the hustle and bustle of the busy midfield. Time for more credit to be given to the industrious Spaniard.
Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion and Argentina) 14 games, 0 goals *
Few could have predicted that the solid if unspectacular Yacob that we saw at Racing Club would have settled quite so well in the Premier League. Admittedly, he hasn’t maintained the exceptional form that he displayed at the start of the season, partly due to injury, but he has still far exceeded expectations. Positionally sound and demonstrating clever distribution he has given West Brom a whole new dimension.