Michael Carrick (Manchester United and England) 36 games, 1 goal ***
Often an unsung hero in United’s midfield this was one of the first seasons in which Michael Carrick was duly recognized. Universally selected by Manchester United players as their player of the season, Carrick was instrumental in a fantastic season which saw the title won at a canter. That he has already won five titles, not to mention a Champions League crown, in just seven years at Old Trafford may give food for thought to those who questioned his inclusion among the PFA’s six nominations for the season.
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain) 31 games, 1 goal **
The ease with which Barcelona won La Liga, only to collapse in dramatic style in the Champions League, made the overall season a distinct anticlimax. That disappointment should not take away from another fine season for Busquets who remains one of the preeminent shielding midfielders of his era. As ever an immensely accurate passer and a master of retaining the ball, little blame could be pointed in his direction for his side’s failure in the season’s showpiece matches.
Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain and France) 37 games, 5 goals **
Despite the high profile arrivals of some of the game’s biggest names Matuidi was probably the most consistent midfielder in France this season. Physically powerful and impressive in possession the France star was one of the few constants in the side, featuring in more league matches than any other PSG player, underlining the faith shown in him by Carlo Ancelotti. Certainly against Barcelona he displayed an ability to compete against the very best and to get forward when needed.
Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich and Spain) 27 games, 3 goals **
Even at £32m Martinez has worked out as an excellent signing for Bayern. The midfielder only started 19 league matches for the Bavarians but it was in the Champions League where he really excelled, proving dominant in the semi-final match ups against Barcelona and offering a platform for the team’s attacking stars to build on. That calm and assured ability allied with his positioning and aerial ability makes him one of the most complete defensive midfielders in the game at present and Spain must surely now be looking for a way to shoehorn him into the starting XI.
Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow and Sweden) 26 games, 4 goals **
A domestic double for CSKA Moscow was a fantastic end to a vintage season from Wernbloom. The Swedish midfielder has been the key figure in the success of the club in the last 12 months with his authority in midfield complimenting the creative talents provided by the likes of Keisuke Honda and Alan Dzagoev. The former AZ man may not be the biggest star to ply his trade in the Russian league, but nobody was more consistently influential or important.
Maxime Gonalons (Lyon and France) 35 games, 3 goals *
Belying his tender years Maxime Gonalons plays like an old head in Lyon’s midfield. The French star made more passes than any other player in Ligue 1 and that ability to retain possession was a critical element in OL’s third place finish. That performance will put Lyon into the qualifying rounds for the Champions League where one would expect his brand of measured and intelligent midfield mastery to be right at home.
Benat (Real Betis and Spain) 34 games, 4 goals *
Set to join Athletic Bilbao in the summer, the hugely influential Benat has had a strong final season in Seville. A major danger from set-pieces he is also capable of dictating the pace of play from deep positions and Betis will struggle badly to replace the calm he exudes in the centre of the pitch. No wonder then that a number of English clubs were reportedly interesting in signing the midfield schemer who would have been a worthy addition to almost any midfield.
Nemanja Matic (Benfica and Serbia) 26 games, 3 goals *
The tall Serbian midfielder might have missed out on Europa League glory but he certainly showed former club Chelsea that they might regret letting him go. Consistently among the league’s best performers as he drove Benfica forward ,he was voted the player of the month in the Superliga three times, illustrating quite how influential he has become during his time in Portugal. Given his performances this season a return to the Premier League may yet be in the offing, though Benfica have proven notoriously hard to bargain with in years past.
Etienne Capoue (Toulouse and France) 34 games, 7 goals *
An average season for Toulouse but a fine individual campaign from Capoue who provides so much verve and drive from the centre of midfield. Frequently among the goals and excellent in the air he possesses the determination and ability that ought to succeed at one of Europe’s best clubs. Certainly he would make a sensible addition for a certain club newly riched and based in a French principality.
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton and France) 36 games, 5 goals *
Not one of the more well known Premier League stars but few were as influential this season. No player across Europe’s major leagues made more interceptions in 2012-3 and it was that ability to break up play and then use the ball intelligently that was so vital in Southampton’s relegation battle. Those close to the team undoubtedly knew the value of Schneiderlin’s contribution with the fans and players voting him their club player of the year.
Sebastian Rode (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) 33 games, 0 goals *
The partnership between Pirmin Schwegler and Sebastian Rode in the Frankfurt midfield was of tremendous importance in the team’s unexpected success in the Bundesliga. The club might be most famous for facing Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup final but despite such an illustrious past nobody thought they would excel in such a way as they did in the opening weeks of the season. Admittedly they found the ruckrunde rather tougher but the young German remained industrious and impressive in an excellent first season back in the top flight.
Victor Wanyama (Celtic and Kenya) 32 games, 6 goals *
The relentless energy and drive of Wanyama were of huge importance in Celtic’s unexpected progress in the Champions League. The Kenyan star impressed all observers with the maturity of his play and his lack of fear against some of Europe’s most renowned names. His impact may have waned as the season progressed but he certainly did enough to justify the interest surrounding him as a potential Premier League acquisition.
Esteban Cambiasso (Inter and Argentina)
Gabi (Atletico Madrid and Spain)
Luiz Gustavo (Bayern Munich and Brazil)
Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad and Spain)
Grzgorz Krychowiak (Reims and Poland)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea and England)
Francesco Lodi (Catania and Italy)
Sandro (Tottenham and Brazil)
Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt and Switzerland)
Jeremy Toulalan (Malaga and France)