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Football Manager 23 Best Defensive Midfielders

Profiles on some of the best defensive midfielders you can sign on your FM23 saves

We cover youth football and we love Football Manager. We’ve combined both to compile a list of the young defensive midfielders that you should start scouting on your FM23 saves. These aren’t necessarily “best” but they’re interesting prospects for clubs across the spectrum of football.

They’re players that we like in real-life that look good in FM23. For more, check out our extensive talent lists and in-depth player profiles. Scroll for players, click below for even more players.

What roles can defensive midfielders play in Football Manager 23?

Defensive midfield is one of the most flexible positions in the game, with a total of eight different roles to chose from. And each role brings something different. From a Deep Lying Playmaker to a classic Defensive Midfielder, to the tempo-setting Half Back, and the ball-carrying Roaming Playmaker.

The role you select your defensive midfielder to play will likely be dependent on the quality of players at your disposal. Poorer teams are more likely to run a Defensive Midfielder, Anchor or Ball Winning Midfielder. These roles require varying levels of technical ability, but physical and mental attributes are the most important for fulfilling their duty.

Defensive Midfielders are great for marking opposition attacking midfielders or central midfielders on attack role that look to break lines and attack the box. Anchors will sit deep and shield the defence while recycling possession with very simple passes. The Ball Winning Midfielder is more aggressive, especially on the support duty, where they will look for opportunities to press and win the ball back higher up the field.

The Half Back is the ‘in-between’ role between the defensive and creative roles you can select. The Half Back will sit almost as a third centre-back at times but is looked upon to set the tempo of the game more than an Anchor, and therefore requires a good passing attribute. The role generally fits best in possession-based systems.

The last four roles are more creative in nature; Regista, Deep Lying Playmaker, Roaming Playmaker and the little used Segundo Volante. The Deep Lying Playmaker is a popular pick for many coaches, with the role combining decent defensive solidity with playmaking from deep, while you can toggle how aggressive they are on both sides of the ball by toggling the Defend and Support duty.

The Regista role is an even more aggressive version of the Deep Lying Playmaker that will look to play a huge number of creative passes into your attacking players.




What attributes are important for defensive midfielders in FM23?

Unlike some other positions like centre-back, there isn’t really a set of core attributes that every defensive midfield role requires. However, if your player has a strong foundation of passing, tackling, work rate, stamina, positioning and decision-making, then they should suit most roles.

Apart from that, Ball Winning Midfielders will require marking, strength, and pace. Anchors need marking and strength as well, but also composure and decision-making. Defensive Midfielders will also need marking and strength, as well as passing and first touch as they try to work the ball further up field. The Half Back will need all this, plus the positioning and jumping reach you’d commonly associate with a centre-back.

For the more creative roles, good passing, vision, technique and off the ball movement are crucial. The Regista role will also require good dribbling, long shots and flair: think prime Andrea Pirlo. The Roaming Playmaker will also need dribbling and long shots, but will also be aided by pace and acceleration that will help them carry the ball through midfield with speed. The Deep Lying Playmaker is probably the most simple: give them the ball, and make sure they can control it with a good first touch, and ensure they have the decision-making skills to best propel your team forward.

The Segundo Volante needs attributes similar to the Roaming Playmaker, but subtract dribbling, technique and agility, and add finishing, strength and tackling.

Who are the best defensive midfielders in Football Manager 23?

Trent Alexander-Arnold23Liverpool8790
Kyle Walker32Manchester City8585
Reece James22Chelsea FC8488
Achraf Hakimi23Paris Saint-Germain8487
Kieran Tripper31Newcastle United8484
Dani Carvajal30Real Madrid8484
Juan Cuadrado34Juventus8383
Jesús Navas36Sevilla8383
Ricardo Pereira28Leicester City8383
Noussair Mazraoui24Ajax8286

Samuele Ricci

Torino's Samuele Ricci, one of the best defensive midfielders in FM23

Samuele Ricci is a perma-lock now in FM wonderkids lists. Having moved to Torino mid-way through the 2021/22 season, he will cost a bit more than he did when he was at Empoli, but nonetheless he is an excellent option off the back of his excellent debut season in Serie A.

He has a perfect deep-lying playmaker skillset at defensive midfield. He has excellent passing and vision, as well as good technique and dribbling to evade pressure. But he is also an effective ball winner whose game is predicated on solid positioning and anticipation.

Ricci won’t come cheap. It will take at least €60 million to sign him from the start, making him one of the more premium options in his position. Give him a year at Torino to let him develop a bit more, assess your options, then make a move if you think he fits the bill – that would be our recommendation.

Noah Mbamba

Club Brugge's Noah Mbamba, one of the best defensive midfielders in FM23

Noah Mbamba has been on the fringes of the Club Brugge first team since the age of 16: while Brugge are becoming a great development club, that is still extraordinary.

He was already a good option in FM22, and with more first team football under his belt, he is even better in FM23. He does not have the best set of mental attributes, but on the physical and technical side of the game he is very strong, especially as a passer. There is also the possibility, with his size and physical qualities, to develop him into an effective ball playing defender.

If you move early, before he becomes an established starter at Club Brugge and his reputation grows subsequently, you can get Mbamba for a fee below €10 million. He’s a development signing, for sure, but that price affords a lot of freedom to focus on that.

Dário Essugo

Sporting CP's Dário Essugo, one of the best defensive midfielders in FM23

Dário Essugo is a brute. Clearly, he is one of the most dominant defensive midfield talents of his generation, having performed excellently at the Under-17 Euros in 2022, and continuing into the 2022/23 season with Sporting in the UEFA Youth League.

In FM23, he is an aggressive, physical player with outstanding work rate. He definitely has room to grow on the technical side of the game, but at just 17, he has all the foundations of an elite level ball-winning midfielder.

Given his status as a youth team player, Essugo is available for a €3 million fee at the start of your saves. If you want a bit of a project, someone to nurture into a first-team regular over five or so years, the Portuguese destroyer should be top of your lists.


Palmeiras' Danilo, one of the best defensive midfielders in FM23

He is still at Palmeiras, but Danilo continues to be linked with some big European clubs, namely Arsenal. And rightly so, after being a big component of two Copa Libertadores wins for Palmeiras in 2021, as well as their dominant 2022 Brazilian Série A season.

Given his skillset, which is quite rounded rather than having a particular dominant attribute, there are a few options for how you can use Danilo. Ball-winning midfielder or deep-lying playmaker look like the two best options: he has good tackling, work rate and physical attributes to play the former, but also solid passing and vision to help him be an effective playmaker from the base of midfield.

There’s a €100 million release clause for foreign clubs in his contract, but Danilo could be got for a tenth of that. You may need to stretch to €17.5 million to get him.

Manuel Ugarte

Sporting CP's Manuel Ugarte, one of the best defensive midfielders in FM23

Manuel Ugarte was a standout performer in his native Uruguay, impressing for CA Fénix before sealing a stepping-stone move to Famalicão in Portugal. 18 months there preceded a move up the food chain in Portuguese football, joining Sporting CP in the summer of 2021.

The Uruguayan is now a regular starter for one of Portugal’s Big Three. He’s a high-volume ball-winner that harries and presses relentlessly, tearing around midfield to break up opposition sequences and put his side on the front foot with quick, simple distribution. If you want a destructive presence in midfield, Ugarte’s aggression, anticipation, concentration and bravery – on top of his tackling – makes him one of the best options in FM23.

€40 million is the price for Ugarte. That seems quite a lot, but he genuinely is one of the best pure ball-winners in FM23. If you play that way, the tenacious Uruguayan should be high up on your lists.

Lucas Gourna-Douath

Red Bull Salzburg's Lucas Gourna Douath, one of the best defensive midfielders in FM23

When Red Bull Salzburg invest big money in a young player, there’s a strong chance that they’re really good. That’s exactly what they did to get Lucas Gourna-Douath this past summer, picking him up from relegated AS Saint-Étienne for a club-record €13 million fee.

For those that keep a close eye on youth football, Gourna-Douath is a fairly familiar name. He played 65 times in total for ASSE, but his big-money move to Salzburg represents the next step in his development from promising Ligue 1 prospect to Champions League level starter.

Operating at the base of midfield, the French youth international is an intense presence against the ball and a compact player on it. He wins the ball back and moves it on with speed and accuracy, a little bit like Mohamed Camara did so well for a couple of seasons.

It will be practically impossible to sign him from Salzburg at the start of the game, but he represents a strong option for those managers in top-five leagues that are looking for a defensive midfielder that can be a lynchpin of their team.

Fabinho, Rodri and Joshua Kimmich are three of the best defensive midfielders in FM23.

Real Madrid’s Aurélien Tchouaméni and West Ham’s Declan Rice are two  of the best young defensive midfielders in FM23.

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