With FM23 now with us, it is time to round up the best central midfielders you can get early on in the game.
They will not come cheap. However, with some good timing and some luck, you might manage to snag one or two of them towards the end of their current contracts when players in the game are normally considerably cheaper.
I have deliberately avoided listing players who are close to the age of 30, to ensure you get maximum service out of these players I’ve settled upon, or a nice transfer fee should one of the bigger clubs come after them.
However, there are a few such as Kevin de Bruyne who you just can’t leave out on such a list. Without further ado, here are the best central midfielders in FM23
1. Moises Caicedo
21-year-old Caicedo has grown in leaps and bounds as a central midfielder over the past year at Brighton under the tutelage of Graham Potter, who has now departed for Chelsea.
He can comfortably play as a box to box midfielder and also deeper in defensive midfield as a shield for your backline.
He will cost a pretty penny, but playing for Brighton, it is much easier to sign him up than convincing the likes of Camavinga and Tchouameni to leave Real Madrid.
Be sure to go after him immediately, as the bigger clubs will be in for him after the first season.
2. Federico Valverde
Often deployed in the wide positions at Real Madrid, Valverde is still a highly capable attack-minded central midfield player.
With Real Madrid having an embarrassment of riches in central midfield, it might be slightly easier than normal to sign him from the Spanish club
Valverde’s high physicality and work rate make him a natural candidate for a mezzala role or a box to box midfielder should you wish.
If you are adventurous and want to try something new, you might also retrain him to operate as an attacking wing back on the right.
3. Nicolò Barella
At only 25 years old, Barella is an exciting Serie A talent entering his prime years. The Inter Milan midfielder can play different positions in central midfield, from defensive midfield to attacking midfield.
He is however at his best as either a mezzala or a box to box midfielder with the licence to join the team in attack when the opportunity arises.
In defensive midfield, you can use his high mobility and work rate as a no-nonsense ball winning midfielder who will cover large areas of the pitch. However, this negates his attacking prowess.
As is the case with Serie A players, they will normally command reasonable transfer fees, so it is best to move in for him early before he is snatched up by the likes of Real Madrid and PSG.
4. Bernardo Silva
Brought in as a winger from AS Monaco, Bernardo has shown his versatility by dropping world-class performances in central midfield, filling in the space vacated by David Silva when his time at the Etihad came to an end.
Silva is extremely versatile and can be used in virtually every position in the attacking third, from an inverted winger in the right wing to a trequartista in the attacking midfield.
However, he is best suited to an advanced playmaker role, either in the AMC or CM position.
He will demand a lot in terms of wages, but you are guaranteed quality from the little magician.
5. Kevin de Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne needs no introduction, Arguably the most important player in Pep Guardiola’s midfield, De Bruyne is as good as it gets when you want a central midfield player that will routinely break forward chipping in with goals and assists.
He is however past the 30 years old age barrier, but with his ability, it is unlikely that he will slow down anytime soon.
He can play various roles in central midfield, out wide or even as a false 9.
However, his best role in my opinion is either as an advanced playmaker or mezzala to take advantage of his elite passing and vision or as a shadow striker to complement a complete forward.
Being a key player at Manchester City, the efforts and money you will use signing him could be better off being spent bringing in wonder kids who will be stars in the future.
6. Yves Bissouma
Bissouma has not had the best of starts at Tottenham Hotspurs, often finding himself on the bench unable to displace Hojberg or Bentancur.
Despite this, he is still a highly capable player, as he had already proved so at Brighton before his move to the London-based club.
Possessing impressive physical and technical attributes, Bissouma is comfortable in the defensive midfield position or further forward as a carrilero or box to box midfielder in central midfield.
Monitor his game time at the start of your FM23 save, and if by chance he becomes unhappy, move in for him swiftly, as he is an impeccable talent in his prime years.
7. Ryan Gravenberch
Gravenberch joined Bayern Munich from Ajax, but has not yet hit the heights of Jamal Musiala, another very good central midfielder at the club.
He has bags of potential and can adeptly play in central midfield as a carrilero, a roaming playmaker or in defensive midfield as a regista.
He is only 21 years old at the start of football manager 2023, and if you lack the funds to sign him up, a 2-year loan deal is certainly a good way to enjoy his services.
Gravenberch will not immediately operate at the highest level like the other names on this list, but he will slowly and surely develop into a world-beater if you develop him in the right way.
8. Phil Foden
Still only 22 years old, Foden has already cemented his place in Pep’s starting eleven.
The only problem is that he is deployed out wide rather than in the central areas where he has been groomed to play in since he broke through from City’s academy.
Foden’s talent is undeniable, and he still displays excellent performances out wide.
However, should you manage to pry him away from Manchester City, Foden has the hallmarks of an unstoppable central midfielder.
Quick of feet and an eye for goal, he will inevitably chip in with goals and assists from the central areas of the pitch.
Aside from the central areas of midfield, Foden can also be used in other areas including a false 9 role and an advanced playmaker in the attacking midfield position or out wide similar to how Pep uses him.
9. Eduardo Camavinga
At only 20 years old, Camavinga is already one of the best talents in FM23 in the middle of the park.
Florentino Perez brought him to Real Madrid at the start of last season to learn under the great talents of Toni Kroos and Luca Modric before eventually replacing them in the near future.
Camavinga did more than that, playing an important role in the UCL knockout games, coming in place of Kroos and turning the games around with his impressive work rate and sharp passing.
Camavinga is equally capable as a box to box midfielder and a deep lying playmaker in defensive midfield, offering you much-needed versatility.
10. Aurélien Tchouameni
Tchouameni is another young talent brought in by Perez to take after when Toni Kroos and company hang up their boots in a season or two
But just like Camavinga, he is also playing at a very high level, and it might not be a surprise seeing both of them start for France at the World Cup.
He has the right attributes for a box to box midfielder, but he can also play a more reserved central midfield role like a ball winning midfielder and also much deeper as deep lying midfielder on defend duty.
He will also cost quite a lot, but with Real Madrid hoarding some great midfield talents, you might get him at a bargain if he lacks the required game time at Los Blancos.
11. Rodrigo Bentancur
Bentancur joined Spurs in January 2022 and transformed their midfield for the rest of the year.
Together with Kulusevsky operating in the wider areas, the two played a critical role in the team securing a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League.
Bentancur can play a few different roles in both the defensive and central midfield, his physical traits, however, together with decent technique and passing make him a viable Carrilero candidate.
He is still only 25, and has a long contract at Tottenham Hotspurs, therefore securing his signature will likely cost a tidy sum, not to mention the huge wages he will also demand from you.
12. Jude Bellingham
At only 19 years old, Jude Bellingham is already one of the best midfielders you can get in FM23.
The only downside is that he will cost a fortune in both wages and transfer fees. Be prepared to fight it out among the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United as they will waste no time in moving in for him.
Should you beat them to his signature, Bellingham offers excellent physical and technical attributes and he will only get better.
He is very well suited to a roaming playmaker role thanks to his physicality and creativity, however, he can also play as an advanced playmaker, a deep lying playmaker and a Mezzala
13. Bruno Fernandes
Normally deployed as an attacking midfielder at Man United, Bruno Fernandes is still capable of playing slightly further back as a roaming playmaker in central midfield or as a mezzala.
His work rate is second to none, and as long as you have a solid half-back or anchorman to cover for some of his defensive frailties, Fernandes will reward your faith in him with guaranteed goals and assists.
He will obviously cost a ton in both wages and transfer fees to buy him from Manchester United, but at only 27, he still has at least 7 years of service in him before he starts slowing down.
Rodri is a key cog in Pep Guardiola’s Man City team.
However, with Kalvin Philips arriving in the summer, Rodri might find game time a little hard to come by, creating the perfect scenario for you to swoop in for the talented central midfielder and sign him for your team.
At 26, he is very much in his prime years and will command a big transfer fee and wages to match.
The Spanish midfielder can operate as a deep lying playmaker in the defensive midfield, a half back or even as an anchorman in the same position.
Should you manage to sign him, Rodri can comfortably operate at his high level for the next 7 years, well into his thirties.
15. Lorenzo Pellegrini
Pellegrini is another exceptional Serie A talent, plying his trade for As Roma.
Capable of playing in defensive midfield, central midfield and attacking midfield positions, Pellegrini offers a lot of versatility should you wish to change your system in the middle of the season.
His best role however is either as a roaming playmaker in the middle of the park or as an advanced playmaker in the AMC position, largely because he has exceptional vision and the technique to pull off the defence-splitting passes.
He will also not cost as much as other names on this list, but be prepared to pay some huge wages to bag his signature.
Zaire-Emery is very much an unknown midfielder in FM23 compared to the other names on this list.
He is only 16 years old at the start of this year’s football manager edition, and very much a talent for the future.
He plays for PSG as a defensive midfielder, but he is also a natural in central midfield as a roaming playmaker or carrilero.
If you are unable to pry him away from the French champions, getting him on loan to your club when he turns 18 is a solid way of getting the services of a wonderkid central midfielder.
17. Frenkie De Jong
A transfer to Manchester United did not materialize in the summer, with Frenkie being unwilling to leave Barcelona until his wage issues had been sorted out.
He might not be getting the game time that he deserves at the Catalan club, but Frenkie still remains a world-class player and would walk into the starting eleven of most clubs in the world.
Equally capable as a roaming playmaker, a box to box midfielder, a deep lying midfielder and even a libero in central defence, Frenkie is an exceptional central midfielder
He will be available at a slightly lower fee compared to Gavi or Pedri, other incredible midfield talents at Barcelona, but his wage demands will definitely be on the higher side.
18. Sergej Milinković-Savić
Perennially linked with a move to the English Premier League, Savic is a highly talented central midfielder who can also play other different positions, including that of a target man in the dying minutes of a match that you are chasing.
He is incredibly physical, with the technical skills to match his physicality, making him a candidate for various other roles in FM23, including box-to-box midfielder and Segundo Volante in the defensive midfield.
Playing in Serie A, Savic will still cost a lot, but not as much as the other names on this list. He is still only 27 years old, and has a lot to offer should you sign him up.
Fresh from winning the Kopa Trophy, Gavi is already a key figure in Barcelona’s central midfield.
He can play a number of roles as a central midfielder, a testament to his quality and versatility.
More suited to play as a box to box midfielder or a mezzala, Gavi can still comfortably play as a left winger should you wish to deploy him out wide.
He has a high market value in FM23, but if you want the best, especially at such a young age, you must be prepared to pay up the big bucks.
Pedri is another great talent at Barcelona. He is a very similar player to Gavi, and even plays the same roles with equal capability.
The two have been central to Frenkie de Jong feeling out of place at Camp Nou, with Barcelona’s hierarchy seemingly happy to see the Dutchman leave the club with the knowledge that Gavi and Pedri are more than capable replacements.
At only 20 years old, he will cost an arm and a leg, but he’s definitely worth the money you will be required to pay for his services.
21. Franck Kessie
Kessie has not exactly lit the world on fire, having traded AC Milan for Barcelona in the summer.
A combination of Gavi and Pedri playing extremely well, as well as trying to adapt to a new style of play at the Spanish club, has made it impossible for him to get into a rhythm.
However, he still very much possesses the talent that made the Catalan club go after his signature.
Often deployed as a box to box midfielder, Kessie can also comfortably play as a deep lying playmaker in central midfield or further back in the defensive midfielder position.
Trying to lure him from Barcelona will depend on how much game time he gets, as well as his wage demands.
If you are lucky, you can sign him for relatively cheap if he does not start enough matches for his liking, prompting him to ask for a transfer.
22. Declan Rice
Long touted for a big move to one of the Premier League’s big hitters, Declan Rice is a hot commodity in FM23 and for good reason.
He can comfortably play in central defence, defensive midfield and even the central midfield as a box to box midfielder or a carrilero.
His talents, however, are best used just in front of the defence, protecting the backline as a deep lying playmaker.
He has the passing range and technique needed for the role, as well as being solid out of possession.
However, being young and British, be prepared to fight it out against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool for his signature. He will not come cheap.
23. Joshua Kimmich
Kimmich has been around for a long time and is absolutely world class in both the right fullback position and in defensive midfield.
His deliveries from corners and free kicks are alone worth the transfer alone, which is going to be extremely huge should you try to lure him from Bayern Munich.
Having joined the German champions from VfB Stuttgart back in 2015, he initially played as a right back before transitioning into central midfield, where he has made it his personal home.
Should you manage to sign him, Kimmich also offers exceptional leadership skills and professionalism, which are useful for your developing youngsters breaking into the first team.
24. Ivan Ilic
Ivan Ilic plies his trade in Serie A for Hellas Verona. At 21 years old, he already has two seasons in the Serie A under his belt and has grown in leaps and bounds.
He can play in central midfield as a box to box midfielder or a mezzala, or you can also deploy him in defensive midfield to pull the strings from further back.
Playing in Serie A, he won’t cost as much as the other talents on this list and is definitely a good signing for a club with ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League.
25. Sandro Tonali
Sandro Tonali is not a new name among football manager veterans.
He has long been touted as one of the bigger talents to come out of Italy in the recent past.
At only 22, should you convince him to leave AC Milan, Tonali is as close as you are going to get to a perfect deep lying playmaker.
Having only joined Milan at the start of last season, he still has a long contract and will take a sizeable transfer fee to convince the Italian club to let go of his services.
Comfortable as a deep lying playmaker in the defensive midfield, you can also deploy the young Italian as a regista in the same position to take advantage of his passing range and vision for the game.
26. Martin Odegaard
When he joined Real Madrid at the age of 16, Odegaard was touted as the next big thing.
However, his career path has led him away from Santiago Bernabéu, and he is now starting to show what he is made of at the Emirates.
Already captain at Arsenal at the age of 23, Odegaard’s mentality and leadership are one of his biggest strengths.
Furthermore, he also has exceptional passing and vision to go with his leadership skills.
There is something to say about his less-than-ideal finishing skills, but his playmaking strengths more than make up for it.
His best position is in CM or AMC as an advanced playmaker, but he can also play wide in the same role, or as an inverted winger.
27. Oleksandr Zinchenko
A natural in different positions, Zinchenko is an ideal player if you like to tinker with different systems every few games.
Now a gunner, Zinchenko has become an influential figure in Arteta’s dressing room and is a major part of how Arsenal go about its business on the pitch.
In central midfield, deploying him as a carrilero takes advantage of the fact that he is comfortable operating in the wider areas of the pitch while offering an excellent passing range and strength in defence.
He however has a long contract, meaning you will have to pay a lot in both wages and transfer fees to secure his signature.
28. James Maddison
Before going after Odegaard, Arsenal was heavily linked with this Leicester talisman, but the transfer never materialized for one reason or another.
He will not come cheap, but James Maddison is an excellent talent capable of playing in central midfield, out wide and attacking midfield.
Aside from playmaking, Maddison has a very high work rate, and he is always a threat from direct free kicks, which can be worth as high as 5 goals a season if you have the right player.
29. Luis Alberto
Yet another Serie A talent, Luis Alberto is a familiar name to most football manager players.
He is at the 30-year age mark at the start of the save, but you can sign him for relatively cheap, making him a suitable short-term transfer as you wait for a more long-term solution.
His best position is in central midfield as an Advanced Playmaker, but he can also play the same role further forward at the AMC position and also as a regista in the DM position if you have other players to cover for his defensive frailties.
30. Bruno Guimarães
The rumour mill had Guimarães being favourites to sign for Arsenal, however, for one reason or another that move did not materialize.
The Brazilian midfielder still got his move to the Premier League from Olympique Lyon and now plays for Newcastle United, where he has breathed new life into their midfield.
The hard-working midfielder is also part of the Brazilian squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup as a testament to the talent that he possesses.
Should you manage to pry him away from Newcastle despite their newfound money, Guimarães is a wonderful talent at only 25 years old, and he will only get better.
He can play multiple roles in the middle of the park, including offering cover for your defence as a deep lying playmaker and hounding the opposition for quick turnovers as a ball winning midfielder.
Finally, there are still a lot of central midfielders in FM23 that can give those I have included in this list a run for their money, not to mention the insane regens that start showing up two or three seasons into your football manager save.
To ensure you do not miss out on any future world beaters, check out how I set up my scouting network, as well as the best regions to scout in FM23 to give yourself the best possible chance of unearthing some gems.