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Five defensive midfielders Premier League clubs are battling to sign

The best defensive midfielders in the world can serve as the glue of their sides, ball-winning wonders who regain and recycle the ball to great effect.

Several top teams are searching for added steel or silk at the base of their midfields this summer and we’ve picked out five defensive midfielders that Premier League clubs are battling to sign.

Manuel Ugarte

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to cash in on Manuel Ugarte this summer just a year after signing the midfielder from Sporting Lisbon. His availability has alerted English clubs with Manchester United understood to be at the front of the queue for his services.

Ugarte is an old-fashioned anchor with tenacity in the tackle, with the Uruguayan boasting a prolific record when it comes to regaining possession. Last season he led Ligue 1 for tackles per game (4.56) and ranked in the top five percent of midfielders in France for pass completion (91.2%) and interceptions per 90 minutes.

His return followed a similar season with Sporting in 2022-23 as Ugarte topped the Primeira Liga for tackles won, dribblers tackled and pass completion. Ugarte’s forward threat is minimal but his numbers off the ball are formidable. Still just 23, he could be a long-term solution to plug midfield gaps.

Read – 25 top players available on a free transfer after 1 July

Martin Zubimendi

Arsenal are among a clutch of clubs hoping to persuade Martin Zubimendi to leave Real Sociedad with Mikel Arteta a huge admirer of his compatriot. Zubimendi has added poise and class to the Sociedad side since emerging from the club’s ranks, combining hard work with tidiness and technique in possession.

At 25, Zubimendi might feel now is the time to leave San Sebastien as he looks to become a regular in the Spain side and compete in the latter stages of the Champions League. Arsenal and Barcelona are both open to activating his €60m (£50.8m) release clause.

Read – Every Premier League transfer that beat the PSR deadline


Atalanta’s run to Europa League success saw several names steal the headlines, with Ederson emerging as an underrated component of Gian Piero Gasperini’s impressive team.

The Brazilian ranked in the 94th percentile of Serie A midfielders for progressive passes per game in 2023-24 and also scored in the elite percentiles for tackles (88th), interceptions (88th) and blocks (87th) per 90.

All-action and effective, Ederson offers diligent defensive work with goal threat and he scored six times in 36 league appearances last season. The 24-year-old has a knack for being in the right place, whether that’s to regain possession or to find space to get on the ball.

An asking price of around €35m (£29.6m) appears good value for a player who has broken into the Brazil set-up.

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Joshua Kimmich

Joshua Kimmich’s future remains unclear with the German having entered the final season of his contract at Bayern Munich. An extension to his deal appears unlikely according to reports, piquing the interest of top teams across Europe.

The 29-year-old has been a serial winner in Munich with eight Bundesliga title successes and the 2019-20 Champions League in his trophy cabinet.

Last season, he was in the 97th percentile of Bundesliga midfielders for attempted passes and progressive passes per game and in the 94th for shot-creating actions. Kimmich’s mix of combative edge and creativity, alongside a versatility to operate at full-back when required, make him a potential game-changing signing this summer.

Read – Five early transfer deals across Europe you may have missed

Youssouf Fofana

Youssouf Fofana is another player whose contract situation looks set to lead to a transfer this summer. AS Monaco are open to a sale to avoid a free transfer exit next summer and clubs are queuing up for his services.

The 25-year-old is a box-to-box influence with athleticism and forward-thinking distribution, ranking fourth in Ligue 1 last season for through balls and second for progressive passes.

“I have spoken about it with the hierarchy, it isn’t a secret,” the France international said recently on his desire for a new challenge.

“We had exchanges and they agreed to accompany me in this new stage. If [a move] doesn’t happen, I still have a year left and I will be happy to stay. We were in agreement that we would accompany each other in this process in which everyone should be a winner, be it me or the club.”

Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester United have all been linked.

Read – 25 top players whose contracts are expiring in 2025

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