There have been plenty of great central midfielders in the Premier League over the years. From the likes of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. It’s always been one of the most important positions on the pitch.
They might not always get the same level of praise as the attacking midfielders playing in front of them do, but big clubs have still spent large amounts of money to bring in the best players to control the centre of the park.
Here are the most expensive central midfielders in Premier League history….
Granit Xhaka, £35 million, From: Borussia Monchengladbach, To: Arsenal
£35 million seems the popular amount for central midfielders as three players in the Premier League have been signed for this amount (making this a list of six instead of five).
Xhaka was signed by Arsenal in 2016 to add some steel and aggressiveness to the Gunners midfield that had been sorely lacking since the departure of the great Patrick Vieira. This all seemed like a good idea at the time, however the Swiss international can sometimes be too aggressive and he’s not always the best at timing challenges leading to plenty of fouls and his fair share of cards.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have his positives though, as he distributes the ball well and in fairness to him his discipline has improved somewhat. It will be interesting to see what the next Arsenal manager thinks of Xhaka and if he will still have a role in the team after Arsene Wenger is gone.
Danny Drinkwater, £35 million, From: Leicester City, To: Chelsea
Now to a Premier League champion in Danny Drinkwater. He was a part of the Leicester team that defied all the odds and actually won the Premier League in the 2015/16 season.
Even with that achievement, Drinkwater costing £35 million surprised a lot of people. Especially as it meant that Chelsea actually spent more money on the English man than they did on his midfield partner for that title winning season N’Golo Kante. Despite the Frenchman being seen as the much superior player. Although Paris Saint Germain destroying the transfer record with the signing of Neymar did completely change the market prior to the Drinkwater signing.
He has had a less than stellar time at the London club so far as he’s found first team football hard to come by in his first season with the Blues. Leading to recent rumours that he may be on the move again in the summer.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, £35 million, From: Arsenal, To: Liverpool
Oxlade Chamberlain moved over to Liverpool in the 2017 summer transfer window on the back of having perhaps his best season at Arsenal.
This was another signing that happened after PSG had changed the transfer market with the signing of Neymar that made the price of players go up. So, a year prior to that Oxlade Chamberlain probably wouldn’t have cost £35 million as he’d had some very inconsistent years at Arsenal.
However, at Liverpool he has finally started to live up to the performance level that was expected of him when he was a young player at Southampton. It’s unclear if this is because of Jurgen Klopp’s man management, Liverpool’s style of play suiting him better or if it’s because he’s finally got a long run in the team. Regardless of the reason, if he can keep it up then £35 million will look like a great deal for the red half of Merseyside.
Nemanja Matic, £40 million, From: Chelsea, To: Manchester United
This was one of the most surprising transfers in the 2017 summer transfer window as it made no sense for Chelsea to sell Matic to anyone – especially not one of their Premier League title rivals. One of the rumours was that he refused to sign a new contract with the London club but it’s unclear if that was true. In any case Manchester United benefitted hugely.
Obviously £40 million is a lot of money but it is not easy to find a defensive minded midfielder of Matic’s quality. As he played a huge part of both of Chelsea’s last two Premier League title wins in the 2014/15 and 2016/17 seasons.
In his first season in Manchester Matic has fit right into the side and been one of the club’s best performers throughout the season. His ability to protect the back line is one of the biggest reasons why his team has the second best defensive record in the Premier League.
Tiemoue Bakayoko, £40 million, From: Monaco, To: Chelsea
Bakayoko was signed a couple of weeks before the departure of Nemanja Matic so it’s unclear if Chelsea knew that their midfielder was Manchester bound. However, as their new man seemed a like for like replacement for the Serbian there’s a good chance that they had an inkling.
Bakayoko was a part of the Monaco team that managed to release PSG’s vice grip on French football by winning the Ligue 1 title in the 2016/17 season. At the same time, they also managed to reach the semi-final of the Champions League before getting knocked out by Juventus.
After that season with Monaco it seemed like Tiemoue Bakayoko would be a great signing for Chelsea but that hasn’t been the case so far. He has struggled to replicate the form that he showed at Monaco. He is still only 23 though, so he’s still got time to prove himself, but that time may not be at Chelsea as they’ve not always shown patience with players, as showcased by the sales of Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah.
Paul Pogba, £89 million, From: Juventus, To: Manchester United
A few years ago Pogba moving back to Manchester United was the most expensive transfer in world football. It has since lost that record, but it still holds the record for any Premier League transfer.
Pogba left United when he was 19-years-old to join Juventus, he then developed into a superstar and was known as one of the greatest players in the world. Then he came back to Manchester four years after leaving and United fans were hoping he could replicate the form he showed in Italy.
He’s been a very divisive figure since coming back as only on rare occasions has he shown his obvious ability. The reason for this is unclear as some people have blamed Jose Mourinho for his tactics and that he should play Pogba higher up the pitch while others have said the Frenchman doesn’t work hard enough and is more concerned with hair cuts than football.
So at the moment it’s safe to say Pogba hasn’t lived up to his price tag and it’s uncertain if he has a future at the Red Devils.