LaLiga Midfielders – Who are the best CM’s in Spain?

LaLiga midfielders

Today, we’re going to take a look at the best LaLiga midfielders by analysing some of the key metrics from the 2021/22 season. We’ll look at some of the most creative players in the division as well as some of the best holding midfielders.

For the purposes of this post, we are referring to players who have been most frequently used in a central midfield position over the past 12 months. Some players who also operate in wide roles may instead feature in our look at the best LaLiga wingers.

All data is via Fbref (with the exception of the Sorare rankings at the bottom). It relates to LaLiga football in the 2021/22 season and only players to have completed more than 1000 minutes feature so we haven’t included anyone whose season has been seriously hampered by injury such as Pedri for example.


LaLiga Central Midfielders 2021/22


LaLiga Midfielders Stats – Passing

Pass Completion %Long Pass Completion % (over 30 yards)Passes Completed per 90Progressive Distance per 90
Toni Kroos91.9 (1)79.488.7 (1)536.0 (1)
Fran Beltran90.8 (2)87.2 (2)59.8224.7
Eduardo Camavinga90.1 (3)87.4 (1)57.4249.2
Frenkie de Jong89.985.0 (3)54.9225.8
Sergio Busquets88.078.469.4 (2)319.5
Luka Modric88.178.867.6 (3)365.0 (3)
Dani Parejo84.166.560.3399.8 (2)

Players who ranked in the top 3 in LaLiga for any category feature. Progressive distance signifies the total distance in yards that passes travelled towards the opposition goal. Passes away from the opposition goal count for 0. 

Despite a few questions starting to crop up about his future role in the Real Madrid midfield, Toni Kroos’ numbers suggest the transition to the new crop of talented young midfielders at the Santiago Bernabeu may need to wait a while yet. The German was the top ranked LaLiga midfielder for both pass completion and progressive distance last season and in terms of the latter he was well clear of the rest.

Kroos’ Real Madrid teammates Luka Modric and Eduardo Camavinga also feature with the French teenager enjoying an impressive first season in the Spanish capital. Over in Barcelona, Sergio Buquets and Frenkie de Jong both posted good pass completion figures as you would expect, although fell well short of the likes of Modric and Kroos, as well as Villarreal’s Dani Parejo, when it came to progressive distance.

There were also impressive numbers from Celta Vigo’s 23 year old midfielder Fran Beltran with only Kroos bettering his overall pass completion percentage while only Camavinga could better his 87.2% success rate on passes of 30 yards or more.

Creating Chances

AssistsExpected Assists (xA)Assists per 90Shot-Creating Actions per 90Goal-Creating Actions per 90
Dani Parejo10 (1)6.6 (2)0.33 (3)3.730.50
Sergi Darder9 (2)4.9 (3)0.264.71 (3)0.40
Oscar Trejo9 (3)4.30.4 (1)4.71 (3)0.49
Nabil Fekir86.8 (1)0.265.19 (1)0.61 (2)
Luka Modric84.20.35 (2)3.230.49
David Silva44.40.214.76 (2)0.58 (3)
Thomas Lemar53.10.313.870.69 (1)

Players who ranked amongst the top 3 central midfielders in LaLiga for any of the above categories are included in the table. Shot-creating and goal-creating actions relate to the two offensive actions leading up to a shot/goal such as passes or dribbles. Note that unlike with assists or expected assists, players are credited in this metric if they create chances for themselves.

When it comes to creating chances, we have a slightly different selection of LaLiga central midfielders this time around with only Luka Modric and Dani Parejo returning from the selection of the best passers. Parejo was the central midfielder with the most assists last season with 10 but Rayo Vallecano’s Oscar Trejo ran him close with 9 and that was from considerably fewer minutes on the pitch.

Nabil Fekir had another outstanding season for Betis and he posted the best numbers for expected assists and shot-creating actions. Atleti’s Thomas Lemar was the standout midfielder when it came to goal-creating actions though with an impressive average of 0.69 per 90 minutes, aided by his ability to create openings for himself with 4 goals and 5 assists from just 17 league starts.

Defensive Actions

Tackles Won per 90Successful Pressure PercentageInterceptions per 90
Renato Tapia2.68 (1)32.42.29
Jens Jønsson2.48 (2)33.22.07
Yangel Herrera2.46 (3)32.01.64
Casemiro2.2540.2 (1)2.07
Fran Beltran1.7036.6 (2)1.87
Étienne Capoue1.3436.4 (3)1.42
Oscar Valentin2.3234.62.88 (1)
Florentino Luis2.4526.52.82 (2)
Geoffrey Kondogbia2.2535.52.63 (3)

Successful pressure means the player’s team won possession back within 5 seconds of the pressure being applied.

Some of the best defensive midfielders in LaLiga feature here. Casemiro is usually cited as the standout holding midfielder in Spain and he backed that up to some extent last season and was the top ranked player of any position when it came to successful pressure percentage.

Celta’s Renato Tapia led the way with the most tackles won per 90 minutes, but he lost his place to Fran Beltran as the season went on with the 23 year old impressing with his pressing as well as passing abilities.

In terms of interceptions, Rayo’s Oscar Valentin was the standout performer, narrowly bettering the tally of Getafe youngster Florentino Luis who struggled for regular game-time at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.

Goal Threat

GoalsNon-Penalty Expected Goals
Carlos Soler11 (1)2.8
Gonzalo Melero7 (2)2.6
Nabil Fekir6 (3)5.0 (1)
Manu Trigueros6 (3)4.9 (2)
Frenkie de Jong34.5 (3)

As much as anything, these numbers suggest this isn’t exactly a vintage era for goalscoring central midfielders in LaLiga. Carlos Soler was the only one to reach double figures in 2021/22 but was aided by 7 successful penalties. In terms of non-penalty goals, Nabil Fekir and Manu Trigueros were the most prolific with 6 each, both slightly outperforming their xG.

In Possession

Touches per 90Progressive Distance Carried per 90Fouls Drawn per 90
Toni Kroos103.5 (1)162.61.79
Sergio Busquets87.6 (2)105.82.34
Luka Modric84.5 (3)165.91.81
Fede Valverde67.2201.8 (1)0.69
Papu Gomez60.2195.9 (2)2.58
Frenkie de Jong69.4174.3 (3)1.89
Rafinha73.8161.63.93 (1)
Nabil Fekir63.4139.03.77 (2)
Oscar Trejo61.6113.13.72 (3)

Progressive distance carried signifies the total distance in yards that a player travelled towards the opposition goal with the ball.

There’s plenty more Real Madrid representation here with Toni Kroos the most involved midfielder in terms of touches on the ball while teammate Fede Valverde led the way with over 200 yards carried per 90 minutes.

Despite that, Valverde only drew 0.69 fouls per 90 minutes, the lowest number of the nine midfielders featured above. Real Sociedad’s Rafinha was the most fouled midfielder in LaLiga, averaging nearly 4 fouls drawn per game.

Best Midfielders in LaLiga – Sorare Ratings

Average All Round Score (L15)Average All Round Score (L40)Average Total Score (L15)Average Total Score (L40)
Sergio Busquets19.8 (1)21.0 (2)57.056.0
Toni Kroos18.1 (2)26.8 (1)51.064.7 (1)
Pedri17.5 (3)17.663.2 (1)59.2
Casemiro16.620.5 (3)54.159.6
David Silva16.312.561.3 (2)50.3
Sergi Darder13.211.358.9 (3)53.5
Dani Parejo15.819.958.764.7 (1)
Nabil Fekir16.517.157.660.5 (3)

The Sorare scoring matrix takes into account a large range of different metrics in giving every player a total score out of 100 in each game they play. The all round score is more focused on smaller individual actions such as successful passes, dribbles, aerial challenges and more. The overall score is more heavily weighted towards those that regularly score and create goals. L15 relates to the last 15 matches and L40 the last 40 that the player has been eligible for. This comes via Soraredata and in this case includes matches in other competitions as well as LaLiga. Again the top 3 midfielders in each metric are featured in the table providing they appeared in at least 40% of their team’s games during the time period.

Over the course of the 2021/22 season, Toni Kroos and Dani Parejo were the two outstanding central midfielders according to the Sorare scoring matrix and popular options for anyone playing LaLiga fantasy football. Kroos stands out the most, finishing in the top 2 in 3 of the 4 categories, although he did experience a slight dip from his usual standards during the latter stages of the campaign.

Pedri also features here and will be one to watch in 2022/23. Despite his appearances being limited by injuries, the teenager has already shown just how important he is to Barcelona, with his absence really felt after he succumbed to injury once more late on last season.

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Conclusion – Who are LaLiga’s best Central Midfielders?

A wide variety of different types of players have featured in this rundown but the stats largely show that the old guard of midfielders that have shone in LaLiga for much of the past decade remain the standard setters.

Real Madrid’s midfield trident of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric continues to deliver silverware while the likes of Dani Parejo and Sergio Busquets still stand out above the rest in some of the key metrics.

With a number of the best LaLiga midfielders over 30 though, this picture could change quite rapidly in the coming years. Pedri looks the player most capable of leading the next generation and if he can stay fit, could stake a claim for being LaLiga’s best midfielder as early as next season. Real Madrid fans are also rightly getting excited about both Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni who will also be ones to watch in 2022/23 and beyond.

If you’re going to narrow it down to more specific roles, Nabil Fekir is tough to beat when it comes to advanced midfielders in Spain or anywhere in Europe for that matter. Meanwhile the likes of Sergi Darder and Oscar Trejo can also reflect on impressive campaigns which have seen them be the chief creative forces in their respective sides.


Read More: LaLiga’s best strikers


Spanish football writer
About Mark Sochon 1543 Articles
Mark is a freelance writer based in Madrid. He has also lived in Seville and Barcelona and has written extensively about Spanish football. His work has been published by the likes of Guardian Sport & World Soccer.