What Position Do The Best Soccer Players Play? (Find Out)

Soccer is a team game where every player on the team is valuable. However, most coaches will tell you that there is usually one or two players who stand out from the rest. But what position do the best soccer players play?

The best soccer players should be involved in the game as much as possible and be in a position to influence the game. This means the best players play in midfield, goalkeeper, center back, or forward. However, there are many different circumstances that can determine where the best player should play.

Now you know that the best players often play as midfielders or forwards, but why is this? What factors should be considered when deciding where the best players play? And what other positions can they play? Find out the answer to all these questions and more in this article.

Where do The Best Players Play in Soccer?

Before we begin discussing which positions the best soccer players usually play in, it’s worth pointing out that it’s not as simple as just picking one position.

Many factors decide where the best player in a team should play.

Here are some examples of what a coach should consider when positioning the best players:

Formation:

A team’s formation will definitely play a part in which position the team’s best player should be playing.

Let’s take a look at Real Madrid, for example.

For many years, Real Madrid has played a simple 4-3-3 formation that utilizes one striker, two attacking wingers, two central midfielders, and one defensive midfielder.

There’s an argument to be made that the best player could play as a central attacking midfielder (CAM). Legendary players such as Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, and Ronaldinho have all played this position.

However, in Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 formation, this position doesn’t exist. Therefore a coach couldn’t even consider playing their best player in this position while using this formation.

When deciding which position the best player should play in, a coach should look at their preferred formation and decide which position has the most influence in that formation.

For example, let’s say a team uses a formation that plays with three at the back and utilizes attacking wingbacks.

You could easily make an argument for the best player to be playing in one of those wingback positions. This is because this particular formation relies on wingbacks to be fast, energetic, creative, and defensively minded.

So ultimately, the formation really influences the position where the best player should play.

Style of play:

Much like a team’s formation, a team’s style of play can also influence where to position the best player.

If we were talking about a team that is in a relegation battle, chances are they would adopt a defensive style of play.

A defensive team will look to defend as much as possible. In this case, it might benefit the team to have their best player as either a center back or a defensive midfielder.

Then we can look at the elite teams.

Teams like Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munchen, and Paris Saint-Germain. These teams will usually dominate games and play with an attacking style.

An attacking team will have a lot of time on the ball and spend much of the game trying to find a way through the opposition’s defense. In this case, the attacking team would want their best player further up the field to create chances on goal.

Abilities of the best player:

Although it is a good idea to position the best player in a role that best suits the team, it’s also good to position them somewhere that also makes the most of their abilities.

Let’s say that the best player in a team is naturally big and strong. This would make them an ideal candidate to play as a center back, especially if they are good at tackling.

It could also make them a good target man (striker), but only if they are also good at shooting and finishing.

Now let’s say the best player is gifted with speed and skill. In this case, it would be best to play them as a winger or a wingback.

If the player was to have natural passing skills and composure on the ball, then midfield might be the best option for the player.

As you can see, the skills of the best player largely determine where they are best positioned.

Most Common Soccer Positions For The Best Players

Now that we have a good idea about the factors that go into deciding where the best player should play, let’s look at the most common positions for the best players.

Central midfield:

Generally speaking, a team’s coach will want their best player to play in a position that most influences the game.

In this case, the central midfield position is ideal for the best soccer players to play. Many elite soccer players play in central midfield.

Research shows that over 55% of an average team’s possession is played through the center of the field. The remaining percentage is split between either side of the field, with less than 20% being played down either wing.

For this reason, midfielders are on the ball more than any other position during the average soccer game. So it would make a lot of sense for the best player to be in this position.

Many top teams choose to have their best player play centrally in midfield so that they have the most time on the ball and can control the game.

Top players playing in this position:

  • Frenkie de Jong
  • N’Golo Kante
  • Luka Modric
  • Joshua Kimmich

Central attacking midfield (CAM):

Much of what has already been said about central midfielders can also apply to the central attacking midfielder (CAM).

However, CAMs are usually expected to play with more creativity and bravery in order to create goals for the forward players.

Because of this extra requirement, it’s a position that many of the world’s best players occupy for their teams.

Top players playing in this position:

  • Marco Reus
  • Thomas Muller
  • Bruno Fernandes
  • Kevin de Bruyne

Striker:

There’s also a good argument to be made for the best players playing as a striker.

The striker’s job is to create and score goals and win their team the game. So it’s reasonable to think that the best player should be in this position.

Strikers also have to be at the top of their game as chances to score can be pretty rare. A striker may only get one or two opportunities to shoot per game.

This is why many of the best players in the world play in this position.

Top players playing in this position:

Click on their names to find out why these players are so good.

Winger:

To play as a winger, a player must have both pace and skill. Wingers usually are very strong ball dribblers, and many people see these as the world’s best players.

Wingers also need to have top passing and shooting abilities, as well as being creative and having good vision.

As you can see, a player must be extremely talented in order to play as a winger.

Because of this, many of the world’s best players are often played in this position.

Top players playing in this position:

Click on their names to find out why these players are so good.

Center back:

Preventing goals is just as important as scoring them. For this reason, the best player is sometimes expected to be in the center back position.

In recent years, many soccer teams have realized the value of having their best player at center back.

Virgil Van Dijk’s $89.5 million move to Liverpool in 2018 and Lucas Hernandez’s $80.6 million move to Bayern Munchen in 2019 are great examples of this.

Center backs must be calm, strong, and fast. All fitting for the best player on a team.

Top players playing in this position:

  • Virgil van Dijk
  • Matthijs de Ligt
  • David Alaba
  • Rúben Dias

Goalkeeper:

When talking about the best player in a team, it’s easy to forget about the goalkeeper position. This should not be the case, as the goalkeeper is actually the most important position in soccer.

There’s a strong argument to be made that no position can influence a soccer game as much as the goalkeeper.

A team’s goalie is the last line of defense, and a big goalkeeping mistake can easily lead to their team losing a game. On the other hand, a big save at a crucial point in a game could also secure the win for their team.

This is why a team’s best player can often be the goalkeeper. Like the center back position, top teams are no longer afraid to spend top money on an elite goalkeeper.

Top players playing in this position:

  • Manuel Neuer
  • Alisson Becker
  • Thibaut Courtois
  • Jan Oblak

Do The Best Players Play in The Most Important Positions?

We now know the positions which the best players usually play. But what about the most important positions in soccer? Do the best players actually play in these positions?

As I already said at the beginning of this article, the best player can not always play in the same position for many different reasons.

I will now list the three most important positions and discuss whether or not the world’s best players occupy these positions.

Goalkeeper:

The goalkeeper is the most important position in soccer. The goalkeeper has the biggest responsibilities of any player on the field. So does a team’s best player usually play here?

Occasionally, yes. We can look to Manchester United as a great example of this.

Although some people might point to Cristiano Ronaldo or Bruno Fernandes as United’s best players, the stats show that their most important player is their goalkeeper, David De Gea.

However, this is not always the case for every team. In fact, it’s actually quite rare for the goalkeeper to be the best player.

Let’s look at Manchester City. Ederson is a great goalkeeper, but most people would say their best player is definitely Kevin De Bruyne in midfield.

The same can be said for Paris Saint-Germain.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of the most exciting young keepers in the world. However, you would have to say that their best player is a forward, either Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, or even Neymar Jr.

Real Madrid is another great example. Thibaut Courtois is one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers, yet their striker, Karim Benzema, overshadows him.

Striker:

Speaking of strikers, they are the second most important position in soccer as it is their responsibility to get goals for their team.

As we have already discussed, players like Benzema and Mbappé prove that the best players do indeed play as the striker for many teams.

This is not always the case, though.

Let’s take Liverpool, for example. When they won the Premier League title in 2020, Jürgen Klopp mostly utilized a 4-3-3 formation with a false 9.

This meant that the team did not use a traditional striker. Therefore, it was impossible for Liverpool’s best players to play as the striker.

Instead, Liverpool’s best players, like Salah, played as a winger. Trent Alexander-Arnold played as a fullback/wingback, while Virgil Van Dijk occupied the center back position.

Central midfielder:

Because of how much possession midfield players have during a game, they are the third most important position in soccer.

This is a position where a team can really utilize their best player. There isn’t a formation that doesn’t use midfielders, and the amount of time they have on the ball can only suit the best players.

For sure, Kevin De Bruyne at Manchester City and N’Golo Kante at Chelsea are shining examples of the best players playing in midfield.

Once again, though, it’s not always the case that the best player is the midfielder.

Tottenham Hotspur paid a club record $64.3 million for central midfielder Tanguy Ndombélé. However, he was never able to become Tottenham’s best player.

Harry Kane (striker) and Son Heung-min (winger) are undoubtedly Tottenham’s best players, and neither of them plays in midfield.

Conclusion

There’s a really good argument to be made that the best players should play in midfield or as a striker. This is because of how much influence these positions have in a soccer game.

It’s not as simple as that, though. A team’s formation and play style can often dictate where the best player plays. As will the abilities of the player.

Because of this, there is no particular position that the best players play.

The most important position in soccer is the goalkeeper; however, the best player in a team is not always in this position.

James Miller

Soccer has been my passion since I was a kid. After my own career, I became a coach, something I have been doing for 15 years now. Sharing my knowledge about soccer is what I love most. So I hope you can appreciate my articles.
Published: 
August 24, 2022
Published: August 24, 2022