Football Manager 2020: All the best Young Defensive Midfielders (DM) to sign – De Jong, Neves & More

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Football Manager 2020 was released last month to very positive reviews from both the players and critics. Some have said that FM20 is at its best when playing as a manager of a small club and the best way to improve your league standing is to invest in youth.

The players featured on this list may not be the best in the game at the start of the 2019-20 season, but they'll become world-beaters in 5-10 years. Even if your chosen club is one of the best in your nation, you need to


Defensive midfielders provide both defensive support to your team's back-line and also join in with the midfield when going forward.

They're typically strong, tall and good in the tackle but also generally have better passing and dribbling abilities than the Central defenders behind them.

DMs aren't always used by managers in their natural position, instead often being shoehorned into the defense or midfield proper. However, defensive midfielders are excellent to use when trying to get a result in a difficult match and to try and keep more clean sheets.

How to choose the best Young Defensive Midfielders on Football Manager 2020

To qualify for this list, these players are aged 23 and under, and their best position is defensive midfield (DM).

These players must also have a fixed Potential Ability (PA) of at least 159, which means they can progress into the best players in their position on the planet. The players with the highest Current ability (CA) and have a 150-180 PA range have also been included.

CA and PA are hidden when in-game, and can only be viewed by using the Football Manager Editor tool or In-Game Editor.


READ MORE: All the best Wonderkid Strikers (ST) to sign on FM20

Star ratings only reflect how good a player is in relation to your first-team squad, so if you want accuracy you must follow the CA & PA.

For reference, all CA & PA values are out of 200 and highest-rated central midfielder in the game currently is Bayern Munich's Thiago with 167.

Frenkie de Jong (CA 160 – PA 178)

Age: 22

Position(s): DM, M (C), D (C)


Club: Barcelona

Country: Netherlands

Best Attributes: 17 First Touch, 17 teamwork, 17 vision

Value: £52 million

Wage: £165,000 a week

Ajax's incredible run to the semi-finals of last year's Champions League was both a blessing and a curse for the Dutch champions. A blessing because it was a return to the big time for the Amsterdam giants, but a curse due to the players they were inevitably going to lose to financially richer clubs.

One such player that left in the summer was Frenkie de Jong and the defensive midfielder is now in a perfect place to become the best in the world in his position. De Jong begins FM20 just 7 CA below Bayern's Thiago and will pass the Spaniard in around two seasons.


De Jong is simply the best in the game you can get your hands on if you're in need of a defensive midfielder. He's also natural in central midfield (MC) and can quickly be trained to be natural at centre-back (DC). Mentally, there aren't much better in the game and while he has plenty of room to grow technically and mentally, he will quickly improve if he gets regular game time at Barcelona.

Rodri (CA 155 – PA 165)

Age: 23

Position(s): DM, M (C)

Club: Manchester City

Country: Spain


Best Attributes: 18 positioning, 16 teamwork, 16 decisions

Value: £44.5 million

Wage: £120,000 a week

Despite Pep Guardiola's recent admission that Manchester City "can no longer compete with the top teams" the Cityzens have some incredible midfield talent. Rodri joined from Atletico Madrid for a club-record £62.8 million in the summer and has added much-needed steel and grit to City's squad.

READ MORE: All the best young central midfielders (MC) to sign on FM20

Manchester City's form in 2019-20 hasn't as high as their sensational previous 2 campaigns, but Rodri has already become a regular in the City side. Rodri is a physical beast, standing 6'3'' tall and boasting some impressive attributes in the category. Technically, he's not as good as you'd expect from a midfielder, but the Etihad is the perfect place to improve his craft when starting the play from deep positions.

Ruben Neves (CA 150 – PA 170)


Age: 22

Position(s): DM, M (C)

Club: Wolves

Country: Portugal

Best Attributes: 17 vision, 17 passing, 16 free-kick taking

Value: £35 million

Wage: £60,000 a week


Wolverhampton Wanderers' rise from the Championship to the Europa League has no doubt been impressive. However, the midlands club's strong finish last season wasn't a big surprise given the talent they have in their ranks.

Ruben Neves is arguably Wolves' most important player, as he provides vital cover to the defence and also possesses the play-making ability to cause any side problems at the back. Neves epitomises the solid all-round player, every area of his game is at least good by any club's standards.

Attributes such as vision, passing, long shots, free-kick taking and technique are all 16 or above, he's a very composed individual despite only being 22-years-old. Neves has also already been capped 16 times for Portugal, having made his international debut at just 18.

Wilfred Ndidi (CA 144 – PA 163)

Age: 22

Position(s): DM, M (C)


Club: Leicester City

Country: Nigeria

Best Attributes: 17 stamina, 17 natural fitness, 17 anticipation

Value: £28.5 million

Wage: £80,000 a week

When N'Golo Kante moved to Chelsea following Leicester City's title-winning campaign in 2015-16, the Frenchman left a gaping hole in the Foxes squad. Leicester had to invest in a young replacement and Wilfred Ndidi has been the perfect successor to Kante.

£15 million might've seemed a tad steep for the Nigerian at the time but he's handsomely paid Leicester back, as he rapidly became a key part of their squad. Ndidi is a workhorse in the midfield, as his best attributes are those such as stamina, fitness and work rate, football to him is a marathon, not a sprint.


If Leicester reach the Champions League again this season, they'll have to partly thank Ndidi for it, even if he might not get the credit he deserves. The Foxes aren't the biggest club in FM either, so Ndidi could be obtained for less than most of the players on this list.

READ MORE: All the best wonderkid central midfielders (MC, DM, AMC) to sign on FM20

Julian Weigl (CA 143 – PA 159)

Age: 23

Position(s): DM, M (C)

Club: Borussia Dortmund


Country: Germany

Best Attributes: 19 teamwork, 18 composure, 18 decisions

Value: £15.5 million

Wage: £66,000 a week

With over 100 Borussia Dortmund appearances and several Germany caps to his name already, Julian Weigl is a great talent at the start of the game. At £15.5 million in value too, he probably represents the best value for money on the list, having great attributes and experience to begin FM20.

Weigl may be lacking in the technical aspect of the game, but he's got time to improve and is already a good passer. When the pressure is on in big games, the mental attributes of your players are tested the most but Weigl is one of the most level-headed in the game. He's also a fantastic team player, not many players will cover more distance than the Dortmund DM.

Florentino Luis (CA 142 – PA 160)


Age: 19

Position(s): DM, M (C)

Club: Benfica

Country: Portugal

Best Attributes: 18 teamwork, 17 concentration, 17 natural fitness

Value: £14.75 million

Wage: £5,000 a week


The fact that Florentino Luis is only on a £5,000 per week contract at the start of the game is nothing short of scandalous in today's money-mad football world. However, players of FM shouldn't complain, as that makes the Portuguese youngster cheaper to acquire.

READ MORE: All the best wonderkid goalkeepers (GK) to sign on FM20

Luis has already broken into the Benfica first team and has extremely impressive mental and physical attributes from the start of FM20. His technical attributes aren't anything to turn your nose up either, though, as his first touch, passing, marking and in particular his tackling are all high.

Luis likely won't be on your radar but if you're a smaller club looking to grow, the 19-year-old would be an excellent addition to your midfield and defensive midfield.

Declan Rice (CA 139 – PA 150-180)

Age: 20


Position(s): DM, M (C), D (C)

Club: West Ham United

Country: England

Best Attributes: 17 composure, 17 determination, 16 tackling

Value: £23 million

Wage: £30,000 a week

Declan Rice's decision to play his international football for England rather than the Republic of Ireland was one which courted plenty of controversy over the summer, but who can blame him given how highly he's rated. Rice is only 20-years-old but has already made his West Ham and Three Lions debut, becoming indispensable as a deep play-maker for both teams.


Having a PA range that extends up to 180 could make Rice the defensive midfielder in around 5 years but like most of the players on this list, he's got to improve his technical stats. Being a regular for West Ham in the Premier League, though, will be a good stepping stone for the Englishman to join a big club and truly realise his potential. Rice is also versatile, being able to be utilised in both centre-back and central midfield positions.

Ismael Bennacer (CA 138 – PA 163)

Age: 21

Position(s): DM, M (C)

Club: AC Milan

Country: Algeria


Best Attributes: 15 balance, 15 first touch, 15 passing

Value: £10.25 million

Wage: £46,000 a week

Compared to some of the players on this list, you could argue that Ismael Bennacer is solid, if not somewhat unspectacular at the start of FM20. However, if you look a little deeper, you'll discover that the Algerian is going to be a real talent one day, although he'll struggle to become the next Zidane.

Mentally, he's good across the board, while physically, he's surprisingly solid, despite his 5'9'' frame. Bennacer's best positive, though, is arguably his set-piece taking, with good free-kick and corner taking attributes. He has to break into the Milan team, though, as without that debut, he could well rot in the reserves and spend his best years on the bench or out on loan.

Lewis Cook (CA 130 – PA 169)


Age: 22

Position(s): DM, M (C)

Club: Bournemouth

Country: England

Best Attributes: 16 vision, 16 natural fitness, 15 passing

Value: £14.25 million

Wage: £40,000 a week


Lewis Cook's rumoured move to Tottenham in the summer might've raised a few eyebrows in the football community. Although, if you look at the Englishman's stats and ability, you'd soon discover that his talents are arguably being wasted playing at Bournemouth.

Valued at only £14.25 million at the start of the game, he could be picked up for relatively cheap, as the lure of a big club and European football will probably be too much for the 22-year-old to resist.

In years gone by, Cook would've made more than his solitary England appearance, but the strength in depth of the Three Lions midfield has kept him out for the most part. That being said, with a PA of 169, he's got bags of potential, especially with regards to his technical attributes.

Sandro Tonali (CA 125 – PA 150-180)

Age: 19

Position(s): DM, M (C)


Club: Brescia

Country: Italy

Best Attributes: 18 determination, 16 work rate, 15 passing

Value: £8.25 million

Wage: £7,750 a week

Sandro Tonali is probably the least-recognisable name on this list but the Italian starlet shouldn't be overlooked. Tonali is one of the lowest-rated in terms of value in this collection but has huge potential, being able to reach up to 180 CA if he gets regular enough football.

Tonali will likely leave Brescia for one of Italy's top clubs within a few seasons, thanks to some of the best technical stats in this list. Italy has some excellent prospects for the future and Tonali is one of the best despite his relatively low starting point. If he continues to play regularly for Brescia, though, he will rapidly improve into a top Serie A defensive midfielder.

Player Age Pos Club Country CA PA V W
Frenkie de Jong22DM, M (C), D (C)BarcelonaHolland160178£50m£165k
Declan Rice20M/DM (C), D(C)West HamEngland139150-180£23m£30k
Rodri23DM, M (C)Man CitySpain155165£44.5m£120k
Arthur22DM/M/AM (C)BarcelonaBrazil159175£50m£99k
Lorenzo Pellegrini23DM/M/AM (C)RomaItaly155169£36.5m£61k
Franck Kessie22M/DM (C)MilanIvory Coast149169£22.5m£67k
Ruben Neves22DM/M (C)WolvesPortugal150170£35m£60k
Tanguy Ndombele22DM/M (C)TottenhamFrance145170£29.5m£120k
Wilfred Ndidi22DM/M (C)LeicesterNigeria144163£28.5m£80k
Julian Weigl23DM/M (C)DortmundGermany143159£15.5m£66k
Florentino Luis19DM, M (C)SLBPortugal140172£14.75m£5k
Lewis Cook22DM/M (C)BouremouthEngland130169£14.25m£40k
Mickael Cuisnace19DM, M/AM (C)Bayern MunichFrance125168£4.1m£41.5k
Gustavo Assuncao19DM, (C)FamalicaoBrazil115155£1.1m£1.1k
Hamad Junior Traore19DM, M (C), AM (RC)SassuoloIvory Coast136150-180£9m£18k
Sandro Tonali19DM, M (C)BresciaItaly125150-180£8.25m£7.75k
Ismael Bennacer21DM/M (C)AC MilanAlgeria138163£10.25m£46k
Franck Kessie22DM/ M (C)AC MilanIvory Coast149169£22.5m£67k
Hamed Junior Traore19DM/M (C), AM (RC)SassuoloIvory Coast136150-180£9m£18k
Eduardo Camavinga16DM, M (C)Stade RennaisFrance116150-180£5.25m£13.5k
Ryan Gravenberch17DM, M (C), AM (LC)AjaxHolland115150-180£975k£850
Ilaix Moriba16DM, M/AM (C)BarcelonaGuinea105150-180£500k£11k