Often a thankless task for players who occupy this position, the defensive midfielder’s role of disarming opponents and blunting their attacks is as important as the forwards who gain all of the plaudits.
These unsung heroes of football live for the thrill of the tackle, snatching the ball from the grips of opposing teams, and foiling the plans of the sharpest playmakers in the game.
A keen ability to read the game of football sets apart the best from the rest, with players such as Claude Makélélé, Sergio Busquets, and N’Golo Kanté making the position their own.
As football has evolved, so must each position on the pitch. In this article, we find the next generation of wonderkids in central defensive midfield, ready to revolutionise your game in Football Manager 21.
Choosing the best young CDMs (DM) in Football Manager 21
For a player to be included as a wonderkid in this article, there are three criteria that they have to meet.
Firstly, we chose a maximum age of 21-years-old to ensure that we only had the brightest young players appear. The next requirement was a minimum positional rating of 18 in centre defensive midfield (DM). Lastly, each young defensive midfielder had to have a potential ability (PA) rating of at least 150, or -9 PA range (150-180)
Potential in Football Manager 21 is the figure given to a player based on how high their current ability will reach in-game. This is usually represented by a number from zero to 200, with a 200-rated player being the best of the best.
If a player is granted a negative PA, this means that their potential is too uncertain to give a specific number. The negative PA equates to a potential ability range which follows this pattern: -10 (170-200), -95 (160-190), -9 (150-180), down to -1. The player’s PA will fall somewhere in their respective range at random in each new save game.
You’ll find the top five wonderkids with the highest potential ratings in the body of this article, with every other wonderkid meeting our criteria in a table at the foot of the page.
Eduardo Camavinga (136 CA / 170-200 PA)
Team: Stade Rennais
Best Positions: DM, MC
Current Ability/Potential Ability: 136 CA / -10 (170-200) PA
Value: £20 million
Wages: £18,914 per week
Best Attributes: 15 Determination, 15 Important Matches, 15 Consistency
A Stade Rennais youth product, this talented Frenchman debuted for the club in the 2018/19 season at just 16-years-old, making him the youngest in club history. The faith shown in him is backed by the 56 appearances that he’s racked up so far in his blossoming career, with two goals and three assists currently to his name.
Last season, Eduardo Camavinga went from strength-to-strength, becoming a mainstay in the French side’s line-up on their surprise run to third in Ligue 1. Carrying on a meteoric rise this season, he received a call-up to the French national team, even scoring in his second game for his country.
Camavinga comes into FM 21 as the only player to receive a -10 PA, attesting to the teenager’s quality. The sky is the limit for the midfielder, even his base potential of 170 is very respectable – let alone the prospect of reaching an outlandish 200 current ability.
The left-footed DM could be yours for a sum of around £60 million. His fantastic PA paired with his great ratings of 15 tackling, 15 positioning, and 15 anticipation are very persuasive factors in signing this wonderkid.
Sandro Tonali (138 CA / 169 PA)
Team: Brescia (on-loan to AC Milan)
Best Positions: DM, CM
Current Ability/Potential Ability: 138 CA / 169 PA
Value: £10.5 million
Wages: £35,051 per week
Best Attributes: 16 Aggression, 16 Work Rate, 16 Technique
Rising to prominence in Italy, Sandro Tonali made a name for himself at Brescia, playing 89 times, scoring six goals, and setting up 16 more in his time with the club.
In the 2020 summer transfer window, AC Milan came calling, negotiating an initial loan deal with a £9 million fee for the hot prospect. The deal features an option-to-buy, with the wonderkid defensive midfielder costing £14 million with add-ons, possibly forcing Milan to pay up to £32 million for his services.
Unfortunately, Tonali’s current loan deal will scupper any chance of signing him straight off of the bat. Still, a sizeable fee to AC Milan in the following season could have Tonali commanding your midfield for years to come.
Tonali’s mental attributes would have you thinking that he’s much older than 20-years-old, excelling in these areas with 15 concentration, 15 determination, and 15 vision. Along with his fine mentality, his 16 work rate, 15 first touch, and 15 passing show a truly classy player in the centre of the pitch.
Declan Rice (142 CA / 168 PA)
Team: West Ham United
Best Positions: DM, CM
Current Ability/Potential Ability: 142 CA / 168 PA
Value: £26 million
Wages: £29,999 per week
Best Attributes: 17 Composure, 17 Determination, 16 Stamina
Starting his journey in the youth academy of Chelsea, Declan Rice moved to West Ham United in 2013. Quickly progressing through the ranks of the Hammers’ own youth system, debuting in a 2-1 win against Burnley in 2017.
Since then, Rice has played 120 times for the London club, adding three goals and four assists to his name. Drawing attention for his impressive displays in midfield, he received his first England call-up in 2019 and has gone on to feature ten times for the Three Lions so far.
With an astute footballing mind in FM 21, as shown by his 17 composure, 17 determination, and 15 anticipation, Rice has the makings of a fantastic DM. Further making his case is his 16 tackling, 16 stamina, and 15 work rate, which will only improve as he develops.
The Hammers will demand a huge fee for their star asset, but he will be worth it in the long run. Depending on who you’re managing will play a factor in securing his signature, as Rice is unwilling to move to West Ham’s fiercest rivals.
Florentino Luís (136 CA / 165 PA)
Team: Benfica (on-loan to AS Monaco)
Best Positions: DM, CM
Current Ability/Potential Ability: 136 CA / 165 PA
Value: £9 million
Wages: £16,824 per week
Best Attributes: 17 Natural Fitness, 17 Teamwork, 17 Tackling
A product of Benfica’s youth system, Florentino Luís is currently making a name for himself on-loan to French side AS Monaco. Monaco’s record of developing talent into top-class players makes it a perfect place for an aspiring midfielder.
Having made just 32 appearances in the last two seasons for Benfica, Luís has found it difficult to cement a starting place in Portugal. Hoping to showcase his talents in France, he’s played five of the 12 games so far in Ligue 1. Time will tell if he can follow in the illustrious footsteps of previous players like Fabinho and Tiemoué Bakayoko.
In FM 21, this 21-year-old excels in his defensive duties, boasting 17 tackling, 16 anticipation, and 16 positioning. Pair those with 17 teamwork and 16 consistency and Luís makes for a formidable player in midfield.
After some negotiating, Luís could be available at the end of his loan spell for a sum in the region of £45 million. However, depending on your league’s rules, he might struggle to acquire a work permit.
Vítor Ferreira (124 CA / 164 PA)
Team: Porto (on-loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Best Positions: DM, CM
Current Ability/Potential Ability: 124 CA / 164 PA
Value: £1.7 million
Wages: £2,045 per week
Best Attributes: 15 Teamwork, 15 Vision, 15 Technique
Currently on-loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League, with an option to buy at the end of this season, Vítor Ferreira (also known as Vitinha) developed his game with FC Porto. Making his debut for the Portuguese side in the 2019/20 season, Ferreira made 12 appearances and assisted in his inaugural campaign.
Catching the eye of English team Wolves, the Midlands club quickly engineered a deal to bring the talented midfielder to Molineux. On-loan for the 2020/21 season, the option to buy fee is said to be in the region of £18 million. If Ferreira impresses, he could soon become the successor to João Moutinho in midfield.
Due to his current deal with Wolves, he won’t be a pursuable target until the 2021/22 season at the earliest. Keeping an eye on his development, and if Wolves choose to buy him, a window of opportunity may present itself at the end of the first season.
Ferreira starts FM 21 as a fantastic team player: his 15 teamwork, 15 vision, and 14 work rate ensure that he gels the team together from DM. Sporting great mental attributes of 14 composure, 14 determination, and 14 decisions, Ferreira keeps a calm head in even the most challenging circumstances.
All of the wonderkid centre defensive midfielders (CDM) in FM 21
Here’s the complete list of every wonderkid DM matching our criteria, sorted by their potential ability. Those with a negative potential rating are sorted according to their lowest PA.
|Name||Age||Team||CA||PA (Range)||Wage p/w|
|Eduardo Camavinga||17||Stade Rennais||136||-10 (170-200)||£18,914|
|Sandro Tonali||20||Brescia (on-loan to AC Milan)||138||169||£35,051|
|Declan Rice||21||West Ham United||142||168||£29,999|
|Florentino Luís||20||Benfica (on-loan to AS Monaco)||136||165||£16,824|
|Vítor Ferreira (Vitinha)||20||Porto (on-loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers)||124||164||£2,045|
|Arne Maier||21||Hertha BSC (on-loan to Arrminia Bielefeld)||129||161||£17,513|
|Weston McKennie||21||FC Schalke 04 (on-loan to Zebre (Juventus)||144||158||£48,077|
|Ethan Ampadu||19||Chelsea (on-loan to Sheffield United)||128||157||£7,500|
|Daniel Bragança||21||Sporting CP||123||157||£4,132|
|Oriol Busquets||21||FC Barcelona||130||156||£8,416|
|Fran Beltrán||21||Celta Vigo||133||156||£0|
|Exequiel Palacios||21||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||140||155||£55,743|
|Tyler Adams||21||RB Leipzig||131||155||£43,813|
|Patrick de Paula||20||Palmeiras||125||153||£7,000|
|Martín Zubimendi||21||Real Sociedad||138||153||£20,500|
|Tommaso Pobega||21||AC Milan (on-loan to Spezia)||123||153||£572|
|Manu Morlanes||21||Villarreal (on-loan to Almería)||129||151||£9,000|
|Monchu||20||Barcelona (on-loan to Girona FC)||119||150||£3,924|
|Adrian Fein||21||Bayern Munich (on-loan to PSV Eindhoven)||127||150||£17,513|
|Carlos Cuesta||21||KRC Genk||120||150||£6,853|
|Mykola Shaparenko||21||Dynamo Kyiv||125||150||£9,250|
|Albert Sambi Lokonga||21||RSC Anderlecht||120||150||£31,984|
Get the protection that your team’s defence deserves in the form of one of the brightest DM wonderkids in FM 21 from the table above.