Find out the 5 world-class midfielders who could be past their prime as Chelsea star is included.

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We’ve had no shortage of surprises in the 2021-22 season. But one thing that has pleasantly surprised us is how well some footballers continue to perform despite crossing over to their 30s. Karim Benzema (34) and Robert Lewandowski (33) are the best strikers in the world right now. Their output has been astonishing this season; they’ve scored 38 and 47 goals, respectively, in all competitions.

Real Madrid midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric is 36 but has shown no signs of slowing down. Gone are the days when players hitting their prime between the ages of 25-28 was the norm. Improved training and dietary regimes have helped prolong the careers of professional footballers.

However, there are still players who touch their peak early and start to burn out by the time they hit their 30s or close in on it. Without further ado, let’s take a look at five world-class midfielders who could be past their prime.

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#5 Thiago Alcantara (Spain/Liverpool)

Thiago Alcantara was a standout performer for Bayern Munich in their continental treble-winning 2019-20 season. He ran the show from midfield for the Bavarians and is one of the most efficient central midfielders of his generation.

Thiago’s quick turns and ability to keep things ticking in midfield were unrivaled during his prime years. The Spanish international has done a solid job for Liverpool in midfield this season.

However, it’s clear that the 31-year-old’s best days are behind him, even though he continues to operate at a very high level for the Reds. He is not as dominant as he used to be. In his prime, Thiago was regularly likened to the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

He has scored two goals and provided two assists in 27 appearances across all competitions so far this season.

#4 N’Golo Kante (France/Chelsea)

N’Golo Kante picked up multiple man-of-the-match awards in the knockout stages of Chelsea’s triumphant Champions League campaign last season. The French midfielder’s tenacity and game-reading ability worked wonders as the Blues became the unlikely champions of Europe.

However, Kante has not been able to replicate that form this season. A dip in levels has not been more apparent in the case of any other player on this list, as it has been with the 31-year-old.

Kante’s form has tailed off drastically this season. While he can be a thorn in the neck of opponents when he is on song, those days don’t come as often anymore. He continues to be sharp with his link-up play and is pretty adept at making recoveries. But he is not peerless in his vocation any more. However, it must be noted that his season has been disrupted by groin and knee injuries. Kante also contracted COVID-19 twice.

#3 Paul Pogba (France/Manchester United)

Paul Pogba is still one of the best passers in the world. His technique is exceptional but anyone who has watched him play in the Premier League this season knows that he is finding it hard to keep up with its rigors.

Pogba just doesn’t seem to have the legs to play as a central midfielder anymore. His defensive discipline has always been suspect, but he pretty much has been reduced to a non-entity in defensive transitions in recent times.

While Pogba can still walk into the starting lineup of several European giants, they will need to put tireless workers alongside him. Pogba is also seldom successful with his signature runs through the center of the pitch. His genius is only on offer in flashes these days, but those are enough to change the course of games too.

Pogba has picked up nine assists and scored a goal in 25 appearances across all competitions for Manchester United this term. But it’s important to note that six of those assists came in two Premier League games. It shows that he can still be world-class on his day, but those days are starting to come far less frequently now.

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#2 Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid)

Toni Kroos has been a cut above the rest over the past several seasons. But he has struggled to assert himself against world-class opposition this term and the difference is there for all to see. With Ancelotti choosing to adopt a cautious approach regularly, Kroos has had to focus on his defensive skillset a lot more.

While he is not renowned for his recovery or disruptive abilities, Kroos has also struggled to dictate proceedings from the middle like he used to. The 32-year-old has been tidy in possession and is one of the most accurate passers of the ball in the modern era.

However, he has not exactly been able to turn on the style this season. This is in stark contrast to Luka Modric, who continues to perform at a world-class level despite turning 36.

Kroos has scored three goals and provided three assists in 35 appearances across all competitions for Real Madrid this season.

#1 Sergio Busquets (Spain/Barcelona)

Don’t get us wrong, Sergio Busquets can still do a stellar job at the base of Barcelona’s midfield. But he is a player who was at par with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta and formed arguably the most dominant midfield trio in the history of the game with the iconic duo.

Busquets is no longer as dominant a presence in the center of the pitch as he used to be. Set to turn 34 this July, Busquets’ age is starting to catch up with him and Barcelona are looking for a long-term replacement.

In his prime, Busquets just couldn’t be jostled off the ball. He kept things neat and tidy and is one of the most press-resistent players we’ve seen in the 21st century. He has scored just one goal and provided one assist in 43 appearances across all competitions so far this season.

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