Kieftenbeld began his football career with his hometown club, VV Lemelerveld, before joining Twente's youth system as a young teenager. Twente let him leave for Eerste Divisie (second-tier) club Go Ahead Eagles in 2007, and a year later, he made his senior debut and signed his first professional contract. He spent two seasons as a regular member of GA Eagles' first team before joining Eredivisie club Groningen in 2010. He played as a right back during his first year with Groningen, switching to midfield in his second season. Appointed vice-captain for 2013–14, he took on the captaincy during the season, and helped the club qualify for European football for the first time in seven years. He captained Groningen to victory in the 2014–15 KNVB Cup final to win the first major trophy in the club's history. Ahead of the 2015–16 season, he joined Football League Championship (second-tier) club Birmingham City.
Kieftenbeld was born on 26 June 1990 in Lemelerveld, in the municipality of Dalfsen, Netherlands, where he attended Heilig Hartschool primary school. After leaving school he began a college course in business economics, but did not complete it. He came from a sporty family. His mother, Anja, and one of his sisters played volleyball, another sister rode horses. His father, Joop, coached in the lower reaches of Dutch amateur football, including at SV SDOL of the Vijfde Klasse and the reserve team of Tweede Klasse club VV Lemerleveld, the hometown club where Maikel began playing football at the age of five.
Kieftenbeld was spotted by scouts from Twente, but after four seasons in their youth system, the staff believed he was not up to the required standard, so in 2007 he moved on to Deventer-based Eerste Divisie (second-tier) club Go Ahead Eagles. The following summer, he took part in the first-team's pre-season training camp in Germany, and made his senior debut on the opening day of the 2008–09 Eerste Divisie, on 8 August 2008 away to VVV-Venlo. He entered the game to replace the injured Ceriel Oosthout just before half-time with his team 1–0 down; they lost 5–0. In September, he signed his first professional contract, for three years with an option for a fourth. He scored his first senior goal on 24 April 2009 – the winning goal as Go Ahead Eagles beat Veendam 2–1 – and finished the season as a first-team regular with 30 league appearances.
In his second season, he helped Go Ahead Eagles to reach the final round of the promotion play-offs, in which they lost to Willem II. In April 2010, Kieftenbeld was being linked with a move to AZ, the reigning Dutch champions. By the beginning of June, all parties had agreed terms, but the financial situation at AZ and a change of ownership meant the deal did not proceed.
On 17 June 2010, the 19-year-old Kieftenbeld signed a four-year contract with Eredivisie club Groningen, who paid a €300,000 fee for the player. He was presented as a right back, despite only ever having played in midfield. In his first season at Groningen he did indeed play at right back, competently enough, but in a 5–1 defeat away to Feyenoord, he struggled against Ryo Miyaichi, a player with pace and ability with both feet, and eventually fouled him to concede a penalty. Groningen finished the season in fifth position, thus qualifying for the play-offs for a place in the Europa League. Kieftenbeld was sent off in the first leg of the semi-final, so was suspended for the second. He was replaced at half-time in the first leg of the final, which Groningen lost 5–1 to ADO Den Haag, and was an unused substitute in the second leg as they recovered from the four-goal deficit only to lose out on penalties.
In his second season, Kieftenbeld played regularly in his preferred position in midfield. He scored his first goal for Groningen on 30 October 2011 in what finished up as their biggest win ever against Feyenoord, by six goals to nil. Kieftenbeld's goal was the second of the six, a powerful drive from 30 metres (33 yd). In the January transfer window, Groningen turned down what was described as a substantial bid for him from Belgian Pro League club Club Brugge; having let Danny Holla join VVV-Venlo on loan, they were not prepared to lose another midfielder. His performances over the season earned him the supporters' vote as Player of the Year.
Kieftenbeld was more often substitute than starter in the first few weeks of 2012–13 under new manager Robert Maaskant, but went on to re-establish himself in the side. A minor knee injury sustained during the mid-season training camp meant he missed a couple of matches, and thereafter his appearances in the starting eleven were intermittent, whether through suspension or just not being selected. Groningen finished in seventh place, albeit 19 points behind Twente whom they faced in the play-offs. Kieftenbeld put in a strong performance in the first leg in a 1–0 defeat at home, but a 3–2 loss in the second leg confirmed that Groningen would not qualify for the Europa League.
Ahead of the 2013–14 season, Maaskant's replacement Erwin van de Looi appointed Kieftenbeld vice-captain, with Rasmus Lindgren as captain. He began the season on the bench, but soon came back into the starting eleven, frequently wore the captain's armband in Lindgren's absence, and reduced his yellow-card count in the first half of the season from his usual five or six to just one. Towards the end of the season, he captained the side even when Lindgren played – at the latter's recommendation – and according to the club's website, he was the inspiration for a ten-match unbeaten finish that meant Groningen qualified for European football for the first time in seven years. Technical director Henk Veldmate said he was a "worthy ambassador" for the club both on and off the field. Amid interest both from other Eredivisie clubs and from abroad, including Club Brugge, Kieftenbeld signed a new two-year contract. The negotiations were lengthy, but the player said he was happy staying where he was appreciated, and the prospect of European football played a part. According to the club, the player insisted on a release clause being included in the contract.
Groningen entered the 2014–15 Europa League in the second qualfifying round. After a goalless draw in the away leg, opponents Aberdeen took a two-goal lead in the second leg. Kieftenbeld scored a headed goal just before half-time to reduce the deficit, but Aberdeen held out and Groningen were eliminated. Afterwards, Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes spoke of the motivation they drew from over-confident remarks reportedly made by Kieftenbeld and others ahead of the second leg which they perceived as disrespectful. Domestically, Kieftenbeld missed only one match in all competitions, through suspension, and played every minute of Groningen's 2014–15 KNVB Cup run. In the quarter-final, he "hammered in the fourth from the edge of the box" in a 4–0 defeat of Eredivisie club Vitesse Arnhem, and Groningen beat another top-flight club, Excelsior, 3–0 in the semi-final. In the final, Albert Rusnák's two goals were enough to beat cup-holders PEC Zwolle, and Kieftenbeld as captain lifted the first major trophy in the club's history.
Kieftenbeld was twice shortlisted for the Eredivisie's annual Maatschappelijk Speler (Community Player) award, which brings with it a €50,000 prize to be donated to a social project of the winner's choice. He was actively involved with Kids United, a football team for children with disabilities. Although he did not win on either occasion, his charity still benefited when the 2015 winner, Jeroen Zoet, shared the prize money with the other two nominees. In late July 2015, English club Birmingham City made a bid for Kieftenbeld's services that triggered the release clause in his contract. Although Groningen accepted they could not stop him leaving, they were disappointed not just at losing their captain so soon before the start of the new season, but at losing a player who did so much for the club in the community.
On 27 July 2015, Kieftenbeld signed a three-year contract with Football League Championship (second-tier) club Birmingham City. The fee was officially undisclosed, but the release clause figure was widely reported as €250,000. He went straight into the starting eleven for the opening game of the season, playing alongside Stephen Gleeson in a 4–2–3–1 formation, "clattered around midfield breaking up play, putting in tackles and generally making it uncomfortable" for the opponents, and kept his place for the next few league matches. After David Davis's fine performance in the League Cup tie against Aston Villa was followed by mistakes in midfield in a poor defeat at home to Rotherham United, manager Gary Rowett included Davis alongside Kieftenbeld and Gleeson as Birmingham won 2–0 at Brentford. Minor injury restricted Kieftenbeld to a seat on the bench against Blackburn Rovers in early November, and Davis took over his role as Rowett reverted to a two-man central midfield. Although Rowett said Davis was unlucky not to start the visit to Brighton & Hove Albion at the end of the month, Kieftenbeld returned to the side to provide "a bit more control"; he was involved in an incident when Liam Rosenior suffered knee damage in what Brighton manager Chris Hughton described as a "just a whole-hearted challenge".
Having scored just five times in more than 200 league matches in the Netherlands, Kieftenbeld registered three goals in 22 days in January 2016. In the 89th minute of the match at home to Brentford, he won the ball in midfield, played it through to James Vaughan, and kept running; when Vaughan shot across goal, Kieftenbeld arrived at the far post just in time to slide the ball home for the winner. At Derby County two weeks later, he ran on to a clearance and hit a powerful volley from outside the penalty area wide of the goalkeeper to complete a 3–0 victory, and repeated the feat in the next match, at home to Ipswich Town. The goals earned him a nomination for January's Championship Player of the Month, but he lost out to Hull City's Abel Hernández.
Kieftenbeld made five appearances for Birmingham at the start of the 2017–18 season. Late on 31 August 2017, he was reported to have signed a two-year contract with Championship rivals Derby County for an undisclosed fee. However, the league refused to ratify the transfer because the relevant documentation had not been submitted before the end of the transfer window, so Kieftenbeld remained a Birmingham player.
Kieftenbeld made his first appearance in international football for the Netherlands Beloftenelftal (Promises Team), an under-21 team providing a stepping-stone between the under-19 team and the full under-21 team, in March 2010. He played the first half of a 2–1 defeat in a friendly match against Slovenia U21. After Leroy Fer and Dirk Marcellis were requisitioned for the senior squad in August 2010, Kieftenbeld received his first under-21 call-up, and made his debut as a second-half substitute in a 2011 European Championship qualifier against Liechtenstein, He also played against Spain in September with the group already won: taking the field after 66 minutes, he was sent off 12 minutes later for a foul on Ander Herrera. He made his first start for the under-21s in a friendly against Denmark in November 2010, playing at right back in a 3–1 win; his through ball set up Bas Dost for the third goal. He played in two more U21 friendlies, against the Czech Republic and Germany, and was an unused substitute in four Euro 2013 qualifiers in 2011 and 2012. His last international appearances were at the 2012 Toulon Tournament, at which the Netherlands were represented by the Beloftenelftal; he played in four of their five matches.
Dutch journalist Michiel Jongsma suggests that Kieftenbeld's position of choice is as a holding midfielder in front of the defence, where he can best use his energy in recovering the ball. He is comfortable on the ball and able to distribute it, but can be careless in possession, and "he really tries to shake up things when the play has gone dormant. In that lies his weakness as well – he can pick up silly fouls and cards from time to time." With Groningen, he averaged eight yellow cards a season. According to Groningen's technical director Henk Veldmate, speaking in 2014, his battling style and never-say-die attitude made him the sort of player with whom supporters could identify. In a 2011 interview, Kieftenbeld described himself as a perfectionist who always wanted to improve, and said that he sometimes put too much pressure on himself.As of match played 26 August 2017
FC GroningenKNVB Cup: 2014–15