The death of Diego Maradona, one of the greatest players of all time, should serve as a timely reminder that his famous No.10 position is in danger of extinction.
The ‘playmaker’ position, as it is often referred to, has become a fading artform in the Premier League with very few managers affording space for one in their formations.Embed from Getty Images
They were almost an unknown quantity to fans of the early Premier League era as many coaches favoured the 4-4-2 formation with one holding midfielder and another box-to-box midfielder instead.
This system gave rise to the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – all wonderfully gifted footballers but playing within the constraints of their formation.
Meanwhile in Europe, mercurials Maradona, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka were free to roam the fields to devastating effect for both club and country.
That is not to say that the Premier League has not experienced some exceptional No.10s itself; Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola and David Silva were all shining examples of how the position should be played.Embed from Getty Images
There has been an obvious culture shift in the Premier League over the last 15 years or so and 4-4-2 has been left in the past in favour of the more attack-focused 4-3-3 and it’s variations.
Pep Guardiola has been a pioneer of the possession-based 4-3-3 and used it to win trophies across Europe just as Jurgen Klopp is doing now and Jose Mourinho did before both of them.
This has placed an emphasis on wingers and there is now a shortage of players coming through who naturally favour the No.10 role and a lack of willingness from managers to incorporate them into their tactics.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden has all the attributes to play in the creative position between the midfield and the forwards but is instead used by Guardiola as a wide player, competing with Raheem Sterling, who possess a different set of attributes, for the same position.
The same could be said of Chelsea’s Mason Mount, who like Foden has great vision, passing range and movement but is regularly deployed by manager Frank Lampard as part of the front three.
Both players are also extremely versatile and are part of talented squads which are among the favourites for success in football betting, but a look further down the Premier League table at Aston Villa, with fewer assets at their disposal, tells the same story.Embed from Getty Images
Despite developing into a player who looks born to play in the No.10 role, Jack Grealish is even utilised as a left-winger at Villa Park.
The 25-year-old has had to work his socks off to convince England manager Gareth Southgate he’s worthy of a place in his squad but even between Foden, Mount and Grealish there doesn’t seem to be a place in the international set up for a No.10 either.
The Spanish and Italian leagues might have been more accommodating for the No.10s in the past but now we are seeing a downturn in their use not just in the Premier League, but across Europe too.
There’s no doubt Maradona’s homeland of South America has produced some of the best playmakers in the history – with such flair and passion ingrained their philosophies.
But the current generation are in fear of their legacy now as explained by Everton’s James Rodriguez: “The thing is there are a lot of kids that don’t want to play number 10 anymore,” said the Colombian who was signed from Real Madrid in the summer.
“There are a lot of kids that prefer to be forwards or midfielders, football has created that now.
“Now everyone plays 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, hardly any kids want to be a number 10 because now there aren’t any.”