The false nine is a position which has been rarely used in football history.
However, with the unparalleled success that Barcelona and Spain have achieved over the past few years by using this technique, more and more teams were found to be using this tactic occasionally during the last season.
An unconventional striker who often drops deep to help in the buildup play, the false nine can potentially offer much more to the overall gameplay than the conventional 'true nine'. This article takes a look at the best false nines in the world at the moment.
5. Ezequiel Lavezzi | Paris Saint-Germain
Even though most people would associate Lavezzi as a left sided player in a front three, the Argentine was often used as a false nine during his time at Napoli.
His manager Walter Mazzarri (now coach of Inter Milan), used Lavezzi in this position whenever star striker Edinson Cavani was unavailable. And even though Lavezzi as a false nine was less impressive than Cavani as a striker, his performances in that role did prove that he is capable of pulling it off. However, this season Lavezzi was never tried out in that role, mostly due to the imperious form of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
4. Michu | Swansea
Very few could have predicted the effect that wonder-signing Michu would have on Swansea in his first Premier League season. Wherein he played as an attacking midfielder for previous club Rayo Vallecano, Swansea's Danish coach Michael Laudrup masterminded a role change for Michu, and played him as a false nine.
What resulted was an 18 goal season for the Spaniard, which has earned him rave reviews for his performances. The focal point of the Swans attack, scoring goals is not the only contribution that Michu made towards the Welsh club, with the player also being a key part of their buildup play.
3. Cesc Fabregas | Barcelona
A conventional attacking midfielder during his time at Arsenal, Fabregas was thrust into the role of false nine for Spain in Euro 2012 as a result of the absence due to injury of David Villa and the poor form of Fernando Torres.
Fabregas not only acquitted himself well, but was also one of the best players for Spain throughout the tournament. His success in the role for the national team has also persuaded Barcelona to use him in the same mould whenever Lionel Messi has been injured. The presence of Fabregas was one of the major reasons why the absence of depth at the striker position for the Blaugrana was not made glaringly obvious at the end of the season.
2. Francesco Totti | Roma
In 2006, Roma coach Luciano Spalletti settled on a formation, which used Totti in an adventurous role bridging the defence and attack. Even though many managers have come and gone since then, almost all of them have used Totti in the same role, and the Italian maestro has never disappointed.
The ageless Totti has performed admirably for Roma in this role and is probably one of the greatest players ever to play as a false nine. This season Totti was at it again, proving a handful for opposition defenders - scoring twelve and assisting a further twelve more as he was once again one of the better performers in a disappointing Roma side.
1. Lionel Messi | Barcelona
Lionel Messi has been the principal reason why there has been a resurgence of the false nine - something that had become near extinct since the 1980s.
Even though the Argentine has shown amazing skill wherever he plays, Messi has produced his best football since he was assigned the role of a false nine by then Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. How well Messi has performed in that position is plain for all to see, with the player having won his last two Ballon d'Ors for the perfection he showed in this role.
Easily the best attacker in football history, the false nine position brought out the best in the immensely talented player. Even though it has been the coolly executed runs, the long range strikes, the pinpoint finishing and the free kicks that have earned him the status he enjoys today, an equally important part of Messi's game is the ability to drop deep to supplement his midfield. And it is indeed this ability that has made the Argentine so massively devastating.
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