The Emergence and Decline of the No. 10 Role in Football

Decline of the No. Role in Football

Last Updated on September 5, 2021

This article explains in detail the Emergence and decline of the No. 10 role in Football.

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In football, nothing surpasses the prestige of the number 10. This fact can be seen when we look at the world’s most celebrated players like Pelé, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, and Lionel Messi, who all have worn the number 10 shirt. However, in modern football, there is a major decline of the No. 10 role.

Prominent No. 10’s in Football

Players like Mesut Ozil, David Silva, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, Kevin De Bruyne, and most notable, Kaka, have performed excellently in this role. Statistics alone back up their stamp in world football.

In the premier league, Juan Mata was one of the best in the position. He won back-to-back player of the year for Chelsea as his vision and passing were top-notch.

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Mesut Ozil at Madrid remains one of the best in this position. He provided players like Benzema, Ronaldo, and Higuain about 47 assists in the league in his first (3) seasons at the club. Ozil was Germany’s golden boy and soon gained praise around the world.

Despite the success of the many No. 10’s like Ozil, Mata, Kaka, and the rest, why is the No. 10 role now on the decline in modern football?

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Why The No. 10 Role No Longer holds So Much Value to Coaches

For so many reasons, as we will discuss in this section, the No. 10 position is getting less influential than at any other time.

Due to the physical demands of modern football, coaches viewed this position as a liability. Most players in this position offer very little defensively. When they meet physically tough opponents, they usually disappear.

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Furthermore, Evolution in football is bound to happen. Top teams in Europe are no longer adopting the 4-2-3-1 formation. Classic Center Attacking Midfilederrs, who occupied these roles became inverted wingers or Central Midfielders (CM).

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The Begining of The End of the No. 10 Role

Over the years, football fans have debated why players who occupied the ten roles have fallen off the list to start modern football games. Laziness is the most highlighted reason for the decline of the number ten role. Generally, they are delicate players who don’t give the work rate in the pitch’s defensive end, particularly when involved out wide.

They found themselves in difficult situations as they were man-marked out of games by one of the holding midfielders. This, in turn, led to a reduction in chances created in games. Consequently, No. 10’s are substituted first in most cases.

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Lack of movement from classic number 10s has seen coaches look away when going for players in the transfer market. Some coaches even consider them to be the laziest players on the pitch. This contributes to the decline of the No. 10 Role in Football

The emergence of the 4-3-3 was a significant blow on the number 10 position and teams like Barcelona were the masters of the 4-3-3.

The Evolution of Morden Day No. 10’s

The success of the 4-3-3 formation saw the gradual Decline of the No. 10 Role in Football. Players who had previously played behind the center-forward had to either drop more into the midfield 3, move out wide to become part of the front (3), or watch as the game evolved in front of their eyes and see themselves left behind.

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David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are examples of players who quickly adapted. Both players had to play deeper – requiring them to become more defensively solid and up their work rate in games.

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Players like Ozil and Mata are noticeable players who have struggled to adapt due to low physical presence to operate on both ends of the pitch.


Due to the gradual Decline of the No. 10 Role in Football, concerned players have either moved to false nine roles or inverted wingers in recent times.

The talented number 10s who could adapt their games are generally the players who can handle these physical demands. Those who stayed static struggle to get game time, good form, or played out of position.

Which Center Attacking midfielder has adapted most to the evolution of the No. 10 role?

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