The term trequartista comes from the Italian and means, literally, three quarters, because of where somebody who occupies this position is usually to be found on the pitch.
In football it can be equated to the role of an advanced playmaker, and its equivalent is the number 10 position.
In fact, they are neither a striker nor playmaker in the strict sense of the word, but something of a hybrid in between.
Somebody in this position is expected to create and score goals for the team.
They would normally play behind but close to a main striker or two (it is not uncommon to find a side adopt a 4 – 3 – 1 – 2 formation to accommodate them), and they would shoulder the main creative burden.
In this role players are expected either to receive the ball from those behind and quickly move it forward to the strikers, or to fashion a scoring chance for themselves.
A trequartista is expected to have vision, quick feet, and dribbling ability. They also should score their fair share of goals, a difficult balance to achieve.
What they are not expected to do is carry out their share of defensive duties, and this is where the position comes with its risks, especially in the eyes of many modern managers.
Nowadays many teams like to press from the front, which a trequartista is not suited to do.
That also means that the position can soon become a liability, and one that threatens the defensive shape of a team, because it often means either sacrificing a midfielder, or natural width.
It is easy in such situations for a team to become overwhelmed in midfield.
And it can also lead to mistrust of the trequartista by managers, fellow players, and sometimes, the supporters.
Whilst the position is not often found in modern football, there have been some brilliant exponents in the past. It is notable that several of these have been Argentinian, suggesting there is a much greater tolerance and acceptance of the role in South America.
The best trequartista
Diego Maradona was the exception that proved the rule, because he was equally adept at both scoring and creating goals.
In his career he scored 159 goals and provided 79 assists, and was a brilliant all-round player, with brilliant dribbling ability, aided by a low centre of gravity and excellent balance. He also had pace, creativity and vision in abundance, and was given licence by his managers to interpret the role as he deemed fit.
What made Maradona stand out was his ability to stamp his personality and authority on a game, and ensure that it was played at his tempo.
Juan Roman Riquelmé
Another Argentine Riquelmé was seen as Maradona’s natural heir, a player of grace, technique, and vision, blessed with excellent passing ability. He also scored more than his fair share of goals, usually operating in a slighter deeper role behind a central striker.
Where he can be differentiated from Maradona is that he lacked his pace and did not have the same dribbling ability.
Not everybody appreciated his qualities, though. When he was at Barcelona, Louis van Gaal, his manager at the time, regarded him as a political signing, and rarely started him, and, when he did so, it was often in an unfamiliar wing position. Van Gaal believed that Riquelmé was incapable of varying the speed of his game.
He was regarded as a selfless team player, who might have scored more goals himself had he been less concerned with creating chances for others to shoot instead.
Johan Cruyff is arguably one of the greatest European players of all-time and he has had a huge influence on the modern game through his time as the manager of Barcelona.
Although he is more commonly associated with the concept of total football, in essence he was a trequartista, capable of playing any role on the pitch, but more usually occupying the attacking end of the field, setting up chances for others and getting more than his fair share of goals himself.
Cruyff would move around the pitch constantly, dragging opponents out of their natural positions, and leaving space for team-mates to exploit. Speed on the ball was essential for any Cruyff team.
He also initiated a possession style game that has become the hallmark of many successful teams, including those managed by one of his proteges, Pep Guardiola.
Alfredo di Stéfano
Another Argentine with claims among the finest to have played the game, Di Stéfano was an integral part of the Real Madrid team that dominated the early years of the European Cup. The ‘Blond Arrow” as he was known was notionally a forward, but he could play in a variety of positions in the attacking third, where he could use his strength, skill, creativity and tactical versatility.
He was also an excellent dribbler, and was highly proficient in using a range of feints and other tricks to get past defenders and create chances both for himself and others, whilst he was also constantly moving.
Whilst at Real Madrid, he formed one of the best partnerships of all-time, with the Hungarian Ferenc Puskás, a far less mobile player, but was arguably and even better striker.
Part of the Brazil side that have been named the greatest team never to have won the World Cup, Zico was usually deployed as an attacking midfielder, although he could also be used as a second striker, a central midfielder, or even out wide.
(Arguably Brazil’s defeat to Italy in the 1982 World Cup is an example of the dangers of playing with too many creative players in the same side).
A diminutive playmaker, Zico was considered one of the best passers of his generation, and he was also a highly accomplished dribbler.
He was also a prolific goalscorer himself, known for his accurate and powerful shooting and also composure in front of goal.
Zico is considered one of the finest free-kick takers in the history of the game, renowned for his ability to bend the ball and beat the goalkeeper, even from relatively close range, because of a peculiar technique which saw him place significant importance on his standing foot, and then raising the knee on his kicking foot unnaturally high.
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