Perfect 10

I love playmakers. There is nothing quite as satisfying as a glorious Trequartista.

Watching someone pass the ball in a totally unexpected way is exciting. Sometimes a playmaker of real class will play a pass that I didn’t see. Even though I’ve got the benefit of being sat on my sofa with a panoramic view of proceedings. When it’s not a pass we expect, or a pass we predict then the defence has no chance and seeing someone wrong footed by a pass is rewarding, like a good bit of spin bowling when the batsman plays all round it.

They dribble, with better tricks than Derren Brown and more flair than the annoying waiter from Office Space. Putting the ball through someone’s legs is a requirement. Beating players with skill rather than physique a must. There are other fine points as well, like the weight and spin on a pass. Where it sucks the defender into thinking he can intercept it, only to miss it and end up on his bum. Where the ball spins into the channel allowing the pacey wide player to sprint onto it taking his opponent out of the game. Everything a playmaker does has refinement, technique, a delectable sheen of class. They stand out but are so hard to quantify. They make other players look better than they are. They are loved, worshipped and adored; but they are in decline.

Heroes of the recent past

Zinedine Zidane, you only have to read his name to have a wave of technical quality brush over you. He did so many nice things with a football. Admittedly there was that one time where he lost the plot (and a World Cup final) when he head-butted a guy, but all the other stuff, all the good bits, were lovely. Zidane was king of doing things the hard way, he would make simple passes look elegant and complicated passes look impossible, because for most professionals, they would be.

Then there’s Juan Roman Riquelme who can do whatever he likes. He was so good it was silly, sadly it took a move to a smaller Spanish club for him to really shine in Europe, but what a player, what a brain. The trouble is, when a player with so much quality can’t make it at Barcelona because of the type of player he was, that does put a bit of a downer of things for everyone else. He’s still busy nutmeging people in Argentinian club football.

Ronaldo getting Messi and other pretenders

I want to watch a classic number 10 play again. Lionel Messi is a phenomenon, he’s some kind of hyper new breed of footballer of incredible ability, but it’s all so fast and efficient. Although his ability is utterly devastating, he spends far too much time beating teams and not nearly enough time taking the piss out of them. When he did that scoop finish, that got me excited, that’s what I want to see more of. Cristiano Ronaldo has tricks, he can pull a defenders pants down, but he much prefers to bang a goal in and it has to be all about him. I can’t ever remember watching him and thinking “wow what a pass from Ronaldo, he’s really making his team-mates look good tonight”. There is also that Neymar chap who has a lovely highlights reel, but who would rather do a little dance than play a clever pass.

David Silva and Juan Mata show promise, they both have sumptuous technique. Like a ripe crisp apple that you just want to take a nice big juicy bite out of. Too often they are shunned to the wide areas and told to create, when they belong in the centre of things, free to roam around, dip in and out of play, have a stroll safe in the knowledge that defensive responsibility is something for “the lesser players”. Jack Wilshere has great technique, but there is too much English’ness in him and he spends far too much time trying to tenaciously boot people. Gareth Bale can do wondrous things but there is far too much sprinting past people for a real number 10, although he’s definitely more fun to watch now he’s playing in a central area.

I want a perfect 10. I want a play-maker, piss-taker, nutmegs, reserve passes, controlling the game with swagger and style and class. I love watching Wes Hoolahan. He’s not in the same class as the players mentioned above but the way he plays the game is admirable. Perhaps it’s too much talk of pass completion rates or end product, but right now I’d love to find a player who still plays the beautiful game.

You could make a case for Mesut Ozil, or Diego of Wolfsburg but while they are very clever players, they are both a bit safe. They are both good, but I want that flash of genius.  Mario Gotze is an incredible talent and he might become the player I crave but he’s not there yet. Neither is Ganso or Oscar, Toni Kross, Marek Hamsik, Santi Cazorla or Eden Hazard, Wesley Sniejder was maybe for a little bit but not any more. I do love watching Andres Iniesta, as he seems to do everything with the outside of his foot, or on the turn, or with a first touch, but he’s drowned out by the rest of the Barcelona team. He should come and play for Norwich and pull all the strings, then I’d be all over him. Sadly there is only one player right now who really ticks all my boxes…

Luis Suarez

He scores outrageous goals of sublime technical skill. He plays silly passes and makes the players around him look better than they are. He takes people on, he nutmegs everyone. In fact he gets more nugmegs than any player I’ve ever really seen before. He’s cheeky, he mocks the opposition, he’s completely unpredictable and he’ll attempt the most ridiculous audacious moments of skill. He may not be the classic Trequartista but he’s about as close as I think you can get right now. I don’t really know what this means, I didn’t set out to end it like this, but when I actually sat on and thought about it I came to this conclusion because I do love watching him play; although it’s tinged with pain when he’s destroying Norwich.

So there it is. If you’ve got a better idea, or think there is someone I’ve missed, stick it in the comments.

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