Football’s Greatest Advanced Playmakers
The role of the advanced playmaker has seemingly lost its place in modern football. With greater emphasis being placed on pace, power, pressing and transitional play, the luxury playmaker is someone that the game has deemed expendable. And to put it bluntly, it’s a crying shame.
Some of the game's finest players have played “in the hole” behind either one or two strikers. When Zinedine Zidane switched his Real Madrid formation from 4-3-3 to 4-1-2-1-2 midway through the 2016/17 season, it paid dividends. Zizou saw that Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t thriving on the left wing as he once did, and as such, he switched things up to accommodate his star man.
Gareth Bale was the player that was sacrificed from the starting eleven, and in came advanced playmaker Isco, who played behind a front two of the aforementioned CR7 and Karim Benzema. The tactical change paid dividends, as Los Blancos went on to become the first time in history to successfully retain the UEFA Champions League. They would also go on to lift the La Liga trophy for the first time in five years, and without the talented Spaniard, it wouldn’t have been possible.
This season, Real Madrid remain a sporting behemoth. Online bookmaker Bodog, which providessports betting Canada online
, have made the Whites one of the favorites for both domestic and continental success once again this season. Isco on the other hand has just been released by Sevilla after appearing just 19 times and being just 30 years of age.
As the role, unfortunately, dies out of the game, we honour it by taking a look back at some of the greatest advanced playmakers of the modern era.
When you think of the ultimate playmaker, the first player that springs to mind is Mesut Özil. When the talented German left Real Madrid for Arsenal back in 2013 for €50m, Cristiano Ronaldo said: "The sale of Ozil is very bad news for me. He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal...I'm angry about Özil leaving.” If that doesn’t speak of the talent that the former Werder Bremen man possessed, nothing will.
Özil burst onto the scene at just 21 years of age, starring for Germany as a young and unfancied Die Mannschaft side powered their way to the semifinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Along the way, the Germansthumped archrivals England 4-1
in the second round, before decimating Lionel Messi’s Argentina 4-0 in the quarterfinals. And Özil was integral to the success of Joachim Löw’s side.
At the culmination of the tournament, Real Madrid snapped up the talented playmaker for a fee thought to be as little as €15m. He would lift the Spanish league title and the Copa Del Rey during his three years in the Spanish capital, before moving on to Arsenal.
Özil won the World Cup with Germany in 2014 and continued to have many brilliant moments at the Emirates, providing 44 goals and 78 assists in over 250 appearances for the club. But when Arsene Wenger left the club in 2018, it was the beginning of the end.
Unai Emery took over from the iconic Frenchman, however, Özil quickly fell out of favour. He remained out of favour when the four-time Europa League-winning manager was dismissed and Mikel Arteta replaced him, beforebeing shipped off to Fenerbahce
on a free transfer in 2021.
Unlike Özil and Isco that came after him, Kaka wasn’t forced out of starting elevens and eventually clubs. The Brazilian sensation was arguably the shining star in a team full of stars at AC Milan. Just listen to this starting lineup: Dida, Cafu, Alessandro Nesta, Jaap Stam, Paolo Maldini, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi.
The Rossoneri’s team of the 2000s was one of the most iconic sides ever assembled, and Kaka was the jewel in Carlo Ancellotti’s crown. The former São Paulo spent seven years at the San Siro across two different spells, and won everything there was to win, namely the Scudetto, Italian Super Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
In his initial spell with the club between 2003 and 2009, Kaka was arguably the finest player on the planet. Up until Luka Modric in 2018, Kaka was the last man other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to lift the Balon d’Or. That was back in 2007 after he had just led Milan to a redemption victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final in Athens.
Throughout his time in the famous red and black stripes, the Brazilian scored 104 goals and provided 84 assists in 307 appearances.
He was also a picture of loyalty. In 2009,Manchester City made an offer of £100m
for his services and was reportedly offering wages of £500,000 per week, however, he refused to make the move. The figures being thrown around were unthinkable at the time, and this was a decade before Neymar moved to Paris Saint Germain and sent transfer fees through the roof.
Kaka did eventually move on, signing for Real Madrid six months after the Manchester City fiasco. A fee of €68.5m was enough to prize away Milan’s starman however unfortunately, the former Balon d’Or winner didn’t hit the heights expected of him. Don’t worry though Kaka, the streets won’t forget you.
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