The position of the classic number 10 was once designated to the most technically proficient player on a team. The names given to this player are many. Some called him an enganche, attacking playmaker, a fantasista, trequartista, Media Punta, or meia atacante. A club’s success or failure often hinged on the inventiveness of a classic number 10. Every kid with a football dreamed that they could one day represent their country from the position of the playmaker.
Football has changed, and so have midfield responsibilities. The game is more physical than before, teams are better organized defensively, and many of the greatest squads don’t depend on the vision of a singular player anymore. Teams like Manchester City, for example, often rely on two or three playmakers at a time.
However, the classic number 10 in the traditional sense can still be found in certain systems. The requirements for such a role are always the same. The player has to be brilliant on the ball, flawless in their passing, and possess endless supplies of imagination. These are, according to FootballCoin stats, the greatest footballing playmakers, used as classic number 10s, in the world right now.
Note: We are making a distinction between a classic number 10 footballer and a playmaker. For that reason, regardless of the number of goals or assists, some world-class midfielders are not on the list.
5 Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
German football managers are the most popular tacticians in the world at present. Still, it’s interesting to note how Bundesliga continues to produce classic number 10 footballers that play at the highest level. One such enganche is veteran Borussia Dortmund player Marco Reus.
Diego Maradona famously wore the number 10 jersey. While football is different, Reus has a similarly important role to play at Dortmund as El Pibe de Oro did for Argentina. Reus’ progress overall may have stagnated due to injuries. In spite of this, he has scored a goal nearly every two games for Dortmund.
A classic football number 10 player, most attacks are directed by Marco Reus. This year, he has averaged 3.42 chances created per game. That’s more than half of what the entire squad produces. Also, 74% of Reus’ passes are progressive ones, with an over 80% success rate. Dortmund, clearly, like to play with a classic number 10 whenever they can, but they are not the only German side to do so as we will see.
4 Thomas Muller (Bayern Munchen)
Thomas Muller, once, famously christened his role on the pitch Raumdeuter. Yes, the Bayern Munchen player’s role is often to find space. However, that speaks of his responsibilities in the squad or lack thereof. In recent seasons, especially, Muller has been given a free role that resembles that of a classic number 10.
This has allowed the Germany international to smash the record for assists. Still, in many ways, Muller is underrated. While some may believe that the Bavarian merely spends his time looking for pockets of space, this is not true. Muller has an xG of 1.8 and an xA of 1.1 according to Fbref.com. Muller helps create 4.39 chances per game. And, he makes 4.94 progressive carries per game. This all paints the picture of Thomas Muller as a classic number 10, the player on which Bayern Munchen often relies for their creative spark.
3 Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig)
Our third Bundesliga player on our list, Dani Olmo was brought up in the tradition of the almighty Spanish midfielders. His role for RB Leipzig is different from the one he plays for Spain. While, Lionel Messi, also, long wore the number 10 jersey, Olmo, who plays under number 25 in Germany, is closer to the classic meaning behind the symbol.
It is true that Olmo provides fewer goals and assists than some of the other players on this list. However, he is responsible for 5.77 progressive passes per 90 minutes. This means that 95% of his passes are made with the intention to set his team on the offensive.
Olmo is the enganche in RB Leipzig’s setup. He makes 4.04 touches per game on average in the opposition’s box, and, nearly every attack by his team has him involved heavily. It’s no wonder that opponent teams pay so much attention to the player.
2 James Maddison (Leicester City)
Is the current Real Madrid number 10 fit for our list? Perhaps not. Real Madrid’s number 10 is Luka Modric. Yes, he is a playmaker. However, he usually shares creative decisions with fellow midfielder Toni Kroos. Furthermore, Real’s underlapping full-back, Marcelo, regularly plays in a manner more similar to what we associate with the classic number 10.
One player that does however fit the bill is Leicester City’s James Maddison. The England international wears number 10. He is, also, responsible for the majority of the team’s creative choices. This can leave the Foxes vulnerable when Maddison has an off day.
The trade-off, however, is that the classic number 10 can be the man to take responsibility fully when needed. Maddison makes around 45 passes per 90 minutes. He makes 4.13 progressive passes, but he receives 6.13 of all progressive passes from teammates. Maddison also takes around 3 shots on target per game. Simply put, Maddison is a classic number 10 because the level of his performances determines the quality of Leicester’s.
1 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Bruno Fernandes is the epitome of the classic number 10 at a time when this role has all but vanished for important teams. Since his arrival at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon, Fernandes has been dictating the pace and attitude of his team’s style.
Manchester United has been better off for this. Bruno Fernandes has scored 30 goals in 57 appearances for United. He is, practically, involved in every single attacking set up by the team. The enganche can be seen and heard demanding the ball in all areas of the pitch, at all times.
This has meant that Bruno Fernandes has been, essentially, irreplaceable playing nearly every single game for Man. United. The Portuguese receives an average of 8.26 progressive passes and provides 6.06 himself. He makes 6.25 progressive carries, one of the best figures in the EPL. He attempts 62 passes per 90 minutes. Ironically, this means that Bruno Fernandes is, often, the one source for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attacking innovations. But, with results firmly in his favor, few are complaining. It leaves Bruno Fernandes as the best, and one of the few remaining classic number 10 players in football today.
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