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Mame Biram Diouf

Revival Of The Deep Lying Playmaker

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It was a fine weekend for legendary deep-lying playmakers. In Spain,Xavi Hernández of Barcelona curled in a wonderful free-kick at Sevilla to complement his typical passing reliability. In Italy, Juventus's Andrea Pirlo was controlling the game in a comfortable win at Fiorentina, striding forward to score with a sublime chip. The next day, in England, Paul Scholes turned in another fine performance in Manchester United's destruction of Wolves.

The situation for Pirlo and Scholes was identical: both played their part in 5-0 victories away at a struggling side who had a man dismissed in the first half. The circumstances were perfect for both – neither Fiorentina nor Wolves are accustomed to pressing, and could not do so successfully when trailing in the game and facing a numerical deficit. It meant that Juventus and United had plenty of time deep in midfield, and both Pirlo and Scholes shone.

Granted, it was not a difficult game for either. Scholes barely broke into a sprint, while Pirlo did so only when he decided he fancied getting on the scoresheet. But it was a chance to see two fabulous technicians in their element – jogging around the centre circle, offering themselves for a short pass, then spreading the play out to the flanks, where their sides stretched the play and forced the 10 men to work harder. Pirlo completed 97% of his 143 passes, Scholes 98% of his 98. Xavi, the only man competing against 11 opponents and withdrawn before full-time, was down at 90% of 88.

Pirlo and Scholes had similar experiences this weekend, and similar experiences over the course of their careers. In the early part of their careers, both were considered a No10; an attacking midfielder or deep-lying forward. It is not unusual for players to move deeper as they lose their pace towards the end of their career, but that was not necessarily the case for either. Scholes never counted pace as a key attribute, and his attacking threat came from late runs into the box – more about timing than speed. Pirlo as a No10 was a calmer player, waiting for the ball to come to him before casually laying it off to a team-mate.

If pace was a factor, it was because the game became quicker, rather than these two becoming slower. Pirlo's retreat happened around the age of 22, when he enjoyed a successful spell on loan at Brescia under Carlo Mazzone. Roberto Baggio was the No10, so Pirlo had to play much deeper. When he was signed by Milan, Rui Costa and Clarence Seedorf had arrived the same summer, so Pirlo remained in that deep role. Scholes's move backwards was a more gradual process and happened 10 years later in his career, but had the same effect of revitalising his game.

Xavi is different – in basic terms he is a separate type of player, preferring constant neat short passes rather than the searching long diagonals that Pirlo and Scholes favour. Furthermore, his positional development was the opposite – he went from being the pivote in the Barcelona system to playing closer to goal. "They asked me to get up and down and provide assists," Xavi recalls in Graham Hunter's book Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. "But it's difficult from that [deep] position. Ten or 15 metres further up the pitch, where I play now, makes it much easier for me."

In different ways, those three have helped bring back the deep-lying role that briefly died. It is worth remembering that Pep Guardiola, whom Pirlo describes as "the model" for his position, whom Xavi pinpoints as "his idol", and who described Scholes as the best midfielder of his generation, was barely wanted when he left Barcelona at the age of 31 in 2001. As it happens, he turned up at Brescia, then searching for their Pirlo replacement – they were practically the only club in Europe that wanted a player in that mould in 2001.

While Xavi is at the heart of his club and national side, Scholes and Pirlo both found themselves out of contract last summer. Milan decided not to renew Pirlo's deal – and the player wanted a new challenge – while Scholes retired from the game to take up a loose coaching role at United. Both were free agents. Yet they have proven to be, in their respective leagues, the free signing of the season – Scholes rejoining United, Pirlo picked up by Juventus. "A player of his level and ability?" said an incredulous Gigi Buffon with a laugh. "He was the signing of the century."

They have proven even more effective than anticipated, and both are fulfilling roles that defy assumptions about their defensive weakness. Pirlo has been used even deeper than he is used to – generally not alongside a midfield terrier, as at Milan with Rino Gattuso, but instead on his own in front of the defence. Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio play higher up and drive at the opposition, sometimes leaving Pirlo stranded in front of the defence – but he gets by with good positioning. Scholes does not even have the benefit of that energy higher up in midfield – United's passer-runner combination has been shelved in favour of a distribution-based duo of Scholes and Michael Carrick that allows United to control the tempo of the game.

That is the fascinating thing about these players – they need a calm, patient feel to the game, or they can be completely overrun. The difference between the almost-great players of this mould (Carrick, Riccardo Montolivo, Néstor Ortigoza) and Xavi, Pirlo and Scholes is that the former are forced to accept it is not their type of game, while the latter can actively create that type of game. That is extremely difficult against sides wanting to be powerful, energetic and chaotic – it is easier to hijack a meditation session and turn it into a rave than vice versa.

That fits the image of these players off the pitch – not quite meditation fans, but quiet and extremely shy. "I restrict myself to the dressing room and to the pitch, those are my boundaries – I'm not interested in anything else, I don't like doing interviews, I don't like going on TV programmes, I don't have a Facebook page and I don't talk on Twitter." It is Pirlo talking, in an interview for La Stampa, but it could so easily be Scholes. Xavi, on the other hand, is content to spend his spare time picking mushrooms.

Despite the universal plaudits that came Scholes's way when he announced his retirement last year, he has won much fewer individual awards than his Italian and Spanish equivalents. Pirlo was man of the match in the 2006 World Cup final and won the Bronze Ball in the tournament, while Xavi has come third in the Ballon d'Or three times, and was Euro 2008's player of the tournament.

Scholes's lack of individual recognition hints at a lesser influence on the grandest stage, and it is not a huge surprise that he cannot boast of such awards. It is a shock, however, to discover that he has not received a single vote in the Ballon d'Or in his entire career. On five occasions he made the 50-man shortlist – 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007 – yet not a single journalist decided to vote for him. Granted, he may not deserve to have been in the top five in any particular year, but when you learn that players of the calibre of Jan Koller, Pape Bouba Diop and Freddie Kanouté have received votes, you do start to wonder.

There is still time. Xavi and Pirlo are now as influential as ever, and the same may be true for Scholes. Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed the chances of him playing at Euro 2012, but there is still unfinished business for Scholes at that level. "I'm not saying I would have made a difference," he said after turning down Fabio Capello's invitation to play at World Cup 2010. "I am saying I might have made the wrong decision." Some will doubt Scholes's ability to come out of retirement and have a crucial impact, but he has already done it once in 2012.[/background]

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Three actual great players in the modern time

Xabi is worth a mention

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Is Xavi a deep lying playmaker though? I know he has played there and is more than capable, but I dont see him as that.

Pirlo, Xabi Alonso are proper deep lying playmakers. Xavi is the best playmaker going but not a deep lying one really.

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The best ones I seen

Pirlo

Redondo

Scholes

Xabi

Pep

/

Up and coming

Luka could become a beast

Claise

Kroos

Sahin (at a different club or with a new coach)

I want to see how good Verratti will turn out under Pirlo's guidance in the next coming seasons

IMO Ganso would be a sick one because he hasn't got the pace to be AM in Europe( I think Riquelme was the last one paced talented AM)

/

IMO Xavi has got better since he stopped being a DLP and got pushed a bit higher because he was good but now he is a beast as a CM

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the role is changing already, i read an article the other day that mentioned some sections of Barcelona fans think Xavi slows them down when he plays too deep and that they much prefer him playing further up

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My fav atm is Alonso, some quarterback sh*t.

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My fav atm is Alonso, some quarterback sh*t.

Trust. Some of his passing is magical.

The pace, trajectory, the angle of the passes he plays everytime its just perfection.

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Scholes best ever i've seen but schweinstiger >>>>>>>>> xabi alonso , xavi ,iniesta

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Is Xavi a deep lying playmaker though? I know he has played there and is more than capable, but I dont see him as that.

Pirlo, Xabi Alonso are proper deep lying playmakers. Xavi is the best playmaker going but not a deep lying one really.

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Registas >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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The best ones I seen

Scholes

Xabi

Pep

:/ :/ :/

/

Luka could become a beast

Kroos

Sahin (at a different club or with a new coach)

:/ :/ :/

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the role is changing already, i read an article the other day that mentioned some sections of Barcelona fans think Xavi slows them down when he plays too deep and that they much prefer him playing further up

link?

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the role is changing already, i read an article the other day that mentioned some sections of Barcelona fans think Xavi slows them down when he plays too deep and that they much prefer him playing further up

link?

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guardiola wasnt that good

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Guardiola was a standard Catalan DMC.

Blossomed late and made some appearences for Spain.

Never one of the best.

In his era he was a good decade behind the likes of Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids, Adres Muller, Stefan Effenburg, Mehmet Scholl, Ruud Guilet, Thomas Brolin, Dunga etc

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Guardiola was a standard Catalan DMC.

Blossomed late and made some appearences for Spain.

Never one of the best.

In his era he was a good decade behind the likes of Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids, Adres Muller, Stefan Effenburg, Mehmet Scholl, Ruud Guilet, Thomas Brolin, Dunga etc

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Guardiola was a standard Catalan DMC.

Blossomed late and made some appearences for Spain.

Never one of the best.

In his era he was a good decade behind the likes of Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids, Adres Muller, Stefan Effenburg, Mehmet Scholl, Ruud Guilet, Thomas Brolin, Dunga etc

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

trust can't believe he dropped that

guardiola was one of the best along with mattheus and shit

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lol unless you late 20s dnt talk to man about guardiola

sick of these teens and 21 yr olds talkin about 90s football like was watchin

LOW IT

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