False nine is a term used in football to describe the center forward player who disrupts opposition marking by regularly dropping back into the midfield in order to create a space for a pass, a dribble or rushing midfielders as well as for wingers or forwards to exploit. It is considered to be an advanced midfielder position, which makes the center forward an unconventional lone striker.

The term is derived from the number of center forwards as well as the fact that these players stay near the defender’s line. Since the false nine plays a very crucial role, he or she needs to have a good vision for him or her to play through players, especially teammates. He or she also needs to have excellent skills in short passing and dribbling. These will help in creating the space needed.

Famous False Nines

There have been a good number of center forwards who played as false nines. The first was Juan Peregrino Anselmo. Anselmo was part of the national team of Uruguay who played as a false nine during the 1930 World Cup. Another player that played the important role was Matthias Sindelar. Sindelar was part of the Austrian national team, Wunderteam, who was a false nine in the 1934 season.

Furthermore, the team from Hungary in 1950s also let their striker, Nandor Hidegkuti perform the false nine role. In fact, in 1953 the Hungarian team was praised by English football for its utilization of the Revie Plan, which involved Don Revie, a famous center-forward which employed the tactics of a false nine. This tactic was also used by Manchester City during that time.

Francesco Totti of Roma also gained a reputation of being a false nine that was believed to have led his team’s eleven consecutive victories.

In present times, Fernando Torres of Spain was famous in using the false nine against Cesc Fabregas in several matches, including the final match of Euro 2012. After this year, the role was employed by several clubs, which led to its popularity. Furthermore, the famous Lionel Messi of Bareclona has been made as the model for the said position or role in the recent times especially during the supervision of coach Pep Guardiola and successor, Tito Vilanova.