Soccer Number 10 Position: What It Takes to Play And Excel in This Position

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No number in Soccer is as important as number 10. Many all-time greatest players have been number 10 in soccer at one point in their career. 

Most of the magical moments you enjoy in soccer were also created by players wearing the number 10. I know you must be wondering why the number is so unique! 

The number 10 jersey is handed to the playmaker in a football team. Playmakers are positioned behind the main striker and create chances for the attackers to score. 

Football legends that have worn this number include Lionel Messi, Pele, Zidane, and many more. I will enlighten you more about the special number as we delve deeper. 

What is Number 10 in Soccer?

Different labels are given to attacking midfielders, depending on how they play. Football fans, pundits, and coaches study the players and label them off their performance. 

In Italian football, players that cover three-quarters of the pitch and link the midfield with the attack are known as “Trequartista.” Popular German footballer Thomas Muller also came up with a new term to describe his style of play. He calls it “Raumdeuter,” which means someone who finds space. 

Even though these two labels are different, they perform the duties of the number 10. 

Football is played in almost every country in the world, and you can find number 10 in almost all the football teams. 

Argentina, Brazil, and other countries with a rich football history are known for giving their most creative player the number 10 jersey. The role gained more importance when Maradona was at the peak of his career. 

The way he plays for the Argentinian National Team redefines what coaches expect of number 10. Even though it is hard to match the standard of Maradona, coaches train their number 10s to play in a style similar to how he plays. 

The player assigned the number 10 role operates in the middle and serves as a link between the wingers, central midfielders, and strikers. The way a number 10 plays also depends on the formation the team is using. 

In a 4-4-1-1 formation, the player occupying the number 10 position stays behind the striker, creates chances, and shoots when there is an opportunity.

Since there are two strikers in other formations, the No. 10 player focuses on providing assists and creating goal-scoring opportunities.

Why is Number 10 Special in Soccer?

No other player on the pitch is as creative as the one wearing the number 10 jersey. When the team loses and needs to create a goal out of nothing, they rely on such a player to create the magic. 

These players are also the most technical in football. Apart from being physically fit, they understand and read the game. They know when to release the killer pass and cross to the striker.

In most cases, footballers who play in this position are very talented. Most of what the number 10 does is what you can’t teach in football. 

As I stated earlier, the team’s formation influences how a number 10 plays. 

In formations with up to two central attacking midfielders, the number 10 won’t be as special because there are many creative players on the pitch. 

Similarly, in a defensive system, they might be required to hang back and support the defense when the team is protecting a lead. 

Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United is a famous example of a special number 10. Even though he doesn’t wear the number 10 jersey, everyone knows he plays that role for Manchester United.

He scores, assists, tackles, dribbles, creates chances, and does a bit of everything to keep the team balanced. This makes him an invaluable player.

History of the Number 10 Jersey

It’s important to know the history to understand why the number 10 jersey is so special. The use of jersey numbers in football started in Australia. 

The first recorded soccer match in which players wore numbered jerseys was in 1911 when HMS Powerful played Sydney Leichhardt. 

Subsequently, Argentina and the United States introduced jersey numbers in 1923 and 1924, respectively. 

Even though England now has the most popular league worldwide, they didn’t introduce jersey numbers until 1928. Unlike now, you would use jersey numbers to identify the position of each player on the field.

While defenders wore the numbers 2,3, 4, and 5, attackers wore 9 and 11, midfielders wore 10, 8, 6, and many more. Only the goalkeepers wore jersey number 1. 

As time passed, players started to choose their jersey numbers based on their inclination toward certain numbers. In other words, their jersey numbers no longer reflect their position on the pitch. 

For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo will always wear the number 7 no matter where he plays. Ronaldo started his football career as a winger and later became a striker as he matured. 

People now believe the player with the number 10 jersey will be the most exciting to watch. Zidane, Maradona, Pele, and other all-time greats have made a rich history for the number 10 Jersey. 

So football fans expect only technically good players to wear this number. 

Role of Soccer Player Number 10

As mentioned, number 10s have many roles to play on the pitch. They collect the ball from the defensive players, create space, move into attacking positions, and pass to the attackers. 

You need great footwork and pace to do these things efficiently. You should also have a good build to maintain stamina. 

It’s also important to have great movement and vision to connect the midfield and attack. Within a short time of getting the ball, you need to pass to an attacker or midfielder that is not tightly marked. 

Dribbling is also important for a central attacking midfielder. If many opposition players surround you, you need to be able to take them on and create space for yourself. The role of Number 10s can be divided into two. 

While they must be creative when they have the ball, they must also press and close down on opposition players when they lose the ball. 

If you watch Liverpool matches, you will notice that all their players press the opponents as soon as the team loses the ball. 

The striker is the first line of press. He chases down the opposing defenders, presses them, and causes them to lose the ball. 

The number 10 also presses the opposing midfielders and makes sure they don’t have enough space to receive passes.

Players like Modric even go so far as intercepting the play. He runs the whole midfield length and aims to hijack passes between opponents. He launches a counterattack when he gets the ball by playing a long ball to the striker. 

As we go further, I will tell you about the greatest number 10s to ever play the beautiful game.

The 5 Greatest Players to Wear the Number 10

Get ready to debate! Check out our list of the top 5 players who rocked the number 10 jersey on the field. Who’s your pick?

Lionel Messi

Messi is regarded as one of the best players of all time and is a prime example of a number 10 player. 

If not Lionel Messi of Argentina, who else? Lionel Messi started his career in the Barcelona B team, playing as a number 10 (Central attacking midfielder).

He sits in the midfield and waits to receive the ball before making brilliant attacking runs. When Messi was finally integrated into the Senior Barcelona team, he was mentored by greats such as Ronaldinho and Eto. 

Since those two players provided enough goals for Barcelona, Lionel Messi’s work in the team was easy. Messi used his dribbling skills to take on defenders and lay a beautiful pass to an attacking player on the run. 

When the legendary coach Pep Guardiola was hired to manage Barcelona in 2009, he noticed Messi’s immense potential and aimed to make him the best player in the world. 

At first, he got rid of all the old players and started to play Messi in a central attacking role. Lionel Messi peaked in that position and became the world’s best player. 

He would sometimes move deep to the opposition midfield to receive the ball. When he got it, he would pass it to Xavi or Iniesta and then run into a space where he would get the ball back and shoot. 

Messi has excelled in the central attacking midfield position in all the clubs he has played for. If that’s not enough proof that he’s worthy of Number 10, maybe check how many Ballon d’Or he has won. 

Diego Maradona

Like Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona came from Argentina and is also considered the best player ever according to many fans. Maradona was a great dribbler who had perfect control of the ball. He could play well in tight spaces and created chances from nothing. 

One of the reasons Maradona could do all these is because of his intelligence when it came to strategy. He understood the game well and could predict other players’ moves. As a perfect number 10, Diego Maradona is known for his flair and creativity. 

Defenders found it difficult to predict his movements, so they often racked up fouls while trying to stop him. 

Even though Maradona had a small build, he was physically fit and could run the whole pitch length several times in a game.

You could call Maradona a perfect number 10 because he had the ideal blend of attacking and midfield qualities. He could dribble players and shoot the ball better than anyone during his time. 

You can check YouTube for some of his short and long-range goals. He also mastered the art of passing the ball. From making short to long-range passes, Maradona could break any defense with his technical skills. 

Maradona achieved a lot during his playing time and helped Argentina win their first World Cup trophy. 


When it comes to an undeniably well-rounded player, Pele comes first to mind. He played the number 10 role like no one had before…or even since. 

Firstly, let’s start with Pele’s ball-shooting ability. He is known for scoring different types of goals. Pele was unpredictable; from long-range volleys to bicycle kicks, he made scoring goals look like a piece of cake. 

Even though Pele was not as tall, he made up for it with incredible jump power. Pele could jump higher than tall defenders and score a fantastic header. 

He was also perfect at making solo runs at a goal. You can watch up to 2-hour videos of him scoring solo goals in a Brazilian Jersey. 

Unlike most players, Pele didn’t have a dominant foot; he could strike the ball powerfully with both feet. In tough matches, Pele was known to drop deep and create chances from the midfield. 

As a number 10, he received the ball from the defenders and dictated play. Pele had a great goalscoring record, averaging almost one goal per game, but that’s not his most noteworthy achievement. 

Pele’s greatest achievement was winning five World Cups. That is not an easy feat that just anyone can replicate. In fact, no one has been able to replicate it since.

Alfredo Di Stefano

Even though Alfredo Di Stefano had enough qualities to play any forward or midfield position, he chose to play as the number 10. 

Whenever he played in the middle, he dropped back to challenge the opposing defenders for the ball. He was also considered very dangerous whenever he had the ball. He could switch the play with long-range passes or take on multiple players to create a goalscoring opportunity. Di Stefano was the first box-to-box midfielder. 

He could run the whole pitch length and play in every position for 90 minutes. Long after he retired, tacticians started training players to be able to replicate this role. Players who have tried that role are Kante, Paul Pogba, and Bruno Fernandes. Even though those players are considered good, they are not as technical as Alfredo Di Stefano. 

Before Pele became famous in 1958, Di Stefano was regarded as the greatest player. Foreign leagues admired him and tried to sign him because of his playing style. 

He was a direct player and ran towards the goal whenever he got the ball. He played for River Plate, Huracan, Millonarios, Real Madrid, and Espanyol football clubs. 

Di Stefano played in the center-forward position for Real Madrid for most of his professional career. During those times, many Real Madrid fans believed he was their greatest player of all time. He also played for the Argentina National Team early in his career but switched to Spain later. 

Di Stefano won many trophies both as a player and a manager. He is an icon, and you should study his style if you intend to be a world-class central attacking player. 

Zinedine Zidane

When it comes to elegance and skill, no one comes close to Zidane. He secured a starting position in Real Madrid’s midfield with great ball control, dribbling, and passing. 

Even though he often played the number 10 role for Real Madrid, he wore the number 5 jersey. The only time he wore the iconic number 10 jersey was with the French national team. 

Throughout Zidane’s career, fans applauded him for his incredible first touch that allowed him to create space and set up the striker. 

Even though Zidane played more of a deeper role throughout his career, he was a well-known shot-taker. His incredible power and accuracy made it easy for him to score goals. 

Zidane played for France in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and was instrumental in winning the trophy. He also scored two incredible goals in the final. Zidane’s athleticism made winning aerial duels and playing key passes easy. 

Because he played with Ronaldo and other incredible attackers at Real Madrid, Zidane registered many assists, like other number 10s. 

Zidane is respected for his leadership qualities and knows how to motivate the team when losing. 

Many years after Zidane retired as a footballer, he went back to coach Real Madrid and consecutively led them to three Champions League titles.  


It is safe to say the number 10 position in soccer is the most important on the pitch. Playing such a position comes with many responsibilities. 

You must drop deep, support the defense, play accurate passes, shoot well, and make great off-the-ball movements. Even though creativity will make you stand out in this position, physical fitness is equally important. 

If you think you have the right skills required to be player number 10 in soccer, you need to make sure you train regularly and keep your body and mind fit for the job.

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