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Impact of the Number 10 in Soccer

When you think of the most impactful position in soccer, the number that usually comes to mind is the number 10.

The number 10 in soccer is an attacking midfielder who is tasked with creating goal-scoring opportunities. It is a position that requires great talent, skill, and playmaking abilities. The number ten has been occupied by some of the greatest players to ever play the game.

In this article, you will gain a better understanding of the number 10 position in soccer as well as which were the greatest players to play the position.

Number 10 Position in Soccer

The number 10 in soccer is just one of 11 positions on the pitch. It is occupied by a team’s attacking center midfielder.

number 10 position in soccer

Here is a list of all the positions in soccer by number.

1Goal Keeper
2Right Back
3Left Back
4Right Center Back
5Left Center Back
6Left Defensive Mid-Fielder
7Attacking Right Mid-Fielder
8 Right Defensive Mid-Fielder
9Center Forward
10Attacking Mid-Fielder
11Attacking Left Mid-Fielder

The Role of a Number 10 in Soccer

Role of number 10 in soccer

The number 10 has a very important role in dictating the flow of a game.

The main role of a number 10 is to create goal-scoring opportunities. This is achieved by finding or creating open space on the opponent’s half of the field with the intention of exploiting it. Passing the ball into open space breaks down defensive formations and increases the chance of scoring.

Let us focus on the most important roles of a number 10.

Exploiting open space

A number 10 must-have great ability in exploiting open space which ultimately leads to goal-scoring opportunities. . This is done by finding weaknesses in a defensive formation and dribbling or passing into those areas. However, most defensive formations are very difficult to break down which then requires the strategy of drawing players out of position.

It is a very difficult task which is why a team’s attacking midfielder tends to be the most talented and skillful player. A high soccer IQ level is required to achieve this role because it requires anticipation and recognition. An effective way of drawing players out of position is running into open space and creating angles that produce passing lanes for receiving the ball. At that point, a number 10 can turn towards the goal side and push the ball or pass.

Controlling the mid-field

Control of the mid-field ensures a better flow of the game. A number 10 links the midfield with attacking midfielders and forwards but also links the right side of the field with the left and vice-versa. It has great offensive and defensive benefits.

Offensively, it allows for creating attacks by receiving and passing the ball toward attacking players. Additionally, occupying the center of the field allows for the right or left mid-fielder to pass the ball back to the center of the field if they run into a congested area.

This becomes very effective once a team is near the penalty box because it can lead to the number 10 taking a shot from the top of the box or passing it to the other side of the box where there might be less congestion. In either example, the chances of scoring become very high.

Defensively, a number 10 is the first line of defense. Controlling the mid-field makes it very difficult for the opposing team to create an attack. It creates opportunities to close off passing lanes and create turnovers. It is very difficult for an opposing team to create goal-scoring opportunities if they cannot control the ball in the mid-field.

Dictate the flow of a game

A number 10 is the driver of a game who dictates the flow and speed of a game. All other positions feed off of a number 10’s pace. He is always scanning and observing key aspects along with monitoring the pulse of a game. This is extremely important in attempting to gain the overall momentum of a game.

Dictating the speed of a game is crucial. If a number 10 senses that an opposing team is constantly pressing then he can lend the ball which ultimately leads to opposing players becoming tired and it slows the game down. “Lending the ball” means passing the ball to teammates and asking for it back right away. Then turn to another teammate and repeat the process.

This technique allows for the team to retain possession of the ball while waiting for the opposing team to get tired and fall back to their regular positions. After slowing the game down a number 10 can speed the game up in key moments to take advantage of defensive weaknesses.

Here is a great video that displays the different roles that are required of a number 10.

Qualities of a number 10 in Soccer

Qualities of a number 10 in soccer

The qualities of the number 10 are very specific. Very few players have the ability to successfully play the number 10 position due to the unique skill set that is expected of them.

The main qualities of a number 10 in soccer are creativity and great vision. A number 10 creates attacking plays by using great dribbling skills along with pin-point passing. To do this a number 10 must have the vision to locate or create weaknesses in a defensive formation and exploit them.

However, there are other key qualities that are crucial.

Game intelligence

A number 10 must be able to make split-second decisions based on recognizing positioning and movement during a game. He must analyze the ebb and flow of a game and use high intellect to create plays which is why it is often said that a really good number 10 is like having a coach on the field.

Spatial awareness

A number 10 must always know what is around him at all times. Most plays are developed by the attacking midfielder. The ball almost always comes through him before it gets to the other attacking players. Because of this, a number 10 must have an extraordinary understanding of spatial awareness.

This requires constant mobility in order to position himself to receive passes and turn the ball toward other attacking players. If an attacking midfielder lacks the vision of locating or creating open spaces then it weakens the attack.

Great first touch

Overall in the game of soccer, a good first touch is of great importance. However, a number 10 must ensure that he develops a great first touch. This ensures that the attacking midfielder receives the ball and can instantly dribble toward open space or pass toward an attacking midfielder making a run. It also guarantees that a number 10 can receive a ball and keep it close so that it doesn’t get away from him.

A great passer

A number 10 must-have excellent passing abilities. The quality and precision of a pass dictate the success of an attacking play or possession of the ball. He must understand and be able to execute short passes, long passes, give and go passes, through passes, back passes, forward passes, cross passes, and one-touch passes.

An attacking midfielder must also have a good judgment before making passes. For example, if the right attacking midfielder is covered by two players and is in a congested area then the right choice would be to look toward the left side of the field where the left attacking midfielder or forward might be in open space.


Having an idea of what will happen before it happens is a quality that a number 10 must possess. The anticipation of knowing where a teammate is going to be before making a pass, or moving into an area before it becomes open to be in a great position to receive a pass is a quality that very few players have. It is a trait that either exists in a player or doesn’t. This requires great vision and using great IQ to have a deep meaning and understanding of the game.

Excellent dribbling skills

Some of the greatest dribblers in soccer have occupied the number 10 position. They move the ball with grace and get past defensive players with ease. Attacking midfielders operate in areas that are usually congested and can only maneuver their way around by using elite-level dribbling skills.

Classic 10 vs. Modern 10 In Soccer

The game of soccer is always evolving. There are key differences that distinguish the roles of a classic 10 when compared to a modern 10.

The classic 10 in soccer was tasked with remaining between the mid-field and the opposing team’s defensive line and was often excused from defensive duties. The modern 10 has more expectations such as defensive duties by helping control the mid-field while also helping create attacking plays.

Here are some of the key differences between the two.

Classic 10

In Argentina, they would refer to the number 10 as the “enganche” which translates to the hook. This is because they would use the number 10 as a hook between the midfield and the attacking players. In essence, this was the true role of a classic number 10.

Very few defensive responsibilities were expected and all other players were to play around a classic 10. The creativity and skill of a classic 10 were the primary sources of how an attack would almost always begin. The reason they call it a classic 10 is that throughout the years’ teams started changing formations to where the number 10 would eventually hold a different position and be assigned different duties.

Even though the “enganche” was a more traditional way of playing the position, there are still teams today that recognize its impact on the game and utilize the position in ways that resemble a classic 10.

Modern 10

As soccer began to evolve through the years so did the number 10 position. The primary reason why the classic 10 began to fade was the introduction of a change in formation philosophy. Teams wanted to employ a different look on the pitch and become more defensive-oriented.

These changes ultimately led to the birth of the modern 10 position in soccer. The main changes were in the area of positioning and responsibilities. In regards to positioning, the number 10 was now expected to play in the midfield instead of playing between the midfield and the defensive line of the opposing team which is how a classic 10 was played. The creativity and skill that were expected to come from the classic 10 began being shared amongst other players.

Responsibilities were also changed and more expectations were set for the number 10 position. A modern 10 is expected to play a heavier role in controlling the midfield and is tasked with defensive duties. Additionally, a modern 10 is also expected to assist in creating attacking plays.

Here is a very detailed video that explains all the key differences between a classic 10 vs. a modern 10.

Does an Attacking Midfielder in Soccer Always Wear the Number 10 Jersey?

One may think that all attacking midfielders wear the number 10 jersey due to the fact that they occupy the number 10 position in soccer. However, this is not always the case.

Attacking midfielders play the number 10 position and usually wear the number 10 jersey. Traditionally, jersey numbers were issued based on position. With time, however, that system was abandoned giving players the option to choose a number even if it did not coincide with their position number.

Here is a brief history of the evolution of jersey numbers in soccer.

Traditional use of jersey numbers in soccer

Traditional use of jersey numbers in soccer

Jersey numbers were introduced to the game in the early 1900s. They were used to aid coaches in placing players in certain formations.

Therefore if a player was to be assigned the attacking midfielder position (number 10 position) he would wear the number 10 jersey. However, if that same player would be used in a different game as the attacking right midfielder (number 7 position) then he would wear the number 7 jersey.

This numbering system also served the fans very well. It made it easier for fans to recognize and identify players on the field.

Being that the number 10 position was always occupied by such talented players, the number 10 jersey became associated with some of the greatest players to ever grace the game with their presence.

Modern use of jersey numbers in soccer

Modern use of jersey numbers in soccer

Eventually, the traditional system began to fade as players were allowed to wear numbers that did not correspond with the position number they were playing. A player would be assigned a number at the beginning of the season and it would not change throughout the entire length of the season.

More so, very seldom do first-team players change numbers once it is issued. A Player will usually change their numbers if they take the place of a first-team player that leaves the team due to a transfer or retirement.

A player’s number is also displayed on the shorts and teams began partnering with sponsors to use the front of the jersey for promotional display which brings additional revenue for the club.

Even though the traditional system of issuing jersey numbers does not exist, wearing the number 10 jersey is still considered to be a high honor for a player. It is always donned by the most impactful and talented player on the team which almost always happens to be the player that occupies the number 10 position.

Best Ever Number 10 Players in Soccer

Some of the greatest players to have ever played the game of soccer occupied the number 10 position.

Without question here is a list of the top 3:

  • Pele
  • Lionel Messi
  • Diego Maradona

View my list of the Top 10 greatest players to ever play the number 10 position.

In Summary

The number 10 is an attacking mid-fielder on a soccer team who is tasked with creating goal-scoring opportunities. He plays between the midfield and the line of defense of the opposing team.

Needless to say, the number 10 position is one of the most important in a soccer team. It requires a unique skill set that very few players have. Although the roles and responsibilities of a number 10 have slightly changed with time, the position is still regarded as the heart and driver of a team. Because of this, some of the greatest players to ever play the game have filled the number 10 position.

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