Contact Us

The Role of a False 9 in Football

The False 9 is without a doubt one of the most well-known tactical breakthroughs of the twenty-first century, and has led to remarkable success for teams. Here, we take a look at the role of a False 9 in football.

Last updated: 10.09.2021
Role of a False 9 in Football | Sports Social Blog

The "False 9" is without a doubt one of the most well-known tactical breakthroughs of the twenty-first century, has led to remarkable success for teams. Several strong teams in modern times, from Lionel Messi to Roberto Firmino, have centered their assault around a false 9 rather than a traditional center-forward. In many senses, Pep Guardiola's time as Barcelona's head coach has altered the way modern football is played. But it was when he shifted Lionel Messi from the right to the center and renamed him The False 9 that he made the most significant change. Here, we take a look at the role of a False 9 in football.

What is a False 9?

In possession, the false 9 is a distinctive type of forward that prefers to drop deep and join the midfield instead of lurking around the box for scoring opportunities. In front twos, forwards who drop deep are frequent, but the false 9 is used as a lone center-forward, usually in a 4-3-3 or other systems. The false 9 is more of a playmaker by nature, with his primary goal being to create space for others to exploit. A false number nine should be able to dribble to take advantage of space between the lines and vision, as well as pass to aid his teammates and create goal-scoring possibilities.


While many people think of the false 9 as a modern tactical idea, the phrase has been around since the turn of the twentieth century. In the 1930s, the first deployment of a fake 9 role was observed. Hugo Meisl, the Austrian national team's coach, chose playmaking forward Matthias Sindelar over a more typical muscular number nine, Josef Uridil, to fit the fluid style of football he intended to play. Hungary's "Golden Team" of the 1950s, who reached the 1954 FIFA World Cup final, was the first team to use a deep-lying forward. Nándor Hidegkuti was the right individual for the job.

An injury problem prompted the earliest modern-day interpretation of the false 9 role. As a result of the injuries to Luciano Spalletti's AS Roma team, he was obliged to make several unusual moves, one of which was the creation of the "false nine" position. Spalletti's team set a league record after switching to this formation. Francesco Totti was a virtuoso of the now-famous false nine role. Totti won the European Golden Boot in 2006/07 with 26 goals and was voted 10th in the 2007 Ballon D'Or with 20 votes.

Pep Guardiola, influenced by Total Football, applied Cruyff's Juego de Posición, resulting in a team that dominated possession and annihilated opponents. From 2009 to 2012, Lionel Messi established himself as one of the best players of all time, playing as a false 9 in Pep Guardiola's 4-3-3 formation and winning four consecutive Ballon d'Or honors. Messi was used as a false nine—not a nine, not a ten, and certainly not an eight—but he was still the team's most forward center player. His function as a false nine was incredibly complex and crucial to the team's success, and the sheer magnitude of the duty he carried is why so few people imitate it, and even fewer succeed.

Jurgen Klopp received a terrific Brazilian offensive midfielder named Roberto Firmino when he joined the Merseyside club, and he opted to convert him into a false 9 for his 4-3-3, but with a minor twist. Firmino is a playmaker and a space creator for Liverpool, but his most crucial role is to lead the press. Firmino is in excellent physical condition and is a key cog in Klopp's counter-pressing machine. He can think and act swiftly and precisely due to his mastery of tactics and ball skills. He frequently drops to pick up the ball and makes positional sacrifices to help his attack teammates, Salah and Mane, who undoubtedly benefit from his actions.

Best ‘False 9’ of all time – Lionel Messi

It’s fair to say that no one mastered the role of a false 9 like Messi. During the years, Messi played as a false 9, he won four consecutive Ballon D’Ors. The most difficult position in football is that of a false nine. Sacrificing a genuine forward is a hazardous decision, and if the player who takes over from deeper in the formation isn't a world-class genius, you're in trouble. But in Barcelona’s case, they benefited a lot from it. Lionel Messi turned into a beast and managed to score 233 goals from 213 games he played as a False 9. Messi has maintained his status as the best player of all time, Guardiola has continued to develop tactical concepts across Europe, and Barcelona has continued to win championships. However, none of them will ever be able to match the enchantment of those four years.

Chase Your Sport

Stay up-to-date on the latest sports news, stats, expert analysis and trends, including cricket, football, wrestling, tennis, basketball, Formula One and more. Find previews, schedules, results of upcoming events, and fantasy tips on Chase Your Sport.