The false no 9 had been introduced to the world by Hungary 1954 that been called Magical Magyar. The players who had become a false no 9 is Nandor Hideguti. His movement where he often drops deep between the attacker and midfielder had led to confusion among the England defender who still playing the W-M formation. This confusion had led to Hideguti to score on the first minute and starting the never-ending onslaught on England goal which had led England been heavily defeated in a 6-3 scoreline. Hungary had made history as they had become the first foreign football team to win on Wembley where England is deemed as invincible during this time.
False No 9 had been studied and influenced many individuals which includes Sir Matt Busby who believe that English football must compete in the European competition that had led Sir Matt to defy FA order and become the first English team to compete in the European cup in 1956. It also influences Don Reevie whom will become Leeds United manager in the later year which had led to one of the glorious years for Leeds United to play the False No 9 during his playing day with Manchester City and Bill Nicholson when managing Tottenham Hotspur had used the false 9 system to create the first-ever English double-winning side and first English team to win a European trophy when Tottenham won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1963.
After the famous night in 1953 at Wembley, no team had managed to use the false no 9 to a great effect until apart from Tottenham Hotspur and several decades later a man who had is protégé of Johan Cyruff Pep Guardiola had used the false no 9 to make Lionel Messi as one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Guardiola had upped the level of using the false no 9 as he had used 2 false no 9 in a game against Manchester United which had led to City destroying United 3-1 in Old Trafford in EFL Cup semi-final first leg. Another famous manager who is using false no 9 style is Jurgen Klopp who using Roberto Firminho as a false no 9 that led to Salah and Mane to become a profile goal scorer.
What is a false no 9? A player who wears a no 9 shirt usually will be a center forward who lurking in the penalty box and expected to be feed via across or through pass form the midfielder to score a goal. When a player needs to play in the false no 9 system, he will drop deep between the midfielder and the attacker, pulling out the defender with him which will lead to creating a big space for the winger to score a goal and if the defender does not follow the player, then the player can exploit it by dribbling past the defender or making a long shot. In simple terms, the false no 9 will lead to confusing the defender on whether to follow the player and staying in their position.
As the false no 9 had been so effective in pulling the defender out a position and creating a space for him or other play for a goalscoring chance, why not many players and many managers are using this style? Unlike the night in Wembley where Hungary had toyed with England in Wembley, in the modern era, the creation of a defensive midfielder who sitting between the defense and midfielder had led to the difficulties of using this style. The defensive midfielder can easily stop the false no 9 players from running rampant on them. As an example, Kaka is operating in a similar false no 9 positions during his AC Milan time and in 2005 final, Liverpool had a torrid time to contain Kaka that had led them to trail AC Milan 3-0 in the first half. In the second half, Rafa Benitez the Liverpool manager had introduced Dietmar Hamann for Harry Kewell, a defensive midfielder to stop Kaka and he had been successful in stopping Kaka running rampant again and consequently had led Liverpool to level the scoreline and winning their 5th UCL via penalties.
Although a defensive midfielder can stop a player who plays in a false no 9, Guardiola had found a way to successfully implement the false no 9 and having a great success on it which led to another question why Guardiola can implement it so successfully? To play in the false no 9, a player must good in the movement, had great playmaking abilities, and a plus point a great finisher. Lionel Messi is one of the players who had been so good in terms of this. Under Klopp’s system, Roberto Firmiho is not a great finisher like Messi but he had superb movement and good playmaking abilities that withdraw the defensive line and creating a space for Salah and Mane to score the goal. Klopp also heavily relying on the fullback to provide the width plus his gegenpressing style to create goal-scoring opportunities.
If the player had not had the abilities and were forced to play in the false no 9, the system can easily be broken, and the attack will be toothless. Hence not many teams had a player like Lionel Messi or Roberto Firminho that can play effectively as a false no 9. A false no 9 is one the rarely played system but once a player with the adequate abilities is in the team and the results can excellent for the attacking team and can be devastating for the defender as he will be in a confusion whether to follow the attacker or to stay on his position. This is what happened when England meet with Nandor Hideguti and also another great example is when Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand meet with the Messi in 2011 UCL final where both had mastered the false no 9 system that had led to a great win for them. Nandor Hideguti had been influential in defeating England in Wembley and Messi had been a catalyst for Barcelona winning the UCL in 2011 final which had hailed as one of the best club performances in a UCL final.