The trequartista is a role that rose in the 1990s, peaked during early 2000s before dying off shortly after. The likes of Rui Costa, Zinedine Zidane and Dennis Bergkamp are amongst the most famous examples and these three personify the role perfectly. The name refers to how far he plays up the pitch, approximately 3/4 up the pitch, drifting around and playmaking.
The team completely revolves around him: usually played at the tip of a 4 man diamond midfield or the attacking midfielder in the 4-3-1-2, the team play through him, giving him the ball at every opportunity and he is expected to have such great technical ability to dance his way past opponents and play in the two strikers, or waltz through the defence and score himself. He is expected not to defend at all, the rest of the team carries him when defending so he is tasked only with attacking.
Of course, only special players could do this. At the time however, England were in their 4-4-2 stage of their tactical development, only physical beasts were allowed anywhere near the team, never mind playing in midfield – hence the lack of English teams winning Champions Leagues at that time, bar Manchester United – and so the trequartista never flourished in the English game apart from Dennis Bergkamp, but he was under a French manager, played as a striker rather than attacking midfielder and the team was not so based around him.
There are a few reasons the trequartista died out. Teams became wise to them and stuck an anchor man on him who’d man mark him – the “Makelele” role. Teams tended to be very one-dimensional, having only one playmaker in the team meant if he was off-form or marked out of the game, the whole team would suffer and be void of any creativity and also because of its lack of defensive work.
There are a few hanging around the modern game: Kaka, Gourcuff and Diego anyone? These tend to play in leagues and teams with different styles and formations or, in Kaka’s case, not at all!
The role itself is extremely interesting though, there is no doubt it could evolve. Evolving the role would take away everything it is famous and admired for, however. To fit into the modern game, it would have to press, it would have to not be the sole playmaker, it would have to be more “busy” and would probably have to move position, to the wing or even lone striker.
If all these changes were made, it would no longer be a trequartista role. The whole point of the trequartista is to have the team based around it and carry it, this would not happen if it evolved this way. Heck, if it moved position it couldn’t even be called a trequartista!
It’s actually more akin to Wayne Rooney’s current role at Manchester United. He’s very much a “busy” player playing about 3/4 up the pitch, spraying passes around being the main playmaker and, although United have a few who also run the game, he’s certainly the main influence. He’s known for his work ethic and pressing. And although he is not a trequartista of the Zidane/Rui Costa mould he could certainly be the more modern version. Allowed to do whatever he pleases, plays in the same sort of area, but doesn’t leave the team exposed defensively or have the team rely on him so much.