Back in the day, the most glamorous position in the world of football was undoubtedly the central ones, both in attack and defense. If you played as a defender during the 1990’s, you probably admired Franco Baresi, and if you played as a forward, chances are you admired the original Ronaldo. However, times have certainly changed since then, and these days everyone is looking as wide forwards that have made a significant impact on the game in the last two decades.
Most Devastating Forwards in Football
It’s no surprise that the three forwards that are considered the most devastating in football last season, including Mohamed Salah, Lionel Messi, and Christiano Ronaldo, all practiced their trade as wide forwards. The same can be said when you look at the two most powerful attacking forces in the Premier League since last season, including Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, who are both wide forwards for Manchester City. They managed to score a total of 40 goals and accumulated 36 assists between the two of them. In Germany, the remarkable Jadon Sancho is assisting Borussia Dortmund to lead the title challenge, while Arjen Robben from Bayern Munich is in extraordinary form despite being quite old in his football career.
How Wide Forward Are Changing the Game
In the previous era, the attacking midfielder managed to reign supreme. For instance, Ronaldinho and Kaka from Brazil, Rui Costa from Portugal, Alessandro del Piero, Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti, and Gianfranco Zola from Italy. Due to their unbelievable success when it came to the final third of the pitch, the real estate in front of the penalty area became the most aggressively contested space in the game. Terrified of what Deco or Ronaldinho could do from that distance, several teams regularly appointed two defensive midfielders to successfully patrol this area.
However, in today’s game, you can clearly see that they decided to take up the edge of the area as oppose to the middle. In fact, defenders usually fear to thread on the outer edges of the pitch as they are unsure whether to stand off or press the ball due to the space that can easily be exploited. At the same time, those that were originally center-forwards now tend to avoid the congested penalty area. Take Thierry Henry as an example. He spent most of his career on the flanks, drifting in. He understood for a very long time that the best way to unsettle defenders is to arrive in the area at the very last second.
These days, Thomas Muller from Bayern Munich and Gareth Bale from Real Madrid have managed to follow in the footsteps of Henry. Thanks to their incredible success, we are now seeing three types of footballers in the exact same area of the pitch, including a play-maker, a striker, and a winger. The perfect example of this is undeniably Neymar who is currently playing for Paris Saint-Germain who is enjoying an incredible stretch as a wide forward.