A little bit of history: total football

A little bit of history: total football

Today's full-backs attack just as much as they defend, while some centre-halves score more than ten goals a season.

But football hasn't always been like that. I'll tell you about a time when defenders just defended and forwards did nothing but attack.


So what is total football? 

No idea what total football means? Its invention revolutionised the world of football like nothing before. In this system, all players in the team participate in every phase of the game: everyone defends and everyone attacks. These fluid roles never existed before the development of this system. Players with a defensive role didn't move to the front to provide extra support like they now do in most modern teams. A player didn't move outside of their area of the pitch, for example a left back wouldn't finish the match with 15 crosses to their name.



Who developed and popularised this way of playing?

The first team to use this playing system was Ajax in Amsterdam in the 60s, led by their trainer Rinus Michels, resulting in European cup victories in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Total football is often associated with Johan Cruyff, an Ajax player until 1973 before moving to FC Barcelona, who is considered to be one of the symbols of this reinvented football system. First a player then a trainer at the Catalan club, he helped cement the identity of the game at this club, the famous 4-3-3 with a game based on ball possession and high pressing, the ultimate symbol of total football.

At the international level, the Netherlands team, led by a certain Johan Cruyff, played two consecutive world cup finals in 1974 and 1978 but failed to win the trophy. They were so relaxed on and off the pitch that they stood out despite the lack of a title.

These days all teams practise this fluid system, which is fully embedded into modern football and many young players today don't remember the time when this style of play was revolutionary!


So where can you see total football?

Today, total football is an integral part of modern football. The fact that Sergio Ramos scored over 100 goals over his career, and players such as Karim Benzema and Zlatan Ibrahimovic often came down to join in the play, and even defend low when their team was in trouble (less so in the case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the defensive aspect) didn't shock anyone. This type of player would never have existed without total football!

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned something as you did. Please leave a comment if you liked it!


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