In our concluding piece on positional evolutions occurring within the game, Charles Ajuyah (@tuale_CA) highlights the often ignored mediapunta role.

This role is a favourite of mine. Why? It is selfless. It seeks to help the team and is almost missed in most games. The player in this role is not often praised but keen watchers of the game recognise that the mediapunta does not exist to be served but to serve.

The mediapunta is, in lay man’s language, a forward who plays as a traditional 9 and also acts as a number 10. Some call them “9.5s.”

The role of a number 9 is the simplest. Score. Put the ball in the back of the net. Some could say it is not that easy, which is true, but the task the role requires is in fact the simplest. This is where the mediapunta comes in. As explained he is a cross between a 9 and a 10. The symbiotic product of the two positions.

Thus, he is tasked with both scoring goals and creating them. He needs to be able to create situations which lead to others scoring. It demands the player leave his natural habitat, in and around the 18-yard box, and come deep into midfield. This is so he is able to orchestrate or facilitate the start of the final phase of build-up play right up to a goal.

This role requires the player to possess a skillset of making his instinctive scoring abilities dormant and while elevating a need to get teammates into better scoring positions. Keen awareness of different pitch zones and areas in relation to attacking teammates is key. The mediapunta must know where runs should (and should not) be made in order to make correct passing decisions.

He is also required to possess a decisive technical ability with the ball to dribble to create space and make an inch perfect passes across reasonable lengths. Long distances are not hard and fast rule seeing as the player usually occupies the zones just around where a normal 10 would operate.

Karim Benzema has now come to be defined in this role. This was forced upon the France international with the presence of a superior goal scorer in the team, Cristiano Ronaldo. The mutation in his profile may have made him less of a goal scorer (as most criticise him for), but it has definitely made him a better all-round player. How many strikers can stay at a top club for 7 years and counting? Very few, if any.

Benzema’s heat map from the 1st La Liga Clasico in 2015. Notice he never got into the 6-yard box.
Benzema’s heat map from the 1st La Liga Clasico in 2015. Notice he never got into the 6-yard box.

The mediapunta role requires more than just technical or tactical ability. It requires apsychological mettle to be able to operate differently to what the player’s nature conventionally requires him to.

Obviously no mean feat, this role, in the opinion of the writer, is the second most difficult role to perform aside the mediocentro role.