The Football Notebook
Regista, Trequartista, Mezzala - Explained
Updated: Jan 1, 2021
English Translation: Director
Examples: Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso, Marco Veratti
Most Popular Formation: 4-3-3
The Regista is one of the first Italian specialist roles that wormed its way into the wider football culture. ‘Regista’ itself translates directly to ‘director’ - which is accurate of the role itself. Registas are the metronomes of their team, the tempo-controllers.
The Regista can be viewed as a classic attacking playmaker that was man-marked into dropping deeper - eventually, they ended up permanently operating there, as a way of still having a handle on the game whilst being able to create for their team.
They often lack the ability to tackle hard, or cover a lot of space, and are not the most skilful - but they allow their teams to build-up play with an extra man in the midfield third by creating an overload, and can always be relied on to get their team out of trouble at any given moment.
In summary, a Regista is a player who is adept in passing and has the intelligence to make the correct decisions regarding their movements and the timing of said movements into the right spaces, utilising these skills to pull the strings for their team by building play and creating scoring chances from a deep-lying position.
English Translation: Three-Quarters
Examples: Francesco Totti, Roberto Baggio, Kaka
Most Popular Formation: 4-3-1-2
‘Three Quarters’ might not make much sense without really knowing the context. It is basically three quarters from midfield to the strikers - a bit more striker than midfielder, but still incorporating both sides of the game. Although the Trequartista is a dying breed in football, it has provided the world with some of the greatest and most exciting footballers of all time.
They are tasked with linking the midfield and attack, in a similar vein to how the Regista does it - just that the Trequartistas do it further up the field. Numbers also matter more, with goals and assists playing a big part in measuring a player’s adeptness at the Trequartista role.
Those playing the role need to be extremely skilled on the ball must have the ability to play in tight spaces and also need to have that special spontaneity that can not be taught.
Kaka is a great example of this. He had the pace, passing ability, incredible dribbling skills, and also the end product to back it up. In addition to this, he had an incredible footballing mind, always managing to find himself in the hole between the opposition midfield and defence to receive the ball and cause overloads or to drag opponents out of position to create space in other exploitable areas.
However, these types of players were of a particular niche that is becoming less and less available in the modern world of football, as players are needing to evolve into team players that are required to work for their side as hard as possible in defence and attack. This has meant that Trequartistas, who generally were given a free role, and one without the burden of needing to track back to help their team maintain their shape, have slowly been fazed out.
In summary, a Trequartista is a player with the type of brilliance on the ball that enables them to constantly be a threat and create multiple chances per game in the attacking third, all the while being the link between midfield and attack with intelligent movements that disrupt the opposition’s structure and help their teammates find space that would not exist without them. They are the heart of their team but are less and less in supply due to the nature of the ever-evolving game being unable to accommodate them because of their need to forgo their defensive duties.
English Translation: Half-Winger
Examples: Andres Iniesta, Mateo Kovacic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Most Popular Formation: 4-3-3
The Mezzala is probably the least popular out of the three, only recently rising to prominence in part because of a surge in both demand and supply for these types of players. Whilst Registas and Trequartistas are highly specialised players that need highly specialised systems to operate effectively, the Mezza Ala(Mezzala is the shortened version of the two original words) is a more broad role that can be incorporated into a wide variety of tactical systems.
They are usually the right or left central midfielders in a midfield three, their role being to move to provide width for teams that lack them, or to move wide as a mechanic to move opponents out of position to create space. They start the game as central midfielders and are in that sort of area enough of the time to classify them as such.
Mezzalas vary a fair bit. Some like Angel Di Maria at Real Madrid were paired with an inside forward(in this case Cristiano Ronaldo) and pulled out wide as the inside forward came inside to confuse markers and create space on both the wings and the central zone.
Others operate more consistently in the half-space, the area between the central and wide zones. They are the furthest forward of their two other midfield partners and dictate play from this area, whilst occasionally attacking the box with a deep run. Kevin De Bruyne sometimes performs this role but also combines it with overlapping runs into the wings to cross, or by crossing directly from the half-space instead of linking play there.
Mezzalas need to be tactically astute and also need to fully comprehend their role if they want to consistently perform at a high level and help their team. Their skills need to include a good passing range, the ability to play out of tight spaces, and the stamina to get into shape without the ball and push up with it.
In conclusion, the quintessential Mezzala is one that utilises spaces between vertical and horizontal opposition lines as a way of creating play for teammates. This can be either directly with their quality passing ability, or indirectly by moving opponents around to create spaces for their midfield and attacking partners. They shuttle between half-space positions when possession is in their team’s hands and a stable, cover-providing location next to the two other midfielders. Furthermore, they are probably the only Italian specialist position that is growing in popularity, due to their role being perfectly suited to what the Beautiful Game is starting to look like nowadays.