From The Vault: Raul’s false “10” position surprises Bayern Munich
After a 2–4 and 4–1 thrashing by Bayern Munich in the group stages of the 1999/00 Champions League season, Real Madrid had to face last year’s finalists again. This time in the semi-finals.
Vicente Del Bosque’s squad were seeking redemption after two humiliating loses in the group stage. Another Champions League title for the Spanish team would mean 2 in 3 years after a 32 years drought.
The two sides rolled out in a back three system however in different orientations. Real Madrid in a simple 5–2–1–2 with Raul just behind Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Morientes. Meanwhile, Bayern’s movements were much more complex. The static shape was more of a 5–3–2 but Paulo Sergio the forward regularly moved to the left wing, Hasan Salihamidzic would operate as a right winger in possession but as a right wing-back out of possession, and Mehmet Scholl had more of a free role in midfield.
The surprise wasn’t Raul positioning as a number 10 — having already played there in the group stage game against Bayern — but rather how he practiced the position on the day. Normally, you would want your number 10 to operate between the lines to create for the forwards.
Raul created but from a different place, he started as a number 10 behind the forwards but sought space deeper in midfield rather than playing between the lines. The movement and positioning surprised Bayern’s midfield who thought that Raul would regularly find spaces behind them rather than in-front of them.
His backward movement here surprised Thorsten Fink who would have thought that Raul would be seeking to exploit the space behind him. Raul’s drop into midfield gave him more time on the ball, distance away from Fink and most importantly a good body positioning where he can see the pitch in-front of him to create.
The consequence of the aforementioned points allowed Raul to spot Anelka’s pacey run behind Markus Babbel.
Raul’s swift pass put Anelka against Oliver Kahn only 4 minutes into the game. The Frenchman scored and Real Madrid were in the lead.
The deep movement of Raul also helped once Real Madrid regained the ball. He was an easy outlet for ball progression, and playing as a number 10 he is exactly the player you want on the ball.
Raul was searching for the Hollywood pass again towards Anelka but it failed. This time he probably should have progressed with the ball considering the space he had in-front of him.
It was odd seeing Raul so deep but it worked as he was always free to receive the ball. The Bayern midfielders weren’t expecting it at all.
Dropping deeper allowed Raul time to pick his passes like in the first goal. In this example, he spots Anelka and threads a ball to him through the Bayern midfield.
Raul then acts as a normal number 10 and makes a run into the space waiting for Anelka’s pass. The latter passes it back towards Steve McManaman instead of finding Raul.
Raul’s positioning was smart, deceiving the Bayern players that he’s going for a position in-between the lines. Then suddenly dropping into midfield alongside McManaman and Fernando Redondo. Here he’s in the position Bayern are excepting him to be.
Seconds after, he drops and demands the ball by raising his arm. With McManaman and Redondo marked near Roberto Carlos, Raul is the freest option.
Raul dropped regularly from the number 10 position into midfield, freeing himself as Bayern’s midfield were unaware of his position.
Raul had time and space to receive the ball comfortably, it was after that Michael Tarnat was trying to close him down. Raul in a similar scenario to the first goal threaded a pass through Bayern’s defence towards the space behind Thomas Linke. Morientes who isn’t as pacey as Anelka only managed a corner from that situation.
Raul kept bluffing the Bayern midfielders, starting in a position behind them then when the ball is rolled and attention moved away he dropped deeper into the space in midfield.
Michel Salgado here turns Bixente Lizarazu and with Linke way out of position getting dragged to the wing area by Morientes, there was space for Raul to run into. But just like what he was doing throughout the game, he bluffed again.
Raul faked a run inside the box making Fink drop then stopped his run creating space between him and Fink.
After that, Salgado passed the ball to Raul and made a run into the empty space in Bayern’s defensive line. Continuing his performance against Fink, Raul nutmegged the German midfielder and put Salgado on goal. The latter tried going around Kahn but Jens Jeremies got unlucky by putting the ball in his own net. 2–0 to Real Madrid.
In the second half Ottmar Hitzfeld switched things up by introducing Michael Wiesinger instead of Tarnat and moving Salihamidzic to the left of midfield. Salihamidzic kept making runs to the left wing as Scholl overloaded the left channel. As a result, Del Bosque took a more reactive approach and Real dropped a bit despite keeping the same shape. Raul was still dropping but rather than to create, he was dropping to help McManaman and Redondo.
As the game went on Del Bosque brought on Savio in replace of Morientes. Savio would drop to the left wing allowing McManaman to protect Real Madrid’s right side where Bayern were trying to overload. Not only that, Raul who’s highlighted here would drop as well next to Redondo allowing the Argentine midfield to be closer to McManaman, maintaining Real Madrid’s horizontal compactness.
After shipping four goals twice in the group stages, Real Madrid out-smarted Bayern Munich in the 1st leg of the semi-final. A 2–0 win on the day meant that despite Bayern’s effort in the 2nd leg, Real Madrid were through to the final.
Bayern’s midfield saw Raul as a number 10 in their first group stage match. This time they didn’t see him at all.