Definition of Libero

If one looks at football teams of the past, perhaps 30 or 40 years ago, they will notice a position that has become extinct today. A central defender who sits behind the line and sweeps up any balls played in behind before charging forward to act as a deep-lying playmaker. Made famous by players like Franco Baresi and Franz Beckenbauer, this role was called the libero.

The libero position in soccer is explained and illustrated.The libero position is widely credited to being created by Austrian manager Karl Rappan in the 1930s. However, it became famous for its use in Italy, where the name was created. Libero means 'free' and describes exactly what sort of defender plays in the role.

While players who originally played in this position were primarily used for a defensive purpose, the modern example of libero's comes in the form of the German Franz Beckenbauer. He took the defensive position and turned it into one where counter attacks could be launched through skillful passing, vision and dribbling from the libero. Many famous defenders followed or mimicked this template.The aforementioned Italian legend Franco Baresi, England's Bobby Moore, Dutch European Championship winner Ronald Koeman and Spaniard Fernando Hierro are just a few of the best known liberos.

The position has widely been abandoned in the modern game. The widespread adoption of the 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 meant the sweeper position was no longer seen as viable. Even with the emergence of 3-at-the-back systems under managers like Antonio Conte in recent years, it seems that the actual position of the libero isn't going to appear for another while thanks to the modern development of deep lying playmakers.