A vast number of different positions and tactical roles exist within the world of football. From half-back, to centre-half, inside forward to false nine, things are constantly evolving, and language is always adapting to stay in line with developments in how top coaches and strategists view the game.
This has led to the introduction of numerous technical terms into the wider football lexicon. Certain nations seem to have a particular knack for describing elements of the beautiful game, and global fans are quick to adopt the best of these phrases, one of which we'll be diving into today.
This article will focus on the regista role, examining what this term means, where it came from, and the key skills and demands of this position. To flesh out exactly what a regista can offer their team, we'll give you a few examples of top players that fit this mold.
Registas have existed throughout footballing history, although they've been handed various different names. Essentially, a regista is a kind of deep-lying playmaker, someone who occupies a deep central midfield position, but has a specific remit within this area. Unlike famous defensively-minded players such as Fernandinho, Roy Keane or Lother Matthäus, this player is not a destructor, focused primarily on tackling and disrupting opposition moves. Yes, they occupy the classic number six position — but the regista is more focused on progressive play.
The regista sits just ahead of the defensive line, and is constantly looking to receive the ball quickly from the centre-backs, before building play forwards. With the emphasis on gaining control of the ball between defence and midfield and linking with players further up the pitch, it would be accurate to describe this as the role of a deep-lying creator.
This key link between defence and attack ultimately aims to control the tempo of the game through their passing, using their elite distribution and ball skills to dominate the midfield and create chances, like a kind of "master puppeteer". And this idea is useful when it comes to examining the roots of the term "regista"...
Named by the old football theorists who also gave us widely-used vocabulary such as "trequartista", the footballing term "regista" originated in Italy, where it translates as "director". This refers to the idea that the regista aims to direct their team's play with their distribution skill and passing ability. When they dictate the pace and tempo of a game, they literally become a director.
While players were occupying this kind of role as early as the 1900s, the term emerged in the 1930s when the Italian league was packed with a wide range of tactically innovative coaches, including Gippo Viani, Erno Egri Erbstein, and Vittorio Pozzo, who managed Italy from 1929-1948. It's the latter coach who is credited as being the inventor of the regista role.
The only manager in history to win two World Cups, Pozzo is widely respected across the world for his forward-thinking tactical setups. He took over as the Italian national team coach and began building a 2-3-5 formation, with the central player in the defensively-minded bank of 3 operating as a regista, with key creative responsibilities. The first man to be tasked with this role? Luis Monti, an Italian-Argentine with the remarkable record of having won the World Cup with two different countries. After moving to Juventus from Argentina in 1930, he became a mainstay of Italy's national team, playing in a central midfield screening role, where his playmaking abilities were utilised to help win the 1934 World Cup.
The regista role soon spread beyond the borders of Italy, but its popularity reduced as the 20th century went on. This was due to other tactical developments; for example, to counter the dominance of Hungary's rampant inside forwards in the 1950s and 1960s, international teams started using screening midfielders to track their runs, and creativity from this position became less important.
The development of the regista role follows a broader trend of Italian tacticians defining football players based on what they do, rather than where they are positioned on the pitch. A regista ("director") dictates play, a trequartista ("three quarters") occupies the spaces three quarters of the way up the pitch, between midfield and attack, a catenaccio ("chain") system sees a sweeper defender drop behind the back line while staying connected, chain-like, to the central defenders at all times.
In the modern era, aided in part by the popularity of Football Manager, the regista role has become more prominent. A handful of exceptional individuals have also been instrumental in showing how important this position can be. Soon, we'll go through some of them — but first, we'll discuss the key skills that any regista needs to have.
A top-quality regista needs to have a varied skill set encompassing both defensive and creative attributes. Here are a few of the most important traits for a deep-lying playmaker:
#1. Quick, intricate footwork - Controlling the ball with pace and precision, and constantly keeping it moving, is bread and butter for players in this role. For this, and for moments when they're being crowded by bodies and have to wriggle out into space, quick, intricate footwork is really important.
2. Great spatial awareness - It's paramount that registas have a great awareness of what's going on around them, from teammates moving into passing lanes to opposition players piling on pressure or blocking space. This helps the deep-lying playmaker get each move spot on.
#3. Excellent passing ability - The playmaking responsibility of this role means that registas need to be able to spray passes all over the pitch. Their passing arsenal must be varied, from short, quick, intricate midfield triangles, to long, raking balls over the top — they must be able to do it all.
#4. Ball shielding ability - shielding, which involves using your whole body to protect the ball from opposition players, plays an important role in helping midfield players keep hold of possession. For registas, this is a key part of their game.
5. Calmness and composure - It's vital that deep-lying playmakers are calm and composed each time they receive the ball, never getting flustered or panicked by pressure from opposition players. It's likely that registas will be pressed hard when they receive the ball, so this is an incredibly important aspect of the role.
6. Constant movement - In possession, a regista has to constantly be on the lookout for the ball, being available for their teammates and aiming to dictate their team's forward moves. However, when the opposition team has possession, the regista must retreat into a central position that will protect the defence and limit penetration through the middle. Constant activity and availability is a must.
These skills all help the regista to perform their primary role: receiving the ball from defenders and making accurate vertical passes to attacking players, over a wide range of distances and directions. There are a few players that are particularly outstanding when it comes to doing this job.
The regista's skill set is extremely varied, and their responsibilities are many; therefore, it's no surprise that only a handful of players have truly made this role their own over the years. Below are some of the best examples.
Arguably the archetypal regista, Andrea Pirlo was a standout player for Milan, Juventus and the Italian football team, during a period of 15+ years of staggering success. The regista's ability to dictate their team's play is encapsulated by Pirlo, who had an incredible eye for a pass, and was constantly looking to receive the ball and link with attacking players. It was this playmaking ability that helped him guide Italy to European glory in 2012.
Busquets recently announced his retirement from Barcelona after a long, trophy-laden period with the Spanish giants. Helping showcase the effectiveness of tiki taka football, his ability to effortlessly cut through the lines of midfield and defence with his devastatingly good mid-range passes made him an extremely difficult player to combat at the heart of the Barca midfield.
Perhaps one of the most underrated midfielders England has ever produced, Michael Carrick enjoyed years of dominance and domestic glory at Manchester United, and while the term "regista" hasn't regularly been applied to him, you could definitely consider the now-Middlesbrough boss a "director", due to his long and short-range passing ability, positional awareness, and ball control skills.
Top registas can generally operate within numerous different formations, although shapes like 4-1-2-3 or 4-1-3-2 are great at offering the chance for a regista to find the space they need to dictate play. However, sometimes these deep-lying playmakers will need to operate alongside more of a destructor, to ensure defensive solidity is provided. Registas rarely boast great defensive reading and physical attributes, so getting someone else in to give balance can be useful.
Want to find out more about how this deep midfield double act can be set up? Take a look at our guide to the double pivot in football.
In a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-2-4 formation, it's common that lots of defensive solidity will be provided by a double act situated at the base of midfield, relied on to protect the back line, disrupt the opposition's attacks, keep possession and move the ball forward. This midfield 2 is generally referred to as a double pivot.
A mezzala is a term used to describe a dynamic, attack-minded central midfielder, often a kind of 'free #8' situated on either side of a midfield 3. The word derives from Italy, but in England, the traditional idea of the box to box midfielder isn't a million miles away from this role.
The regista plays a key role in a team's drive to dominate the midfield; but there are also certain formations designed to further aid this goal. A 4-3-3 with a tight, disciplined midfield unit (think of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum at Klopp's Liverpool) or a 3-5-2 with a similarly solid midfield base are particularly good shapes for winning that midfield battle.