It was Franz Beckenbauer who made the Libero cool and successful in the seventies. In the eighties you could see the child star Tommi Ohrner in the popular series Manni, the Libero, The last of his kind was Lothar Matthäus in the late phase. But at some point this cult position was an obsolete model, dusty, old-Franconian, superfluous. At the end of the nineties the Libero was the antler of football.
The Libero was called, translated, free man, because he was a defender who did not defend, not directly, at least. He did not see any opponent, for the rough, the silverback had his people. Mostly the Libero was a bit older and slower, also he did not jump so high and was on average a bit more tender than his neighbors. But the veteran with the feeling in the foot and the stable status consciousness had everything in view. In the district league, where he has sometimes survived until today, even the young ladies at the Bratwurststand.
Now in German football, the nineties back, because the seemingly extinct are back, so many Bundesliga club has revived the Libero. Not officially, but secretly. Today he is called differently: it is called the central part of the triple chain. The splendid specimen of this season is called Makoto Hasebe by Eintracht Frankfurt, Battles win the 35-year-old Japanese barely, it is not at all its core task. Instead, he sweeps away the remains left by others. He even handles reclaiming at the referee, a traditional task of the free man, who simply has less stress in the game.
Rangnick has rationalized the Libero
Last year, Naldo played the same role in runner-up Schalke. In the center of Hoffenheim today Kevin Vogt gives security to two man-oriented defenders. Also in other locations one sees occasionally a Libero: in Augsburg Rani Khedira, in Berlin Karim Rekik or Fabian Lustenberger, in Stuttgart Benjamin Pavard, the world champion, who changes to Munich.
The division of labor between Libero and the stoppers, as his laborers were formerly called, is no longer quite so strict everywhere, but in principle today's Liberos are doing the same as their predecessors: they are outnumbering where the opponent wants to score a goal. They clean up the mistakes of others, run the ball off, defend with eye, as they say. Thanks to their technique, they can beat long passes on the ball or even let their opponents' strikers run into the void. Naldo even scored goals. Welcome back, old Lothar!
Everything sounds good and the Hasebes and Naldos, appreciated by fans and the media, actually make a nice figure. But there were good reasons to sink the Libero into the history books. You have to look back over twenty years. At that time an avant-garde coaching school around Ralf Rangnick and his mentor Helmut Groß started a cultural revolution. Inspired by AC Milan and Dynamo Kiev, she introduced space coverage, pressing and the back four in Germany. Against resistance, because it rationalized away the Libero, for which the Germans have a craze as for their life insurance. Rangnicks became famous gymPerformance in which he declared modern defending at the Tactics Board. Ten years later he was mocked by the establishment as a "football professor".