The extraordinary success of Barcelona and Spain during the era of Xavi and Andres Iniesta was based primarily around passing. But while Xavi was a pure passer, Iniesta had something different: a change of speed, an ability to turn quickly and, more than anything else, hiscroqueta.
A move borrowed from his hero, Michael Laudrup, Iniesta'scroquetawas simple on paper but beautiful to watch in the midst of a high-speed, ultra-physical midfield battle. It essentially involvesIniesta being confronted with at least one defender and getting past him by playing the ball from one foot onto the other, side-foot to side-foot, with Iniesta's body weight shifting accordingly to slalom past. It also proved particularly effective when opponents attempted to double up against him; it was the perfect way of bypassing two players at once, bisecting them while changing direction smartly.
"La Croquetais a piece of skill that exists not because it looks nice but because it serves the purpose of setting you up for the next pass," said Laudrup, the move's originator. For Iniesta, a purposeful passer rather than a prolific scorer, it was the perfect piece of skill.
Ricardo Quaresma andCristiano Ronaldo played together in Sporting Lisbon's academy; they're both wingers, both highly individualistic and both intent on trying to out-do one another with their trickery. Ronaldo clearly had the more successful career, converting his skill into end product rather than stepovers. Quaresma, though, remained obsessed with the aesthetic.
No other footballer is so determined to use the outside of his foot. That technique is sometimes considered flashy, sometimes considered the mark of a player who hasn't worked on his weaker side. ButQuaresma is more dangerous with the outside of his right foot than the insideand has scored a succession of memorable strikes with his trademark trivela. His debut international goal, against Belgium, remains the most spectacular because of the incredible arc on his shot, while last summer he scored a trademark effort against Iran at the highest stage, the World Cup.
Quaresma is almost unique in world football. In an era of inverted wingers, Quaresma's tendency to use the outside of his right foot makes him almost aninverted-invertedwinger; despite being right-footed, he's more of a crossing threat from the left, more of a shooting threat from the right.
It takes a long time watchingToni Kroos to realise that his manner of controlling a pass is actually a move. On first glance, it sometimes feels like he's simply taken a heavy touch but no, the more Kroos does the same thing and remains in control of the ball, you realise it's a deliberate ploy.
Kroos' shuffle is essentially a dribble with his first touch, beating an opponent unexpectedly. When Kroos receives a pass, usually from the left, usually onto his right foot, he'll take a heavy touch with the inside of his foot, immediately knocking the ball toward his left. His opponent, usually focused on closing down Kroos' right foot, suddenly finds himself moving in the wrong direction.
It helps, of course, that Kroos is comfortable with his left foot and therefore working the ball onto his weaker side doesn't cause problems, although he usually gives himself enough time to work the ball back onto his right foot. Either way, it's a simple but effective move that gives himself extra thinking time in possession.