Carlos Bilardo: A man who changed the soccer world
The most important tactical trend in soccer of the last few years has been the move to a back three system. Numerous teams have employed variations of the system to great effect. Antonio Conte has enjoyed a deal of success with varying three back systems as has Guardiola at different points in time. But who “invented” the back three system?
Enter Carlos Bilardo.
Whether he actually invented the three back system as is widely claimed, Bilardo is certainly the first coach to employ it to success in a major tournament as he led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup. When debate starts about the greatest tacticians to have coached the game, his is a name always mentioned.
Carlos Salvador Bilardo was born in Buenos Aires in 1939 to Sicilian immigrants. He played as a professional and trained and practiced as a gynecologist before committing himself full time to coaching. One of the central characters in the perennial Argentine debate about form or function, Bilardisme or Menottisme, Bilardo espoused a pragmatic view of soccer. In the superb Inverting The Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson quotes him as saying:
“I like being first. You have to think about being first. Because being second is no good, second is a failure… Football is played to win…Show are for the cinema, for the theatre… Football is something else.”
And win he did. Most notably in 1986 when he unveiled his 3-5-2 system to the world. Bilardo employed a true 3-5-2 with midfield players operating as wing backs as opposed to some of the more defensive variants that followed. There were other differences and subtleties in his compared to many of the three back systems deployed today. For instance the wing backs would make frequent interior movements rather than playing exclusively in wide channels. In many ways this foreshadowed how Guardiola has used outside backs at times in recent years.
In the 4 videos that follow Carlos Bilardo offers a detailed description of the thinking behind his tactical innovation and how he used it throughout the 1986 campaign to guide Argentina to World Cup victory. They offer a great insight into one of the most brilliant soccer thinkers of our time.
4-4-2 is for older players
Back 3 Defending
Tactics getting to a world cup final
Winning the world cup