The third man is the concept that encompasses the relationship between three players on the pitch. It refers to the situation in which a player has the ball and the closest teammate has a mark on him, so he cannot receive. Then, a third free player appears with the aim of creating a situation of superiority and being able to advance positions.
How do we find the third man?
To find the third man, what we must do is look beyond, further, and thus be able to locate that man free from a mark or who has more space to be able to receive and thus be able to unblock the situation in which we find ourselves.
The third man explained by Xavi Hernández
The current coach of FC Barcelona, Xavi Hernandez, made some statements back in 2011, when he was a player and one of the pillars at Can Barça, in which he explained how the third man works:
«The third man is impossible to defend, impossible… I'll explain what it means.
Imagine Piqué wanting to play with me, but I'm marked, I have a marker on me, a very annoying guy. Well, it's clear that Piqué can't pass it to me, it's obvious, so I move away and take the scoreboard with me. So, Messi goes down and becomes the second man. Piqué is the 1st, Messi the 2nd and I the 3rd. I have to be very on the parrot, huh.
Piqué then plays with the 2nd man, Messi, who returns it to him, and at that moment I appear, pinning my defender, who has lost his way, and Piqué passes the ball to me totally unmarked. If the one who defends me is looking at the ball, he cannot see that I am unmarked. Then I show up and I'm the third man. We have already achieved superiority. This is indefensible, it is the Dutch school, it is Cruyff. It is an evolution of the Dutch triangles.”
It is clear that Xavi is a prodigy when it comes to analyzing the game on the pitch. Xavi continued: «The free man means that you can always seek superiority, even though football is a sport of 11 against 11. There are days that we seek that superiority starting with Víctor Valdés and that has even more merit. Sometimes, the rivals press us so high and so intensely, that we play 3 against 2 even inside the area with Valdés, Piqué, Busi or me. And from that point, you can already attack with superiority.
Looking for the free man is, for example, that the center backs have the ball and one of them is always free because you always have one more defender than opposing forwards. In that case, Puyol goes up, up and up until a rival comes his way. If the one who tries to stop him is my marker, then the free man becomes me. If Iniesta's marker comes his way, Andrés is the free man. And if we seek superiority in any area of the field, you make a 3 against 2, you win it and you already have the free man.»
The Third Man Applied by Julian Nagelsmann
One of the fashionable coaches in football as he is Julian Nagelmann, current coach of Bayern Munich, has shown at an early age that he follows methods and a philosophy that have established him as one of the best coaches of the moment.
And clearly, speaking of the third man, we know that Nagelsmann has applied this concept in teams he has coached, such as the RB Leipzig.
Nagelsmann showed that by applying the third man rule to his team's play, he was able to give legendary teams such as Manchester United a football "bath". winning 3-2 and allowing his team to continue their path in the highest European competition, the Champions League, during the 2020/2021 season.
The importance of the third man
The third man is of great importance on the field of play, because if we are able to assimilate and apply this concept in our game model, we will be able to overcome many pressure situations, in which we will be able to generate superiority with this third man. , and thus be able to give continuity to our play.