Fernando Diniz: The Godfather of Relationism

In the realm of football, two elemental forces exist:  space and control. The prevailing inclination among many managers is to grasp onto control, manipulating their players as if marionettes on strings, dictating their every move. Much like the intricate game of chess, where the humble pawn typically remains a pawn, save for rare instances when it ascends to the rank of queen under the careful guidance of a master strategist, even then requiring protection to ward off the menace of checkmate.


However, consider for a moment a scenario where a pawn possessed the ability to morph into a knight, a bishop, or a rook, adapting to the demands of the game in order to secure an advantage. This audacious proposition lies at the core of Fernando Diniz’s ethos, as exemplified by his resolute Fluminense team. Their aim is to relinquish control and grant their players the liberty to express themselves to the fullest extent, enabling them to confront the challenges of the field head-on.


But before you find yourself on the brink of exasperation, grappling with the audacious nature of such a notion and the ensuing chaos, irrationality, and bedlam that trails behind, do pause for a moment of reflection. Cast your gaze upon the panorama and allow the thought to unfurl — might it be, just might it be, that these adversaries espouse their views not out of strategic sagacity, but from the realm of inflexibility and trepidation?


Structured vs. Unstructured: A Myth That Must Perish


Within the realm of contemporary football, an insidious obsession persists — an unwavering fixation on structured central progression. Yet, it is precisely this prevailing mindset that Fernando Diniz dares to defy. Instead of adhering to the conventional approach, he navigates uncharted territories, steering the ball closer to the touchline, unfurling a new paradigm.



To bring this audacious strategy to fruition, Dinz meticulously arranges his players in purposeful clusters, defying the traditional notions of positioning and inviting “chaos” into the fold. Flunminese move together like a well-oiled machine, executing precise passes and weaving patterns on the field. Their strategy involves outsmarting the opponents by creating numerical advantages and gradually advancing as a unified force. 


To make progress, they use a combination of accurate passes and impressive dribbling skills, keeping the opponents on their toes. They lure the opposing players into congested areas and cleverly manipulate the limited space to their advantage. Even if they lose the ball momentarily, they quickly recover and keep attacking with swift moves to outwit their adversaries.


One key tactic is the “staircase arrangement ” where three players position themselves at different heights on the field to receive the ball. The passes between them create an exciting visual spectacle that captivates the crowd and confuses the opponents. The staircase formation and quick one-two combinations work together, adapting to the situation at hand.


Critics who criticize Diniz’s tactical approach for lacking structure fail to understand its inherent complexity. Each player has a specific role within this intricate system, defying the assumption of chaos. As Martin Rafelt eloquently explains, modern tactics aim to neutralize opponents by shifting and isolating them through defensive maneuvers, effectively minimizing their influence. The highest level of the game revolves around this constant interplay, continually adapting to counter opponents’ strategies.


The Resurgence of the #10


Amidst the shifting tides of modern football, a rekindling of artistry and flair emerges. The echoes of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Juan Roman Riquelme, Guti, and Jay Jay Okocha resonate through the ages, reminding us of a time when the number 10 held sway.


In an era fixated on midfield control and tactical tridents, these attacking midfield maestros were deemed expendable, burdened by their supposed negligence of defensive duties. Yet, in their audacious freedom to wander, they carried an unwavering belief: “Should we reclaim the ball, with me in this space, I shall forge greatness.”


In the realm of football, a renaissance beckons with the revival of the number 10 role. It is in the figure of Ganso that this resurgence finds its embodiment. The fluidity of Fluminense’s gameplay is granted life through Ganso’s liberated movements, effortlessly slicing through the opposition’s defenses. 


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With instinctual grace, he weaves himself into intricate staircase moves and one-twos, with his teammates, knowing precisely when to forge relationships and solve the riddles that each moment presents. In the spirit of Wittgenstein’s observations, Ganso paints mental pictures, orchestrating the symphony that unfolds on the field. He is the conductor of this vibrant ensemble.


Yet, detractors of this style are quick to raise concerns about the perils of granting such freedom to a player. They forget, perhaps intentionally or due to the fog of time, the towering legacy of Rinus Michels’ total football and the pivotal role played by Johan Cruyff.


The 1974 World Cup bore witness to the Netherlands’ breathtaking display, leaving spectators awestruck. But when Berti Vogts marked Cruyff, total football hit a stumbling block, even as he valiantly tried to shift his position to the midfield. This is not an attempt to dismiss the merits of total football, but rather to underscore the transformative power of a self-regulating player within a structured tactical framework.


Johan Cruyff, the epitome of self-regulation, propelled an exceptional team throughout the tournament, despite the Germans managing to momentarily halt his influence. The beauty lay in his ability to navigate pockets of space and outsmart markers, even within a seemingly structured system. Another luminary who embodies the concept of a self-regulating player within a rigid tactical design is Lionel Messi during his tenure at Barcelona under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.


David Garcia encapsulated it eloquently: a self-regulating player possesses the capacity to think independently, communicate with the game environment, and make decisions that shape their interactions within the game. In empowering players, the coach’s role becomes one of guidance rather than rigid instruction, providing the tools for players to discover their own answers. It is a journey towards true self-expression, where each player’s contribution aligns seamlessly with the collective, resulting in a footballing expression driven by the players themselves.


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In this grand tapestry of the beautiful game, Ganso emerges as a torchbearer, showcasing the immense potential of a self-regulating player. As his artistry unfolds on the field, he paints strokes of brilliance, leaving spectators in awe and reminding us of the indomitable spirit of football’s truest form.


The Pressing Scheme of Diniz


Fernando Diniz’s pressing scheme goes beyond the ordinary, transforming it into a mesmerizing spectacle on the field. His team exhibits remarkable intensity and aggression, executed with finesse, resulting in an unstoppable pursuit of the ball. When possession slips away, Diniz’s men embark on an adventurous quest, leaving no stone unturned in their hunger to reclaim the ball.


Their palpable desire manifests in an unwavering commitment to press with a force bordering on ferociousness. Fluminense engages in a man-to-man pressing frenzy, denying their opponents even a sliver of breathing space. They ingeniously utilize the touchline as an additional ally in their relentless counter-pressing maneuvers.


At times, their pressing strategy flirts with extremism, pushing the boundaries of conventional tactics. On certain occasions, a daring spectacle unfolds as five players surge forward, audaciously closing down the ball carrier to disrupt their opponents’ build-up. This boldness may expose defensive vulnerabilities, but it also constructs an impenetrable fortress, turning the opposition’s escape into an arduous task.


In possession-oriented football, Fluminense disregards the defensive strategy of the low block and instead asserts their dominance in the opposing team’s territory. Their defensive efforts primarily manifest in a high block, a testament to their unwavering commitment to seize control. The meticulous organization of their pressing strategy serves as the cornerstone of their possession-oriented philosophy, enabling them to dictate the ebb and flow of the game with unwavering authority. 


Diniz’s pressing scheme encapsulates the spirit of his team—an unyielding pursuit of excellence fueled by a potent mix of intensity and tactical precision. While their high-risk approach may raise eyebrows, it is precisely this calculated audacity that sets them apart. Diniz’s disciples thrive in the chaos they create, a tempest that disrupts the opposing team’s rhythm, ultimately granting them the coveted upper hand.


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In the world of football tactics, Diniz’s pressing scheme unfolds as a masterpiece, crafted with meticulous attention to detail. It represents the delicate balance between offensive ambition and defensive prowess—a pressing masterpiece that captivates fans and leaves opponents in awe. Diniz’s unconventional tactics have forever engraved his name in the history of the game.




As football coaches, it is our responsibility to guide our players through the intricate decision-making process on the field. Rather than chastising them for their mistakes, we should encourage a mindset that embraces these missteps as stepping stones towards improvement. By reframing errors as catalysts for growth, we create a supportive atmosphere that empowers players to bounce back stronger and more resilient than ever.


When a player makes a mistake, it is crucial to avoid a confrontational approach. Instead of dwelling on the error itself, we should shift our focus towards helping the player find a solution. By asking questions like “How can you turn this situation into an opportunity?” or “What can you learn from this experience?” we challenge our players to think critically and develop their problem-solving abilities. This encourages them to view mistakes not as setbacks, but as valuable lessons in disguise.


The process of turning mistakes into opportunities is not a solitary endeavor. It is a collective journey, a collaboration that intertwines the threads of trust, support, and resilience. Coaches become guides, nurturing a sanctuary where players are encouraged to transcend their fears and delve into the uncharted territories of their potential.


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As coaches, we have the privilege and responsibility to guide our players through this transformative journey, facilitating their progress on and off the field. Let us create an environment that encourages calculated risk-taking, critical thinking, and a deep understanding that mistakes are not roadblocks but stepping stones on the path to greatness; Diniz has already embarked upon, leaving an indelible imprint on the tactical ruminations of Henrik Rdystrom of  FF Malmo.


A privilege is bestowed upon them until the arrival of the legendary Carlo Ancelotti, Brazil’s national team finds itself on the cusp of an exhilarating journey, where the pure essence of Ginga can flourish once more with Dinz. With Diniz at the helm, the Brazilian national team finds itself on the threshold of a feast of beauty, a sensory banquet that will leave spectators awestruck and spellbound.


His tenure, albeit brief, promises to leave an indelible mark on both the players and the Brazilian national team. As the year unfolds, as the pages of this story turn, the spell of Ancelotti and the allure of Diniz will intertwine, forging a path of extraordinary potential.


By Tobi Peter / @keep_IT tactical

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mauro Pimentel – AFP