Any modern-day footballer will tell you that one of the hardest things to do is to master and excel in any given position on the pitch. Even much harder is changing your previous position to a new one and still excelling. Today we take a look at a few of these extraordinary gentlemen who did just that and defied the odds to continue to produce world-class performances. Here are seven of the best soccer players who changed positions.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese legend is arguably one of the greatest goal scorers of all time, but he started out initially as a right-winger. At Sporting Lisbon and his first few seasons at Manchester United, Ronaldo was mostly known for his pace, trickery, and skills. He could also score the odd goal but mostly operated on the wings.
Towards the end of his first stint at Old Trafford Cristiano started scoring goals on a more regular basis, which led to former coach Sir Alex Ferguson deploying him in a more centre-forward position. His transfer to Real Madrid saw him transform into a forward full time and he’s been banging in goals ever since.
2. Yaya Toure
The former Ivorian international started out his career mostly in the defensive midfield role, especially during his time with Greek side Olympiacos and Spanish giants FC Barcelona. At Camp Nou, he established himself as one of the league’s best defensive midfielders. Occasionally due to injuries, he was also played in defense. His transfer to English side Manchester City completely changed his trajectory. At the Etihad, he was given more license to good forward and attack. Toure completely adapted his game to become more of a central box-to-box midfielder. This led to him scoring and assisting more goals.
3. Javier Mascherano
The Argentinian was known for his defensive midfield work in the early parts of his career with West Ham and Barcelona. Javier excelled very well when called to play as cover in defense. Eventually, the former UEFA Champions League winner would master the centre back role and continue to operate in defense for the rest of his career.
4. Gareth Bale
The Welsh captain started out as a left fullback during his time with Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning. Spurs managers noticed his ability to get forward and join the attack. His blistering pace and dribbling ability to wreck havoc on the opposition saw him get retained in that position for the rest of his time in North London. Bale would later join Real Madrid where he would continue to excel in the wing position become one of the best in the world.
5. Joshua Kimmich
The Bayern and Germany player started out as a right-back, but over the past couple of years, he has begun to establish himself as an accomplished defensive/central midfielder due to his playmaking ability and ability to create chances for his teammates. It seems he will be playing in the midfield role for the foreseeable future.
6. Thierry Henry
Henry began his career as a winger but was changed to play as a striker under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Initially, doubts were raised about his ability to adjust to a striking position in the quick and physical English game after he failed to score in his first eight games. Even Henry himself conceded that he had to “be re-taught everything about the art of striking.” Nonetheless, the Frenchman dispelled those doubts and became a prolific striker for Arsenal. He is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 228 goals in all competitions and won the Premier League Golden Boot a record four times.
7. Antonio Valencia
The newly retired footballer is one of the most underrated footballers of all time. Valencia initially played as a right-winger when he joined Manchester United. However, under manager Louis van Gaal, Valencia was deployed to both the right-back and right-wing back positions. He played in that position under a few managers and was referred to as the ‘best right-back in the world’ by Jose Mourinho.
- Sergio Ramos — Right-back to Centre-back
- Sergi Roberto — Midfielder to Full-back
- Alphonso Davies – Left Winger to Left Back
- Oscar de Marcos — Midfielder to Full-back
- Gianluca Zambrotta – Winger to Full Back
- Jordi Alba — Winger to Left-back
- Bastian Schweinsteiger — Winger to Central Midfielder
- Ryan Giggs — Left Winger to Central Midfielder
- Philipp Lahm — Full Back to Defensive Midfielder
- John Obi Mikel — Attacking Midfielder to Holding Midfielder
- Victor Moses — Winger to Right Wing-back
- Gareth Barry — Left-back to Holding Midfielder
- Ronald Araujo — Striker to Centre-back.