A shift in role did not hamper the performances of these players.
It is often underestimated just how much of an effect a particular manager’s style of play can have on footballers. A minute difference in a footballer’s outlook on the game can have a lasting impact on his actions on the pitch.
One of the most common ways in which a manager can influence a footballer is through a change in position. While more often than not, this does not come to fruition, every once in a while, this change of position proves to be a revelation.
We at Khel Now bring you a list of the top 10 footballers to have found success after a change in position.
10. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabon striker has built a reputation for his blistering pace and strength on the ball. A trait that has become ever so popular with players of the FIFA games over the years. Aubameyang however, started his career coming in off of the right side of midfield. It was during his time at Borussia Dortmund that the attacker’s prowess in front of goal came to the fore when he was deployed down the middle by Jurgen Klopp.
This move to the centre of the park allowed Aubameyang to occupy a Thierry Henry-esque role as moved into a centre forwards position from out wide.
The move from defence to midfield was one that particularly suited Brazil and PSG’s Marquinhos. The 26-year-old central defender has immense ability on the ball with a range of passing, befitting his nationality. However, his diminutive frame means that he is sometimes unable to deal with the physical requirements of central defence. Marquinhos reinvented himself as a sweeping defensive midfielder, putting his ability on the ball to good use.
Perhaps the Brazilian’s best midfield performance came in the 2019 Champions League round of 16 tie against Manchester United when he neutralized the threat posed by Paul Pogba, effectively winning PSG the midfield battle.
8. Joshua Kimmich
Kimmich began his career at Bayern Munich as a traditional right full-back, impressing with his consistently powerful performances in the Bundesliga. However, a shortage of midfield options for the German club saw the youngster be forced to play a part in midfield, a move that proved to be a revelation both for Bayern Munich and for the German National side. The 25-year-old’s reading of the game from midfield has made him almost indispensable to Hans Flick’s side.
7. Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger spent a majority of his career at Bayern Munich, playing out on the right side of midfield while the likes of Michael Ballack, Owen Hargreaves and Niko Kovacs take up roles in the centre.
The German however, was given his chance to shine at the heart of the side during the 2014 World cup triumph. It was his midfield prowess that allowed his side to stand resolute against a potent Argentinean attack in the final.
6. Phillip Lahm
Phillip Lahm will go down in history as one of the best full-backs to ever grace a football pitch. However, towards the later stages of the world cup winner’s career, Lahm’s in-game awareness and horse-like stamina were recognised by erstwhile coach Pep Guardiola as being a perfect fit for a midfield position.
The move into midfield paid dividends for Bayern Munich with Lahm’s prowess turning them into one of the strongest teams in possession on the planet.
5. Roberto Firmino
Before Firmino’s move to Liverpool, the Brazillian was deployed in an attacking midfield role at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. The 28-year-old was tasked with creating goalscoring opportunities for his teammates through his pace and trickery. However, it was Jurgen Klopp who realised the potential of the attacker, deploying him in a false nine role that he has grown to epitomize.
His unique talent of dragging opposition defenders out of position, affording the likes of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane with the space to create goals, has made him one of the best examples of how a simple change in position can change the course of a career.
4. Paul Scholes
The cries of “Paul Scholes, he scores goals” are heard to this day echoing around Old Trafford on matchdays. This is exactly what Paul Scholes did. He scored goals. However, Sir Alex Ferguson once played him in place of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes’ performance gave the boss a hint of greater things. However, as his legs gave way over the course of his career, the midfielder found himself falling deeper and deeper into midfield where he began to exert an influence on the game with his supreme range of passing.
His performances in the midfield role rightly put him on a pedestal with some of the best midfielders that the world has seen.
3. Gareth Bale
Over the course of his years at Tottenham, Gareth Bale underwent one of the most iconic changes of a position of all time, lighting up the Premier League with his performances from the left-wing. The Welshman joined Tottenham as a teenager from Southampton as a marauding full-back. However, his pedigree in athletics and his ability to beat a man saw Bale in the final third of the pitch more often than not. This trait was exemplified when the youngster scored a hattrick from left-back against Inter Milan in the Champions League.
Soon Bale was given the Left-wing role at Spurs before making the move to Real Madrid for a world record fee.
2. Andrea Pirlo
In his early years, the Italian maestro was played as a number 10, just behind the main striker, sliding balls through the final third. While he became extremely good at this, his long-range passing was largely overlooked. This all changed when he moved to AC Milan to join up with Carlo Ancelotti. The manager deployed Pirlo as a shield to the back line, lying just in front of the centre backs, allowing him to dictate the game with his immaculate passes thereby giving birth to one of history’s great midfielders.
Pirlo has since stated that the change of position changed his career, one that is filled with silverware for club and country.
1. Pep Guardiola
Johan Cruyff is widely regarded as the man whose genius gave birth to modern football. During his time as manager of Barcelona, Cruyff made a trip to watch a La Masia match featuring one Josep Guardiola who was playing on the right wing. Cruyff requested the erstwhile La Masia coach, Charly Rexach to play the boy as a pivot in midfield, in front of the defence. Just like Cruyff had predicted, Guardiola adapted to the position immediately, in doing so becoming the first person to pioneer the traditional Barcelona midfield pivot, a position that is now occupied by Serio Busquets.
Guardiola would rise through the ranks at Barcelona before making his debut in 1990, going down as one of La Masia’s great success stories.