Footballers Who Thrived After a Change of Position

Sometimes a footballer can have all the tools but there's just something not quite right.

Sometimes a stern word from the boss is enough, other times it's a spell out or a transfer that kicks a player into another gear. Sometimes it's a change of position.

The beautiful game always throws up surprises and position changes are sometimes the key to unlocking the best of a player. Here are 11 footballers who thrived with a slight tweak of role.

11. Bastian Schweinsteiger - Winger to Central Midfielder

Schweinsteiger lifts the 2014 World Cup with Germany | VI-Images/Getty Images

Believe it or not, Bastian Schweinsteiger wasn't always the Rolls Royce centre midfielder he became known as.

The German broke through at Bayern Munich as an erratic and largely inconsistent left winger, but was converted into a central role by Louis van Gaal during his spell in charge at the club. It got him closer to the ball and able to control play from deeper, which proved to be the making of 'Deutscher Fussballmeister'.

It also highlights just how smart Van Gaal was in his peak.

10. Thierry Henry - Winger to Striker

The immensely talented Frenchman arrived in north London as a pacey left-winger in 1999, but wouldn't stay there for long.

Instead, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger - who had coached Henry at Monaco - shifted his winger into a striker, which proved immediately fruitful as Henry bagged 26 goals in his first season with the club.

His pace and dribbling, combined with a lethal eye for goal, made him a complete striker with range to his game.

9. Andrea Pirlo - Attacking Midfielder to Defensive Midfielder

It's hard to believe that Andrea Pirlo was anything more than a deep-lying playmaker, purely because he was so good in that role for so long.

However, this wasn't the case in his early career, where he was used as an attacking midfielder at Brescia and in loan spells while on the books at Inter. A lack of pace and competition for places saw managers push him further down the pitch, where the Italian really found his feet.

Pirlo would then become one of the most talented deep-lying quarterbacks of his generation, known for his composure and ability to create plays from just in front of the defence.

8. Ryan Giggs - Left Winger to Central Midfielder

Giggs proved key to Man Utd as a central midfielder after shifting from his wide position | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Giggs made a transition similar to that of Schweinsteiger's, but later in his career.

After building up a reputation for so long as a tricky wide playmaker with a magic left foot, Giggs transitioned into a central role in the final few seasons of his career and thrived for Manchester United, as the experienced head among younger ones.

His longevity was testament to his ability and consistency, but so was his ability to seamlessly adapt to a new role in his late thirties.

7. Gianluca Zambrotta - Winger to Full Back

Zambrotta thrived in a defensive role following a positional tweak | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Despite starting out as a winger, Zambrotta was versatile and enjoyed the most success playing as a full back and a wing back.

His versatility combined well with attacking attributes such as good crossing, and key defensive attributes such as strength and shrewd tackling.

It made sense to push him back and have him thrive in a more defensive role, rather than play him as an average winger in a time where Italy wasn't so keen on speedy wide men.

6. Antonio Valencia - Right Winger to Right Back

Valencia shields the ball from Leighton Baines | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester United pulled a similar stunt with Antonio Valencia.

Signed as a tricky right winger in 2009, injuries to himself and others saw him get a run at right back, rather than his usual position. Valencia thrived in the role thanks to his strength and ability to overlap, and would end up seeing out the rest of his career with the club as the starting right back until he left in 2019.

5. Gareth Bale - Left Back to Right Winger

One of the most impressive position changes of recent times was the switch that made Gareth Bale's career.

Despite signing for Spurs as promising left back with a knack for set pieces, Bale struggled to break into the starting XI over Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Injury gave him a chance, however, and manager Harry Redknapp opted to keep him in the side as a left winger following the Frenchman's return.

Bale thrived in the advanced role and, after that hat-trick against Inter in 2010, there was no looking back.

Later at Real Madrid, he moved over to the right side, with Cristiano Ronaldo favouring the left of the front three.

4. Alphonso Davies - Left Winger to Left Back

This one seemed quite an odd switch, but there was method to the madness and it couldn't have come off any better.

Usually, a player drops deeper down the pitch as they age, but not for Alphonso Davies. The teenager was converted into a left back by Hansi Flick at Bayern Munich to allow David Alaba to deputise at centre back due to injuries.

Davies has quickly become the epitome of the modern full back, creating chances with mazy runs from deep but also bossing his defensive duties.

3. David Alaba - Left Back to Centre Back

David Alaba is now seen as a centre back at Bayern Munich | Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Davies has been such a success in his new role that he's caused David Alaba to switch positions permanently as a result.

Alaba has always been a versatile player which again is testament to his ability and understanding of the game, but has excelled as a central defender. With Davies now the starting left back, this seems to be the new status quo for the pair.

2. Philipp Lahm - Full Back to Defensive Midfielder

Lahm proved to be an assured defensive midfielder | VI-Images/Getty Images

Despite honing his craft as a veteran full back on either flank, Philipp Lahm was given a new role during the autumn of his career under Pep Guardiola.

The Spaniard made Lahm his defensive midfielder in the absence of an out-and-out option. The German naturally thrived, with his ball playing skills and reading allowing him to move into the role seamlessly for two seasons until Joshua Kimmich arrived at Bayern and proved to be his successor as 'Mr Versatile'.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo - Winger to Striker

Watching Ronaldo tweak his game from the explosive and skilful winger who would take players on and burst past defenders on either flank, into an assured and composed goal poacher has been exceptional.

It again proves that Ronaldo is one of the greatest of all time, as the Portugal international has now operated as the best player in the world as both a winger and an established number nine.

Leading the line isn't easy - let alone at the top level - which highlights just how well Ronaldo reads the game and shift his style accordingly.

Source : 90min