Gareth Bale's spectacular rise can be attributed to evolving from a defender into a clinical attacker but he's not the only player to have made such a move...

Words By George Young

It’s almost exactly a year on from the lengthy Luka Modrić transfer saga and, once again, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is left trying to rebuff the advances of Real Madrid for his club’s preeminent player; this time, Gareth Bale. Bale’s incredible progress at Spurs since playing in a record 24 Premier League matches without being on the winning side has widely been attributed from his change in position from a left back, to a left winger, and now into a forward player comfortable anywhere across the final third. Here are 9 other players whose change in position either kick-started or extended their careers.


Ashley Cole (striker – left-back)

The archenemy of the Cheryl Cole fan club was once widely considered the best left-back in the game; however, during his youth career Cole was a prolific striker, only converting to left back when reportedly told by a youth team coach that he would never become a pro striker.

Edwin van der Sar (striker – goalkeeper)

As Holland’s most capped player, van der Sar originally started out as a target man up front due to his exceptional height; it was only because of an injury to his team’s goalkeeper and the Dutchman’s willingness to fill in for the sake of his team that laid the foundations for one of the most successful goalkeeping careers of all time.

Jorge Campos (goalkeeper – striker – goalkeeper)

Campos was renowned for his self-designed, fashion police unfriendly kits as well as his miniscule height for a goalkeeper at barely five and a half feet tall. Furthermore, Campos’ eccentricity was exaggerated by his technical ability will the ball at his feet, almost becoming the Mexican league’s top scorer in the 1989-90 season after chipping in with 14 goals from a forward position, emphasising this extraordinary player’s versatility.

John Charles (centre-back – striker)

Christened ‘The Gentle Giant’ by adoring Juventus fans, Charles excelled in Italy to the extent that he was voted the greatest ever foreign player in Serie A, ahead of such greats as Maradona and Zidane. All this whilst never receiving a booking, Charles was equally skilful at centre-back and centre-forward, marshalling the defence without peer at Leeds United during his early years and leading Juventus to three Scudettos with his impressive rate of 0.62 goals per game.

Dion Dublin (centre-back – striker)

After failing to make a single start Norwich City as a centre-back, Dublin was gratefully shipped out to Cambridge United on a free transfer. Due to the acute perception of the coaching staff there, which recognised the young player’s potential at the other end of the pitch, Dublin become a crucial goal-scorer in assisting United’s successive promotion bids. Although never regarded as a top class forward, failing when given an opportunity at Manchester United, Dublin enjoyed subsequent successful spells at Coventry City and Aston Villa.

Kolo Touré (midfielder – defender)

A perfect example of Arsène Wenger’s once unparalleled ability to pluck exceptional raw talent from Africa at a miniscule cost, Touré took several months to settle down to the demands of English football, being played in defensive midfield and even as an attacking winger; nevertheless, after a shaky start Touré excelled in an intuitive defensive partnership with Sol Campbell, becoming an integral component of the 20003-04 ‘Invincibles’ team.

Thierry Henry (winger – striker)

The mercurial Frenchman was another foreign import who blossomed under the tutelage of Arsène Wenger during his golden era as Arsenal’s coach. Henry was unloved and under-utilised during his single season at Juventus, scoring a meagre 3 goals in 19 games as an ineffectual right winger. Yet Wenger, the wily and observant professor of the game, took an £11 million punt on his fellow Frenchman; after converting him into arguably the greatest striker of the Premier League era, Arsenal fans must be hoping that Wenger’s magic can conjure a similarly explosive change in Theo Walcott’s career...

Lothar Matthäus (midfielder – sweeper)

As the only outfield player to appear in five World Cups, captaining West Germany to the title in 1990, Matthäus enjoyed tremendous personal success in the game, the highlight being crowned the Ballon d’Or winner in the same year as his country’s World Cup triumph. Matthäus’ genuine class is undeniable when you consider that, after losing pace and stamina with age, he still managed to play at the highest level as an intelligent sweeper rather than an industrious box to box midfielder.

Johan Cruyff (striker – midfielder – defender)

Awarded the Ballon d’Or on three occasions in 1971, 1973 and 1974, Cruyff would start games at centre forward, before often switching to either wing or even on occasion to a sweeper position; the Dutchman’s unique vision and eye for a pass eventually led to him being voted Barcelona’s player of the century in 1999. Don’t forget, not many players retire with their own dribbling trick named after them either.

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