With Wayne Rooney having changed from a forward into a midfielder and the England internationalâ€™s position the subject of much debate ahead of the Euros, Goal takes a look at other famous cases of players embracing new roles. . .
Gareth Bale, Real Madrid, Manchester City
Bale joined Tottenham from Southampton as a left-back but he was pushed forward by Harry Redknapp in 2010. The Spurs boss initially suspected that the Welshman would eventually return to his original position but Bale flourished as a winger and became the most expensive player in the world when he moved to Real Madrid for â‚¬100 million in the summer of 2013.
Franz Beckenbauer, West Germany World Cup 1974
Der Kaiser started out as a midfielder, even occasionally lining out on the left wing. However, during the tail end of the 1960s, he began playing at the back, first for Bayern Munich, and then West Germany. It was an inspired move, as Beckenbauer, with his remarkable vision and footballing intelligence, became the greatest exponent of the sweeper role the game has ever seen and led his club and country to one trophy after another.
â€˜The Gentle Giantâ€™ made his Leeds United debut as a centre-half but after a few years in the first team, he was re-invented as a striker. Charles flourished as a forward, his imposing physique and aerial prowess making him a nightmare for defenders. His prolific form ultimately earned him a move to Juventus, where he retains mythical status on account of his goalscoring prowess and immaculate behaviour on and off the pitch.
The Manchester United legend exploded onto the scene in 1991, a 17-year-old winger with blistering pace who evoked memories of George Best with his jinking runs and good looks. Giggs spent well over a decade terrorising full-backs in England and Europe. However, when his pace began to desert him, Giggs prolonged his career by reinventing himself as a central midfielder. He retired in 2014, at the age of 40, as the most decorated player in football history.
Ruud Gullit, Chelsea
A key member of Arrigo Sacchiâ€™s legendary AC Milan side, the Dutchman is rightly remembered as one of the finest attacking talents of the modern era. However, after moving
to Chelsea at the tail end of his career, Gullit embraced the sweeper role – and to excellent effect, with the former Ballon dâ€™Or winner helping Chelsea lift the FA Cup in 1997.
One of the greatest moves Arsene Wenger ever made was signing Thierry Henry from Juventus and immediately converting him into a centre forward. Henry had flopped terribly in Turin but Wenger felt that his fellow Frenchman had the pace and composure in front of goal to become a world-class striker. He wasnâ€™t wrong, as Henry went on to break Arsenalâ€™s all-time scoring record.
The German had long since established himself as one of the finest full-backs in the world when Pep Guardiola took charge of Bayern Munich in 2013. However, the Catalan was immediately struck by Lahmâ€™s footballing intelligence and promptly began to deploy the two-footed Bavarian as a defensive midfielder, a role he carried out with predictable efficiency and class.
Javier Mascherano, Barcelona
The Argentine joined Barcelona in 2010 after carving out a reputation for himself at Liverpool as one of the most tenacious defensive midfielders in the game. However, then Blaugrana boss Guardiola felt that Mascherano would make a fine centre-half – and so it proved, with the former River Plate man eventually going on to form a formidable partnership with Gerard Pique at the heart of the Barca defence.
An intelligent attacking midfielder with a hammer for a right foot, Matthaus fired West Germany to World Cup glory in the summer of 1990. However, in a bid to extend his career at the highest level, Matthaus eventually dropped back into defence, where he performed the sweeper role to great effect for Bayern Munich.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona 2012
One of the main reasons Zlatan Ibrahimovic lasted only one season at Barcelona was Lionel Messi, who, according to the Swede, went to Guardiola during the 2009-10 campaign and requested that he be moved from the wing into the centre of the Blaugrana attack. The Catalan obliged and Messi almost immediately became one of the most prolific forwards the game has ever seen. Of course, Messi has since returned to a deeper, wider role to accommodate Luis Suarez at centre forward, a switch which enables Barca to get the very best out of both the Argentine and the Uruguayan.
One of the biggest mistakes Inter ever made was allowing Andrea Pirlo to join city rivals AC Milan. In fairness, he had struggled to nail down a regular place in the Nerazzurri line-up as a No. 10 but he had excelled as a deep-lying playmaker during a loan spell at Carlo Mazzoneâ€™s Brescia. That didnâ€™t go unnoticed by AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, who made Pirlo the key cog in a midfield that helped the Rossoneri win two Champions Leagues.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern 2007
The former Bayern Munich man began his career as a winger – and even played at left-back at one point.
However, it slowly became evident that Schweinsteiger had the intelligence and passing range to take on a more pivotal role and he ultimately developed into one of the worldâ€™s best midfielders before injuries eventually took their toll. – Goal.com