A Managerial Roll of the Dice: 7 Players Who Flourished After Switching Positions

Switching a player's position can be risky business. If it's deemed a failure, a manager can go down as some sort of idle-brained amateur trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Even worse, the lambasting can often spawn stubbornness – see erstwhile West Ham manager Slaven Bilic's lengthy and botched experiment of converting winger Michail Antonio into a right-back last season as a case in point.

If it comes off, though, a manager can be perceived as a true sage of the game; someone who pulled off the master stroke of the century. And while there have been plenty of much-publicised blunders when it comes to the tweaking and tampering of players' customary positions, there have been some plucky and enterprising examples of footballers switching their roles to great effect. 

Here are seven successful transformations...

7. Gareth Bale

Although currently enduring a bit of a blip in his esteemed career due to incessant injuries, it's strange to think that Real Madrid's frighteningly pacy and clinical Welshman once plied his trade as a full-back for Tottenham.

Signed by Spurs in 2007 after a successful season with Southampton, the 17-year-old Bale went through a patchy start to his time at the north London club. Cue Harry Redknapp giving him a run out on the left-wing after Benoît Assou-Ekotto claimed the left-back role as his own, Bale consequently cemented himself as a bonafide attacking threat at the club. 

After netting 21 goals in 33 Premier League matches during Tottenham's 2012/13 campaign, Bale joined the La Liga giants in 2013 in a then world record fee of £86m.

6. Victor Moses

It's tough to comprehend that the Nigeria international is just 27 years old, considering how long he has been playing in the Premier League and the sheer number of clubs he has played for. 

Consistently loaned out by Chelsea and only appearing as a bit-part player at a slew of clubs including Stoke City, Liverpool and West Ham, it wasn't until Antonio Conte's inaugural season that Moses earned himself an established position at Stamford Bridge.

Deployed as an attack-minded midfielder for much of his career, Conte masterfully converted Moses into a wing-back during the 2016/17 season to great acclaim. Moses sparkled in defence and was largely considered an integral player in the title-winning team.

5. Thierry Henry

Before he reached the dizzy heights as a striker for Arsenal, the Frenchman played as a winger for both Monaco and Juventus, scoring only a handful of goals per season at both.

After coaching the young Henry in Monaco – and noted as the person originally responsible for shifting him to the wing – Arsene Wenger rekindled their partnership by signing Henry to Arsenal in 1992.

The Gunners' manager subsequently switched Henry to his preferred position of playing through the middle, helping him to become the club's all-time top scorer with a total of 175 goals.

4. Bastian Schweinsteiger

Renowned as being one of the best holding midfielders playing the game in his prime, Schweinsteiger made his name at Bayern Munich as a nimble left-winger who had an eye for goal and took a mean set-piece.

It wasn't until Louis van Gaal spotted something different in the prestigious player that the German made the box-to-box midfielder position his own, for both club and country. 

Schweinsteiger's superlative tackling, dribbling, vision and passing ability helped him to obtain a plethora of accolades and he was hailed as instrumental in Germany's successful 2014 FIFA World Cup Final victory against Argentina. 

3. Mousa Dembélé

Smooth operator and overall powerhouse holding midfielder Dembélé isn't necessarily known for his goal-scoring prowess at Tottenham Hotspur, so Spurs fans might be surprised to discover that the Belgian international spent much of his early career as a striker or attacking midfielder. 

The young Dembélé originally played as an auxiliary striker for Eredivisie sides Willem II and AZ, until he found success as a box-to-box midfielder at Tottenham, via two seasons at Fulham. 

2. Vincent Kompany

Kompany has been considered one of the best-ever central defenders for Manchester City by peers and fans alike, but the big Belgian was actually originally signed from Hamburg for around £6m as a defensive midfielder.

Kompany ended up flourishing when positioned in the centre of a resilient defence, thus shoring up the back line and helping City to claim their first Premier League title back in 2012.

1. Dion Dublin

Perhaps perceived as a slightly prosaic attribute nowadays, some strikers were called upon to juggle attacking and centre-back roles back in the day. 

One player that could seamlessly transition from both respective positions was Dion Dublin, who started his career as a centre-back with Norwich City, but made his name at Cambridge United as a centre-forward. 

He later found the back of the net playing for teams like Manchester United, Coventry City and Aston Villa, albeit being called on to fulfil defensive duties from time to time, too.