Five all-time greats that changed position in their later years after Rooney remarks

Lee Gormley | May 18, 2016

Five greats that changed position

Manchester United wrapped up the 2015/16 Premier League season by earning a comfortable 3-1 victory over Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, with skipper Wayne Rooney starring as he dispatched his 100th club goal at Old Trafford.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Barclays Premier League - Old Trafford

The England captain is now 30 years of age and has been utilised by Louis van Gaal in a deeper midfield role, despite spending his decorated career leading the line for club and country, but his remarks after the Cherries win confirm he sees his future in the central areas.

“Sometimes you have to make choices in your career and at the moment it’s better for me to play deeper,” said Rooney, who also assisted Ashley Young’s goal with a ball over the top against Bournemouth.

“It could be a bit different for England where I could still be the striker but probably next season that’s where I see myself playing.”

Sport - 2015 Christmas Package

Rooney is only four goals shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time Man Utd record and this season became England’s most prolific scorer in history, but he has opened the door for a midfield role for Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions at Euro 2016 this summer too.

“I’m sure Roy Hodgson will have his ideas of where he thinks is best for me,” continued Rooney, who is 5/4 with Coral to net anytime in the upcoming FA Cup final.

“It could be where I play for England, but that’s down to Roy. I’m sure we’ll speak when we meet up and he’ll tell me where he wants me to play.”

In light of Rooney’s comments on switching from his long-standing forward role to a deeper midfield one, here are five all-time greats that changed positions in the latter years of their illustrious careers. Enjoy…

Lothar Matthaus

Soccer - Euro 2000 - Group A - Portugal v Germany

German legend Matthaus began his career as an attacking midfielder, starting at Borussia Monchengladbach before his first spell with Bayern Munich, when he won an abundance of silverware including three successive Bundesliga titles.

Though as he got older he gradually moved backwards throughout his career until eventually ending his playing time as a sweeper/centre back. Such a switch in position worked wonders as he lifted the 1990 World Cup with (West) Germany and a further four Bundesliga crowns during his second illustrious stint with Munich.

Andrea Pirlo

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Final - Juventus v Barcelona - Olympiastadion

Italian midfield maestro Pirlo enjoyed plenty of success in the latter stages of his career with both AC Milan and more recently Juventus, but has since rode into the sunset of the MLS to ply his trade at New York City alongside Frank Lampard and David Villa.

The now 36-year-old started his time off in the number 10 role, as or in his native homeland, as a trequartista, helping Brescia win Serie B 1997 as a youthful playmaker.

Though, the early signs pointed towards Pirlo moving deeper, as he was forced to do so at his first club due to then teammate Roberto Baggio having played in the same position, but it was eventual AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti that utilised the Italian effectively in that deep-lying anchor role.

Pirlo flourished with age in midfield, with his pinpoint passing and creativity from deep seeing him help Milan lift two Champions League crowns and as many Serie A titles, while he was crucial to Juventus’ recent success when securing four consecutive Italian league medals and only falling short in another European final.

Luis Figo

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Juventus v Real Madrid - Stadio Delle Alpi

At his physical peak, Portugal legend Figo was a dynamic and elegant winger, possessing plenty of pace and great dribbling skills, with his incredibly crossing abilities seeing him reign as the all-time assist leader in La Liga before a certain Lionel Messi came along.

Having been one of the best players of his generation, especially during his time at Barcelona and early days at Real Madrid, Figo then swapped his role as a tricky winger to an advanced attacking midfielder, particularly upon arriving at Inter Milan.

At the Nezzarrui he was given the freedom to create in the number 10 role and was deployed brilliantly as he helped the San Siro giants win four successive Serie A titles, with his vision and varied passing ability, as well as set-piece accuracy, seeing Figo enjoy a successful end to his career.

Raul Gonzalez

Schalke 04 vs Hertha BSC Berlin

Former Real Madrid marksman Raul reigned in Spain as his old club’s all-time goalscorer before having his tally beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo, while his leading international figure was also eventually topped by previous Barcelona and Atletico frontman Villa.

His many years at the top of the game when leading the Galacticos and Spain’s line prove how deadly he was in that role, but a later switch to attacking midfield helped him prolong his career towards the end of his time with Los Blancos and then with Schalke in Germany.

Legendary Spaniard Raul was one of the most prolific and consistent forwards in history, but his astute left foot and great technical abilities helped him progress into a more creative player when his pace had diminished over time. His cool nature on the pitch helped too, having never been sent off in his career.

Ryan Giggs

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Hull City - Old Trafford

Another dynamic left-footer to have switched positions was Man Utd and Wales icon Giggs, who spent an incredible 23 years in the Red Devils first team, after joining the Old Trafford club at just 14.

He quickly became a sensation with his superb turn of pace and menacing skills on the ball, but the Welshman later abandoned his role as a rapid winger to take up a central midfield role under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Giggs’ move worked a treat as he endured many more years of success, helping Man Utd lift an incredible 13 league titles, four FA Cups and two Champions League crowns.


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