Having the talents to excel as a professional footballer belongs to a considerable few who combine their gifts with the hard work and dedication required to make it at the very top. However, being able to perform different roles in various positions on a football pitch is truly special and every manager’s dream.
These unique footballers are often undervalued by the common fan, therefore, Football Castle brings you six of the best Utility players in world football at the moment.
The German International is not only an excellent fullback but also a great technician in midfield. He has been referred to as a ‘Swiss Army knife of a player’ due to his versatility and quality in any role he is given on a pitch. Starting out as a centre-back, Kimmich was moved to right-back by Pep Guardiola – to excellent results – preceding Phillip Lahm’s retirement.
Kimmich registered a mammoth 13 Bundesliga assists from 34 appearances in 2018/19 to further emphasize his intelligence, touch, and quality on the ball. He has featured alongside Thiago Alcântara in the midfield double-pivot for Hansi Flick’s team this season, intelligently covering the gaps when fullbacks Alphonso Davies or Benjamin Pavard fly forward. The 25-year-old has delivered the second-most passes into the penalty area in the Bundesliga and memorably scored the fantastic chip to defeat Dortmund which all but ensured a record Eighth consecutive title for the Bavarians.
The Chelsea captain is arguably the most durable and consistent performer in the Premier League due to his versatility and endurance. Azpilicueta joined Chelsea in 2012 as a solid right back, quickly establishing himself as one of the best 1v1 defenders in the league with his incredible fitness levels meaning he rarely misses a game.
José Mourinho switched the Spaniard to left-back in his title-winning team of 2014/15 and famously declared a team of 11 Azpilicuetas would win the Champions League, attesting to the professionalism of the man known as Dave by Chelsea fans. Antonio Conte’s tactical innovation of the 3-4-3/3-5-2 system in England was not lost on Azpilicueta, however, as he was deployed on the right of the back-three which won the league title in 2016/17. Despite Reece James emerging as Chelsea’s right-back for the future, his captain has remained a role model; featuring in both fullback positions, as a right-sided centre-back and wingback. His character and personality have been key for the Blues down the years and looks pivotal for the evolution of Frank Lampard’s side.
The former English International is another underrated Premier League Mr. Reliable due to his incredible work rate, technical quality and winning mentality. Is there anything James Milner cannot do on a football pitch? He has featured at both fullback positions as well as on the wings and attacking midfield despite naturally being a midfielder. The 34-year-old recently became the fifth all-time appearance maker having reached 535 Premier League appearances and won Liverpool’s first title in 30 years as Vice-captain, having won it twice at Man City before joining their rivals in 2015.
Milner is not only efficient in whatever position he finds himself on the pitch but also an accurate crosser of the ball with a decent assists record and superb ability from the penalty spot. It is a testament to Milner’s incredible tenacity and talent that he has remained consistent at the top level all through his career.
The Austrian started out as a marauding left-sided player at Bayern Munich and was one of Europe’s best left-backs until recent years when he was switched to midfield then centre-back. The 28-year-old had previously featured in an array of positions for his national team including central midfield, defence, on the flanks, and as an attacking midfielder.
Combining pace, tactical intelligence with technique off that sweet left boot, Alaba’s quality and versatility shines in just any position. The emergence of speedster Alphonso Davies has allowed Alaba to focus on becoming a solid centre-back for Bayern, even going further to feature at right-sided centre-back, astonishingly.
Although best deployed as a box-to-box midfielder, the Spanish international has been unable to nail down a particular position since making his Barcelona debut. Sergi Roberto’s workrate, pace and ability on the ball make his versatility a reliable option for every Barcelona manager, such that he has become a jack of all trades and master of none.
The 28-year-old switches between right-back and midfield for Los Blaugranas till date, and was notably featured in seven different positions under Luis Enrique’s management. Having played in defence, midfield and on the flanks; the crowning moment of this selfless utility man’s career so far was the winning goal in Barca’s incredible 6-1 turnaround second leg win against PSG in the Champions League round-of-16.
Having made his way from Non-league football up to the top-flight of English football, Antonio’s story is one of grit and hard work, combined with his incredible versatility to fill any role. The West Ham icon has featured at right-back, wing-back, on both flanks and different roles as a striker, with his trademark work ethic always on show.
Antonio’s contribution to the West Ham cause has been clearly apparent since the season’s restart, scoring against Chelsea and Newcastle before a four-goal haul – the first hat trick of his senior career – to relegate Norwich last time out. The Irons might be making it out of the relegation scrap this season, and for the umpteenth time, all thanks to Antonio.
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