“Attack wins you matches, but defence wins you tournaments," goes the popular saying in football.
A good defender is arguably even more important than a good attacking player for deciding a team’s fortunes, because of the simple fact that a team cannot lose if it does not concede a goal. However, not all defenders are similar in their playing style. Some are easy on the ball and good passers, while some are tough tacklers and man-markers.
The position of a defensive midfielder is very important in today’s football, as no team plays without one. The defensive midfielders shield the backline by thwarting opposition attacks in the midfield. Sometimes, they play as the de facto third centre back and create attacks from the midfield.
It is not easy for a player to play both as a defensive midfielder and as a centre-back because of the different demands of those two positions. A defensive midfielder has to venture into the opposition half at times, while a centre-back needs to have great positional awareness and anticipation skills.
Here, we take a look at four greats of the game who have played in both the positions:
1. Lothar Matthaus
Matthaus remains one of the greatest and most versatile midfielders in the history of the game. He has played as a DM, CB, box-to-box midfielder and attacking midfielder for his country and clubs.
Matthaus was renowned for his passing and shooting skills, and a stint at the Serie A made him a supreme ball-winner and tackler as well. He earned 150 caps for the German national team and played more than 750 club matches in his incredibly long career, which lasted 20 years.
He also scored 204 goals in his club career and 23 for his national team.
Matthaus used to play as a defensive midfielder early on in his career and went on to blossom into a more complete player in course of time. He spent four fantastic seasons in the midfield for Inter Milan and played as centre-back for Bayern Munich in the latter part of his career.
He won seven Bundesliga titles for Bayern and one Serie A for Inter. In the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United managed to score two goals only after Matthaus was substituted.
Matthaus also played as a sweeper in the World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000 for the German national team, besides playing as a defensive midfielder in the 1986 and 1994 World Cups and as an attacking midfielder in the 1990 World Cup winning team.