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Two of football’s greatest defensive midfielders started their careers as wingers

They weren't always the defensive linchpins we know and love

“So good they named a position after him.”

In football there’s a lot that is common knowledge.

Spurs bottling it, Neymar diving and Harry Maguire scoring headers, to name just a few.


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Presumably this went in

Getty Images - Getty
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Presumably this went in

It shakes you to the core when you stumble across something that makes you question everything you once believed about the beautiful game.

*Those of a nervous disposition when exposed to unnerving football trivia, look away now.*

It’s known in some small circles that N’Golo Kante began his career as a marauding left-winger.

This man doesn’t age

AFP - Getty
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This man doesn’t age

As a youth player, football’s most-likeable man played out-wide for Paris-based side Boulogne.

It wasn’t until the coaches noticed his remarkable ability to recover loose balls that they moved him in front of the back four.

Kante’s development then continued with Caen, where he began to get to grips with his new defensive-midfield role.

He was probably tough to tackle as a winger

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He was probably tough to tackle as a winger

This didn’t stop the Ligue 2 club deploying him as a winger when need be.

When Leicester snapped up the Frenchman in 2015, very little was actually known about Kante.

Nobody even knew where Claudio Ranieri would elect to play him.

Kante started at left-midfield twice in Leicester’s opening five games of the 2015/16 season. The title winning season.

I wonder if he’s got a good delivery on him?

Getty Images - Getty
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I wonder if he’s got a good delivery on him?

Then the penny finally dropped.

The Foxes had only gone and stumbled across one of the best CDMs in Europe.

The rest is history for the smiling-Frenchman.

Back-to-back league titles and World Cup success tells you all you need to know.

It’s impossible to hate this man

Getty Images - Getty
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It’s impossible to hate this man

Kante’s back-story has been sparsely told, but it’s known by some nonetheless.

The much-loved ball-winner is a man built in a similar mould to the world-renowned Claude Makelele.

The two Frenchman’s playing styles are almost identical and the fact they both played for Chelsea is a further spooky parallel.

The similarities don’t end there.

Equally as happy as Kante

Times Newspapers Ltd
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Equally as happy as Kante

Makelele’s evolution to the midfield powerhouse he became known as, laid down the blueprints for Kante today.

The original position of the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and PSG man will really blow your mind.

Nobody seemed to be talking about why Makelele had been immortalised as a right-midfielder on FIFA 19.

2/3 of these make sense to us

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2/3 of these make sense to us

The Frenchman’s RM ‘icon’ card got us thinking that EA Sports had made an embarrassing mistake.

After some considerable digging around, it turns out they are actually spot on.

Widely recognised as the best defensive-midfielder to ever play the game, Makelele wasn’t always the tenacious ball-winner we all reference today.

Makelele, like you’ve never seen him before

Reuters
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Makelele, like you’ve never seen him before

In the 1995/96 season, the Frenchman was making his mark in Ligue 1 as a right-midfielder.

A handful of his appearances for FC Nantes during that campaign came as a winger. That seems mental to me.

Makelele manged one goal and one assist when deployed there, so he was hardly prolific.

Upon his transfer to Marseille in 1997, the young Frenchman began to make a name for himself in defensive-midfield.

We need that Lens kit

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We need that Lens kit

Just one solo appearance at out-wide came during his debut season at coastal-club.

In a 4-0 victory over Auxerre, Makelele popped up with one goal and an assist. Already more prolific than Stewart Downing.

With his versatility drawing the attention of Celta Vigo, the Frenchman made the move to La Liga in 1998.

It was during his two seasons in the Spanish top flight that Makelele was really moulded into the anchor man he’s best known as.

Another lovely looking kit

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Another lovely looking kit

Playing exclusively in-front of the back four with Celta, the Frenchman probably thought his days as a winger would be over.

Upon his move to Real Madrid at the turn of the millennium, Los Blancos were keen to experiment with Makelele as much as they could.

In his debut season at the Bernabeu, the Frenchman played right-midfield on three occasions.

The crowning glory of those coming as he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Sevilla.

Secretly a very skillful player

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Secretly a very skillful player

Could a footballing education as wide-players actually be the secret to developing world-class defensive-midfielders?

The tales of Makelele and Kante would suggest the perfect training ground for a tough-tackling midfielder is out on the wing.

Theo Walcott CDM, anyone?


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