Top 10 Centre-Backs Who Could Be Centre-Forwards

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2012

Top 10 Centre-Backs Who Could Be Centre-Forwards

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    In honor of David Luiz's well-taken opener against Bolton, I've decided to make a list of the world's top 10 centre-backs who could also function as top-class centre-forwards.

    On Saturday, Matt Le Tissier had this to say about Luiz's goal:

    It wasn't an easy chance by any means but he took a touch and bent it into the far corner and showed a technique a centre forward would be proud of.

    You look at the way he defends and how comfortable he looks when he gets in the opposition box and think he is playing in the wrong position.

    While it's unlikely that Chelsea will be changing Luiz's position anytime soon, there are a number of other centre-backs like Luiz who excel in the opposition's box and could surely hold their own as centre-forwards.

    Here they are.

Tomoaki Makino

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    Tomoaki Makino is a centre-back currently playing with Urawa Red Diamonds in the J League. He's also played with FC Koln (briefly) in the Bundesliga, and is a regular for the Japanese national team.

    Makino made his name as a goal-scoring centre-back with Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J League. In his last three seasons with the club, he scored 23 goals for the club, or roughly eight goals a season.

    That's a total many strikers would be proud of.

    Makino is tall, agile, and loves attacking, probably more than he loves defending in fact. He's also a very good free-kick taker.

    After checking out some of his goals (above), I'm not sure why this guy isn't a centre-forward.

Andreas Granqvist

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    Andrea Granqvist has settled into the simple life in Serie A and Genoa. With his new club, he's just a normal centre-back, contributing on the defensive end while trying to score the odd header off a free kick or corner kick every now and then.

    But it wasn't always like this for Granqvist.

    At FC Groningen, life was much more interesting for Granqvist. He would consistently dribble into the opponent's half and link up with his teammates, such as Fredrik Stenman in the video above.

    In the 2010-11 season, Granqvist was the highest goal-scoring centre-back in first tier football in Europe, with 11 goals. I can't confirm it, but I'd be willing to bet that record is applicable to the world as well.

    His 65m solo run against Utrecht (included in the video above) was by far the biggest testament to his class and ability, but his other goals were very impressive as well.

    Granqvist probably could've been a better midfielder than he is a centre-back, but he has many of the traits needed for a good centre-forward.

    Like almost all the players on this list, he's tall, but in addition to that, he's an excellent dribbler, good shooter, and links up well with his teammates.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka

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    Japan seem to have thing for goal-scoring centre-backs.

    Of all the centre-backs on this list, Tanaka is probably the most impressive goal scorer. When you have enough goals to fill a 10-minute YouTube video, you know you're a darn good goal scorer.

    And if that doesn't do it for you, then scoring a hat trick in league play should be enough to confirm it for you.

    The only thing that keeps me from putting him higher up the list is his lack of experience in Europe, or outside the J League for that matter.

    Nevertheless, looking at a number of his goals, it's clear he'd be able to handle the responsibilities of a centre-forward. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he's been used in that position in the past.

Thomas Vermaelen

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    Of all the guys on this list, Vermaelen is the least likely to ever get the chance to play up front, considering how good he is defensively.

    But he's definitely got the ability to be a good striker. 

    In his first season with Arsenal, Vermaelen wowed everyone with his ability to constantly bomb forward and score off headers, volleys, and even straight shots on goal.

    His mastery of all elements of the beautiful game is truly remarkable, and invaluable to Arsenal.

    His stock and form has been a bit hit by Arsenal's awful season, but with time, Vermaelen surely will become even better than the "Verminator" we saw in his first season with the Gunners.

Daniel Van Buyten

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    Van Buyten is a 6'5'' goal-scoring centre-back who plays for Bayern Munich.

    The thing that distinguishes Van Buyten from most of the other centre-backs on this list is that he doesn't do anything fancy. 

    He's not a good dribbler, and really doesn't link up well with his teammates that well, at least not when he's playing as a centre-back (he's played as an emergency forward for Bayern in the past).

    He's just really, really good at scoring headers, like the two shown above (unfortunately nobody cares enough about Van Buyten to make a montage for him).

    Van Buyten's simplicity has allowed him to be a regular goal scorer throughout his career, with Marseille, Hamburg and Bayern Munich.

    To Van Buyten's credit though, he's not a one-dimensional goal scorer. While headers make up the vast majority of his goals, he's also scored a number of tap-ins and volleys in his career (such as those scored against AC Milan back in the 2006-07 Champions League quarterfinal).

    He also possesses the ability to burst soccer balls.

Joleon Lescott

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    Joleon Lescott is a good defender. But what enters him into the discussion of the best defenders in the world is his ability to score headers.

    With Everton, Lescott scored 10 goals in 2007-08, a total that really put him on the map as a top-class centre-back. That total was halved the following season, but Man City had seen enough to be convinced of his offensive quality.

    At Manchester City, Lescott has been somewhat restricted in his goal-scoring contributions, but he's already scored three this season and is on pace for at least two more.

    With regular playing time, there's a good chance Lescott will return to being the beast he was at Everton once more.

Gerard Pique

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    Anyone remember Pique playing as a centre-forward against Inter Milan in the Champions League?

    He didn't play as a centre-forward through the whole game, but in the end he was pushed up front by Pep Guardiola and showed his quality by scoring a late goal, which was unfortunately (for Barcelona anyway) not enough to get Barca to the next round.

    With all the scoring options at Barcelona, Pique is not a frequent goal scorer for the Catalans. Despite this, he's always managed to score three or four goals a season for the Catalans, and even scored two in his final season with Manchester United (in limited playing time).

    Generally, all Barcelona players are asked to master the skills necessary for multiple positions; it's how Guardiola gets the them to play in the famous "Total Football" system of Johan Cruyff.

    As a result, Pique has learned many of the traits necessary for a good centre-forward, and can be a decent one when called upon to do the job.

Sergio Ramos

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    I'm probably cheating a bit considering Sergio Ramos contributes much more to Real Madrid's offense as a right-back than as a centre-back, but whichever way you cut it, Ramos has the offensive skills to succeed as a centre-forward.

    He's recorded at least four goals in every season he's been at Real Madrid, and he's chipped in with an average of four assists over the last five seasons as well.

    He's a little shorter than your average centre-forward, and probably more suited to play as a winger than a centre-forward if he was going to play in a non-defensive position, but he's definitely got the skill set to perform all the duties of centre-forward without too much trouble.

Christopher Samba

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    It's a shame that after a prolonged transfer saga in which Christopher Samba was linked with Tottenham, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and more, he's moved abroad to Russia with Anzhi.

    He'll surely succeed there now that Guus Hiddink is in charge of the team, but we likely won't hear much about him for a good two years or so.

    I digress.

    Christopher Samba is one of the few guys on this list that actually has been used as a centre-forward in the past.

    Against Chelsea back in 2007, Christopher Samba was used as a centre-forward, and though he could not score, he did help keep the game scoreless before going off with an injury from an accidental kick to the head from Andriy Shevchenko.

    Throughout his time at Blackburn, he's overpowered defenders to score headers, and scored a good number of goals with his feet as well.

    He will be missed.

David Luiz

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    We come to the inspiration for this list, David Luiz.

    I'm well aware of the fact that Luiz doesn't have nearly as a good a scoring record as any of the guys on this list, so don't lambast me in the comments section for saving his slide for last on that basis. 

    However, if you were to move Luiz up top, I think you'd find he'd be just as good a centre-forward as any of the guys on this list.

    Going back to Matt Le Tissier, the English legend summed up Luiz's problem in a sentence:

    All his better attributes are most suited to being in the last third of the pitch, while all his worst attributes are least suited to being in the defensive third - and he is a liability there.

    David Luiz has had games where he's looked a magnificent defender (check the video for highlights from his performance against Manchester City).

    The problem is that these games are few and far between, and we often see the Luiz that played against Manchester United in the video above, and not the one that showed up against Manchester City.

    Many defenders, such as Sergio Ramos and Thomas Vermaelen, have managed to be successful defenders at the highest level despite their strong tendencies to get involved in their team's offense.

    If Luiz can clean up the mistakes in his defensive game, he'll be able to join the company of this elite group.

    Otherwise, Chelsea may just be better served throwing him on as a centre-forward off the bench in the dying minutes of their games.