A Utility Player in European football is a player that can play different positions. The term came to prominence because of fantasy leagues. Most of the time, the term “Utility Player” is used to compliment a player with a wide range of skills.
It can also be used as a backhanded compliment to refer to a player who does not have the skill enough to master the skills required to excel in one position.
Most utility players are able to take on a dual role. The most common of these is a central defender who also plays as a right or left fullback. Another common mix is for a forward/striker to be played by an attacker.
A common reason for having a player take on multiple roles includes injuries. This commonly happens when the starting fullback player is injured. It can also be done in a tactical move by coaches.
Known Utility Players
One of the best-known utility players in association football is Spanish footballer Jose Ignacio Fernandez. He played right-back, left-back, and center-back. He was one of the more important players during Zinedine Zidane’s stint at Real Madrid from 2016 to 2018.
Another example is Phil Jones who was used as a defensive attacker, midfield attacker, right back, and center back by Manchester United. Bjorn Paulsen was also known as adept at being both a striker and central midfielder.
A utility player can also be an outfield player who takes on the role of goalkeeper. Examples of these include Jan Koller, Cosmin Moti, and Phil Jagielka. In Koller’s case, he was originally trained as a goalkeeper before he switched to a striker.
A footballer can also play many positions. A great example of this is John O’Shea from Manchester United.
Sports with Utility Players
In addition to football, other organized sports also have utility players. These include American football, baseball, rugby league, rugby union, softball, water polo, and ice hockey.