Kyle Walker dreamed of establishing himself as the best right-back on the planet at the World Cup but was persuaded to shelve his ambition for the good of the England team.
Walker is already an elite performer, carving out a reputation at Tottenham and living up to a lofty £50m price tag as part of Manchester City’s Premier League title success.
But the 28-year-old set his sights even higher. He targeted the biggest stage of all as a chance to test his talents alongside the likes of Germany’s Joshua Kimmich and Spain’s Dani Carvajal and come out top of the class – but Gareth Southgate had different plans.
In March the manager asked the former Sheffield United defender to move into the back three as part of a tactical reshuffle and he looks certain to play centrally in Russia, with Kieran Trippier at right wing-back.
“If you ask me where do I want to play, of course I want to play right-back,” he said.
“I’ve worked my whole career to prove to myself that I can be the best in the world in my position. I feel like showcasing that at the World Cup would probably get me there but it’s about whatever I need to do for the team.
“If the gaffer feels me playing at right centre-half is beneficial to the team then why not? It’s still a relatively new experience for me, but it’s new tools in my toolbox.
“As long as I’m on the field that’s the main thing.
“If the gaffer feels I will improve the team playing there, I’m all for that.”
Walker and his Three Lions team-mates were due to arrive at their training base in Repino yesterday, having departed from Birmingham Airport.
The low-key resort on the Gulf of Finland is one of the sleepier camps in the tournament but Walker has brought along plenty of reading to keep him entertained.
As well as the usual boxsets and games consoles he has packed Brave New World – Mauricio Pochettino’s account of Spurs’ 2016-17 campaign, which culminated in Walker’s high-profile departure from the club.
“I’m on to Poch’s book now,” he revealed.
“I haven’t got to my part in it yet, so as soon I’ve read that you can ask me again, but he’s entitled to his opinion. He’s a fantastic guy and honest guy, he tells the truth.
“I’m sure he’ll sign me ‘a best wishes’ when I see him.”
As well as being one of the first names on Southgate’s team-sheet, Walker is also providing inspiration for the youngest member of the England squad.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was uncapped when he squeezed into the final 23, probably as a result of Walker’s positional switch.
And the 19-year-old is learning everything he can during their time together.
“He’s definitely one of the best, an unbelievable player,” said Alexander-Arnold.
“Over the past three or four years he’s just got better and better.
“He’s showing now that he’s versatile and credit to him because not many players can chop and change like that.
“Kyle has been doing it almost at the same time – playing right-back for club and right centre-back for country. He is definitely someone I look up to.”