This is a question that is of interest to anyone who has any connection with soccer. It is of interest to the would-be players and to the players who already play the game. It is of interest to the coaches and managers who are always on a lookout for a player that will change the game. It is of interest to people who are merely interested in soccer and who are always discussing what are the characteristics that make a soccer player who will become a legend. In this article, we would like to give our view on the issue and try and come up with a profile of a great soccer player.
Before everything else comes the talent. Talent is not the only thing that a soccer player needs, but if they wish to be the ultimate soccer player or at least a great soccer player, they will need to have a talent for the game. This is something that is best discovered through the game itself, letting the child play as much soccer as they want. This is how they do it in Europe and in the rest of the world. Kids play soccer from the day they walk and soon enough, the talent is recognized.
Talent for soccer can be expressed in a number of ways, resulting in a game that needs to be varied. Some 50 years ago, it may have been enough to be a fast dribbler or to have a strong kicking leg. These days, you need much more. You need that special touch that will always send the ball where it needs to go and you need positioning prowess that is half the game. Above all, soccer talent is about imagination, imagination to do something that the opponent will not expect and something that will put your team on top.
After talent but also inseparably tied to the talent is hard work. Soccer is an insanely demanding game which requires absolute physical preparedness, but also a mental preparedness that has to be learned and that is never innate in a player. Practicing for hours every single day is a given for any professional sport, but soccer requires even more. It requires the will to push yourself to the very limits, practicing when the body is trying to shut down. That is the only way to fully prepare for a career in soccer. Talent is worthless if you collapse after half an hour. You need to have enough steam inside of you to propel a goddamn locomotive if you want to be a great soccer player.
A great soccer player also needs to be ambitious beyond any reason. Ambition and the urge to win are inseparable from every professional athlete and that is the first thing you will hear about 99% of top athletes in history – they loved to win and they never settled for anything less. You need that drive to push you further and to make you go when others have given up.
Finally, a great soccer player needs to be able to take the pressure. We are not talking only about the pressure of being involved in huge games where a single mistake can make or break a career. We are talking about the pressure from the fans, pressure from the peers, pressure from the media that are always dissecting your every move. You also need to be able to take the pressure that comes from living a lie of a professional soccer player – the pressure that has ended so many incredible careers prematurely.