The Perfect Football player
Ever since football became the most popular sport on the planet, everyone have been asking themselves: “Who is the best player?”. Over the years, there have been many answers to that question, whether it was Pele, Maradona, Eusebio, Cruyff, Zidane, Ronaldo or, in recent years, Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi. But have you ever asked yourself, who is the perfect player, not just the best? Of course, in order to be perfect, you have to have no flaws, which is impossible. But which player was or is the closest to that standard?
In order to be good, there are a few key attributes that a football player must possess. If he has more of them, then he is considered a great player, if he has almost all of them he is considered one of the best and if he were to have all, he would be perfect. But which attributes am I talking about? Well, some of them are actually obvious ones, while some aren’t quite as evident. So I’m going to list those attributes and explain why they would matter for a football player.
- It’s all about that pace!
This one must be the most obvious of them all. All the great players that you’re thinking about at this very moment have a good pace on them. Robben, Alexis Sanchez, Neymar, Suarez, Hazard, Aguero, Bale, all of them are fast players. This concept is a simple one: if you’re not fast enough you’ll slow your team down, period. What that means is that you won’t be able to chase down opponents, you won’t be able to reach all of the through balls and every time you have the possession you’re going to be very predictable in your movement, plus that you won’t be able to dribble anyone because, even if you do manage to get pass an opponent, he’s going to catch you easily. Of course, if you’re really good at passing, crossing and shooting the ball, and I mean REALLY good, like for example Andrea Pirlo, then you can go unnoticed for not being fast enough, because you’re just too good at something else. The same goes for central defenders, they don’t have to be lightning fast. But at the same time, if you’re way to slow (like slower than even Mertesacker) then you shouldn’t be playing football.
- Size does matter!
Bringing this up shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, because obviously it’s better to have a tall player rather than a small player (assuming that both of them are just as good as the other). It’s simple really: small players have a hard time winning headers while tall players, not so much. This was an issue that Barcelona struggled with a few years ago, when their entire team almost was composed of short player, with the exception of their center backs Puyol and Pique. During a match, there are some key moments when losing/missing a header can cost you a goal, and if you’re a short player, you’re bound to lose a lot of headers along your career. There are certain roles in a team where you don’t necessarily need to be a tall player in order to be one of the best there is, like wingers, full backs or playmakers. But even those players are put in situations where, because they are just a few centimeters too short, they couldn’t make a big enough impact.
- Stay strong!
In this case, I’m not talking about having a bodybuilder physique, but you have to agree with me that if you’re a wimp, you’re going to have a bad time on the pitch. Every player needs to have a decent amount of strength in his body in order to keep his balance and stay on his feet in tough situations. Let’s say you’re running for the ball along with an opponent at the same speed. If the other player is more solid than you and the two of you get into contact while on your sprint, you’ll clearly get pushed aside or get knocked down. I’m sure you guys saw a lot of situations when one player gets knocked down by an opponent and not receiving a free kick, simply because the opposing player is at a higher level in terms of physical strength. This is a very common issue for short players, but there are exceptions. Look at Wayne Rooney or Roberto Carlos for example. They are both solid guys even though they aren’t the tallest. This is something that every player in the world should have at at least a decent level, no matter his role on the pitch. It’s never a good thing to constantly get pushed off the ball by your opponents.
- Mastering the ball
It doesn’t get more obvious than this one. This is the core, the whole idea of playing football. Everyone can pass, cross, shoot and run with the ball, but great players take this to a whole new level. Remember Ronaldinho when he was looking in one direction and then passing in another, Beckham and his immaculate passes and crosses, Messi and Maradona who seem or seemed to have the ball glued to their feet whenever they were running down the pitch, or Gerrard and Lampard who scored dozens of goals from outside the box (Frank even holds the record for most goals scored from outside the penalty area in the Premier League). And the list can go on and on. Only one type of football player can still be a good player without being a “master” of the ball, and that’s the central defender. Their duty on the pitch is simple, tackle the enemy players and keep the ball outside their penalty area. Even goalkeepers have to be good at this, even though they use their hands more than their feet to control the ball, it still counts. Don’t tell me you haven’t saw those goalkeepers who, even though they have good reflexes, never got to a big team because they tend to drop the ball when they rush out to catch it or when the enemy player sends a shot straight at them.
- Don’t lose your breath!
This is one that most people wouldn’t consider to be a must-have attribute. But trust me, this is just as important as the other ones. Having good stamina is just as important as knowing how to kick a ball. No matter how good of a player you are, if you can’t run anymore after the first half, you won’t be reaching too big of a level in your football career. If you start a game and you get substituted, not because you weren’t good enough or because you got injured, but because you’re tired and couldn’t run anymore, you’re more of a liability than a good player. You simply can’t think of being a decent player if you can’t play a full match and (as far as I know) no manager In the world would transfer a player knowing that he can only be used as a substitute. Now, I can’t think of an example of player or players who have a really bad stamina (well, I can, but these are players who you most likely never heard of). But, on the other end, think of all the great football players. All of them can start a game and still be able to sprint from one goal to the other at the end of the second half, no matter how young or old they are.
- The mind and the mindset
This one should be a no-brainer (pun intended). No player in the world can become a good one if his mindset wasn’t the right one and if he wasn’t at least decently smart. Whenever you’re on a pitch in the middle of a match, you have to think. And, based on your decisions, you can either be good or bad, is that simple. That’s what separates the best from the rest, knowing what to do at which given moment. There are thousands of examples that can prove that this statement is correct, but I’m only going to give a few of them. For example, if you’re a defender and an enemy attacker gets in a 1 on 1 situation with your goalkeeper early in the match, what will you do? Keep it clean and allow the opponent to shoot and probably score or stop him however you can, get a red card and give away a dangerous free kick or a penalty to the enemy team? Obviously, letting the enemy score is bad, but to get sent off, let your team in disadvantage for the rest of the game and still give them a chance to score is even worse if you ask me. That, for me, Is the best example of what separates a good player from a not-so-good player. Like I said, there are a lot of examples to be given here. For attackers, when they escape in an 1 on 1 situation with the opposing goalkeeper, the best of them are going to score, while the others will miss the target, shoot straight at the keeper, try to round him and loose the ball, etc. Another good example is when a altercation happens on the pitch. If you’re smart enough, you wouldn’t try to prove yourself to be a better fighter than the enemy players and push, punch and kick everyone that’s in front of you. Instead, you should try your best to calm down your teammates and brake off any possible fight. And NEVER try to argue with the referee because, let’s be honest, nothing that you’ll do is going to change his decision. In the worst case scenario, it’s going to grant you a yellow card, depending on how angry you are. Also, a player with a good mindset isn’t going to be bothered in an away game while being booed by an entire stadium. And, of course, you can’t consider yourself a good player if the enemy leads by two or three goals and you give up any hope, even though the match is not over. What if Liverpool’s 2004-2005 team gave up hope in the Champions League final at half time? This is something that every player in the world must keep in mind: the match isn’t over until the ref’ blows the final whistle. You should keep playing no matter what because you never know what’s going to happen.
So those are, in my perspective, the most important qualities of a great football player. Of course, depending on the player, not all of them are a must-have in order for him to be the best. Like I said, a central defender doesn’t have to be a magician with the ball in order to be the best defender in the world. And a winger doesn’t have to be two meters tall in order to be the best winger that there is. Naturally, there are stats that a player can improve, like stamin ball control for example, and others that you can’t do anything about because you are born with them. Is there any player who has all of those attributes? Well, to be honest, the only one who comes to mind is Cristiano Ronaldo. He is fast, he has a decent height of 1.85, he is decently solid and the other attributes are pretty much obvious. And because I just said that, there will be a lot of people saying “Yeah, but Messi has won more Ballon d’Ors than him”. And yes, he has, but keep in mind that no matter how good you are, you have to be part of a good enough team in order to play at your best. That’s where the line is drawn between the two of them in my opinion. But like I said, he just comes close to being the perfect player. The perfect player should be good on all the areas of the pitch, not just the offensive side. And, as far as I know, a player like that doesn’t exist.