What Makes a Great Soccer Player?

From Pelé and Maradona to Messi and Ronaldo, the greatest soccer players in the world have made a lasting impression on fans, commanding a cult-like following that extends across generations. But these legends are few and far apart. Not everyone gets to achieve the heroic status they have crafted for themselves.


So, what makes this elite league of players so special? Their superior technical skills are certainly an important factor that sets them apart. But many more elements contribute to their success—some of them you will hardly expect. If you are a budding soccer player, learning what makes a great athlete could propel you toward greatness, too. So, let’s take a look at the essential factors that all world-class players possess.


They Make Physical Fitness a Priority


Fitness and technical skills go hand in hand. On their own, they can’t deliver the results soccer legends are able to achieve time and time again. Physical fitness is important for building speed, agility, balance, and coordination. It also plays a role in developing endurance. Moving quickly through defenders, for instance, will test all these abilities. Enduring a physically strenuous game for 90 minutes alone will require extensive stamina.


So, what do elite players focus on when it comes to fitness? According to Goal, Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness regime includes weights, as well as running, rowing, and other cardiovascular activities. He also spends time on sprinting and similar high-intensity drills that simulate match conditions. Keeping energy levels up is equally necessary for soccer players as they train. So, Ronaldo’s workouts are complemented by a carefully created diet that covers up to six small meals a day.


He works with his personal dietician to plan a protein-rich diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain carbs. The meals are focused on fresh produce and plenty of hydration while eliminating sugary snacks and frozen food. But the most critical revelation about Ronaldo’s fitness focus is how he has made healthy living a way of life. For elite players like him, it is not something they assign a few hours to. Fitness is a top priority and a key part of their daily lives.


They Show Relentless Commitment


Becoming a world-class soccer player demands significant sacrifices. You typically start young and spend long hours training and honing your skills. This might mean missing birthdays, skipping parties, or letting go of your favorite snacks to be in shape. It is not something you do for a year or two, either. You commit to the game in the long term, sacrificing your time with loved ones and passions you could have pursued.


It will also involve enduring things you may not enjoy, from waking up early to following a strict meal plan. The legendary player, Lionel Messi, exemplifies the level of commitment required to achieve greatness in soccer. He famously quipped, “I made a lot of sacrifices by leaving Argentina…but everything I did, I did for football, to achieve my dream.”


They Take Regular Breaks to Unwind


Elite athletes know when to relax. Taking time to unwind is crucial for both physical and mental fitness and ensuring top form on the field. “Football players are subjected to a high volume of work, so rest is essential to minimizing the risk of injury,” explains Moisés Falces, at Marcet Football University. Apart from getting enough sleep and practicing relaxation techniques, these players also make sure they spend time with their loved ones and take time off for extended vacations during the off-season.


They Follow a World-Class Daily Routine


A daily routine not only creates habits. It also introduces predictability, allowing you to focus on your priorities without burnout or distractions. But, most importantly, a routine enables you to instill discipline—an essential ingredient for success in soccer.


For world-class players, their day begins very early, rain or shine. Scheduled meals, rigorous training, socializing, and ample sleep are all integrated meticulously into their day. In addition to their usual schedule, these stars often have special game day routines. These include pre- and post-game rituals, from psyching themselves up before a game to celebrations after a win.


They Know When to Ignore Media Attention


When you are a top performer, you are bound to attract public attention. You will have paparazzi following your every move, both online and in the real world. The media could exaggerate events to create headline-grabbing stories and, at times, may even create a few rumors to sell their magazines and newspapers.


But this is part and parcel of being famous, and top soccer players understand this well. They know when to switch off from the media frenzy and remain focused on the game at hand. This is an important attribute to develop for any budding player intending to scale the big leagues.

They Carefully Manage Their Personal Brand


Star-class athletes should maintain success both on and off the soccer field. Managing your reputation is an important part of this. This may mean being selective about whom you associate with or thinking twice before making a comment. You will naturally meet hundreds of strangers scrambling to meet you at public events, parties, and clubs. Ensuring you know who’s who is vital to avoid a publicity scandal.


Of course, celebrity managers use various digital tools to help safeguard their clients’ reputation and avoid unscrupulous and opportunistic individuals. PhoneHistory, for instance, can help run a quick search on just about anyone. And platforms like Digimind can easily help track online reputation. Another factor to consider is the brand endorsements you sign up for. Many successful players choose which brands they partner with based on common values, traits, and social causes they support. 


To Wrap Up


Apart from technical skills, the best soccer players stand out with unsurpassable passion, self-motivation, persistence, and teamwork. But a lot more goes on to make them exceptional. Star athletes demonstrate a relentless commitment to succeed. They make physical fitness a top priority in their lives and follow a world-class routine to help them focus and instill discipline. But they also know how to unwind and enjoy life.


Media attention is undoubtedly a challenge every famous player needs to tackle. But the most successful ones do not allow it to distract them from their game. They also manage their reputation effectively and build a strong personal brand that could last for generations.