Every profession has a trade secret. The sporting world is no exception. Football, which ranks among the most popular sports in the world, has some hidden secrets that have helped some footballers climb up the elite class. Knowing a secret is one thing, making use of the secret is another.

Who is an exceptionally good footballer?

Someone who consistently performs at an optimum level. It’s not all about talent and skills, but being able to imbibe a resilient and amazing mental strength. Always oozing with a winning mentality. The form of an exceptionally good player may dip once in a while, but class is always permanent.

At the 2005 FIFA Youth Championship, a certain John Mikel Obi from Nigeria mesmerized the world with some silky skills. Unfortunately, Nigeria couldn’t lift the trophy, as they were defeated by Argentina in the finals.

The best player of the tournament was a diminutive Lionel Messi from Argentina. Fast forward 15 years after and the Argentine Superstar is still waxing strong and making headlines with Barcelona, while John Mikel Obi, who had a brilliant career with Chelsea, now plays in the Turkish Football League with Trabzonspor FC. Lionel Messi has won several awards including winning the Ballon d’Or a record 6 times. The gulf in class tells the difference between an exceptionally good player and a good player.

What makes a footballer exceptionally good?

Several factors come into play, when trying to evaluate if a player can be considered as an elite. Like I mentioned earlier, it goes behind been skillful or talented. Mario Balotelli and Adriano, were both talented and skillful footballers, but they were never classified as elites.

Training

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is rated as one of the best in the world. He didn’t attain that height overnight. It was achieved through constant personal training. He currently has a personal trainer (Francis Obikwelu) who was a former Olympic Silver medallist in the 100 meters. Exceptionally good footballers like Kelvin De Bruyne and Lionel Messi all know the secret of personal training. As the football world grinds to a halt, due to the coronavirus pandemic, these elite footballers aren’t taking a break. They keep pushing their body beyond boundaries.

Mohammed Ali, one of the most successful boxers in the world have this to say about the training: “I run on the roads, long before I dance under the light. I hated every minute of my training, but I said- Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”

Personal Discipline

It’s easy to achieve greatness, but extremely hard to maintain the heights achieved. One secret these exceptionally good footballers have is a disciplined lifestyle. Drinks, women, and drugs are the three greatest undoings of most football players. Robinho was once tipped for great things, but his struggles outside the football pitch meant the dreams were never a reality. Diego Maradona’s career was abruptly cut short during the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in the United States of America. He got tested after the match against Nigeria and was found to have used banned substances. It was a fall from grace to grass for the prodigious Argentine.

Diet

Top athletes and sports players understand the importance of eating the right diet in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and achieving maximum performance on the field. Some top clubs even have dieticians who help individual players draw up their diet plans. Unfortunately, some players lack discipline during off-seasons and they return either overweight or obese.

During the 2016/17 football season, former French international, Samir Nasri was sent home from training, after returning to Manchester City Pre-season training overweight. Pep Guardiola is renowned for adhering strictly to players’ fitness, and he wasn’t having any of that. Samir who was highly rated while with Arsenal, before switching over to Manchester City, was later offloaded and never really achieved the elite class.

Cristiano Ronaldo who is rated as one of the fittest footballers in the world even at 35 years, enjoys adhering strictly to a diet plan. His usual diet includes essentials like Fish, meat, cheese, whole grains, fruits, and lots of vegetables.

The Lucky charm

Luck also has a role to play when it comes to the attainment of certain heights in career. Some footballers and athletes with huge potentials have had to retire prematurely due to recurring injuries.

Some are very lucky and retire without career-threatening injuries. Sports and injuries are like siamese twins. Those involved in contact sports are more prone to injury.

One of China’s biggest basketball exports-Yao Ming had to retire prematurely after multiple surgeries to his left ankle and foot.

Lawn Tennis’ new kid on the block – Monica Seles, was once tipped for greatness. Her beautiful career was however abruptly disrupted on April 30th, 1993 in a freaky incident. A man ran into the Tennis court and stabbed her on the back. She was mentally shaken by that single incident. The injury and the emotional trauma she had to endure, made her to retire at her prime. Michael Owen, Marco Van Basten, and Ronaldo de Lima were all unlucky with injuries.

No matter how good you are, you still need that lucky charm to climb that ladder of greatness. Some athletes and even footballers get injured, but still, bounce back stronger. Some aren’t that lucky and they draw the curtain on their beautiful story. It’s all part of life lessons.