Football is very unpredictable. The percentage of football players who make it to stardom is very low. There is no simple prescription for how to do it.

Photo credit: Marlon Dias

There is no simple prescription for how to do it. You have no assurances that if you have talent, train hard, eat healthy, do not drink or smoke and have no injuries, you will have a decent career. There are just too many factors involved that you don’t have any impact on.

In my career I played with quite a few footballers that later made it big time. But every one of them had their own path. Some made it with persistence and hard work, others with talent and some with pure luck.

Hard worker

As I said before, hard work alone usually is not enough, but sometimes it really pays off. I remember a young player from third division who came to trials at my club. At that time I played in the best club in my country – we had a really good team and had become champions two times in a row. The new player was very shy and didn’t show anything special on the field. He played right or left back and really sucked technically, but he was quite fast. We all thought he wouldn’t stay, but for some reason the coach insisted on him to stay. So he did. The first year he was usually sitting on the bench, but nevertheless was unbelievably committed to trainings and trained very hard. Every day he stayed an extra hour after training practising passing, dribbling and free kicks. Every morning he went jogging and made some extra exercises at the gym.

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In the second year he gradually got more and more chances. The coach found him a new position – right or left winger. He was improving amazingly and by the end of the year he was a standard member of first eleven. Clubs from other European countries started to notice him and soon he made a decent transfer. Later he even made it to the national team. His progress was unbelievable and seeing him play you could not believe it was the same player – he just got so much better and gained confidence on the field as well. But even then he never stopped training hard. Today he is playing in one of the top European leagues and has about 50 appearances for the national team. All that happened in less than three years.

Big talent

George Best (Photo credit: The Telegraph)

On the other hand there is another example, let’s call him “the talented one”. This player had even more ups and downs on his path. It was obvious to see he was very talented, skilful and a technically amazing winger or offensive midfielder. At the age of eighteen he was playing in the 2nd division and didn’t put much effort into training but preferred the night life. He showed nothing special in this 2nd division, but nevertheless got a chance when a new, ambitious and rich club from 1st division saw something in him and bought him. Still he continued his ways and presented constant problems for the coach. He had no discipline and he was lazy and didn’t like to train at all. He never made even one step more than was necessary. But he had indisputable talent and during matches he was doing quite ok, so the club tolerated his behaviour.

Then a set of unlucky events happened. The club lost its rich sponsor and they were later relegated to 2nd division. They wanted to give opportunities to new young players, so the talented one was put on the bench. He almost gave up and started to exaggerate with the night life and alcohol. He was thinking of quitting professional football and going back to his ghetto and play football just for fun.

But then, surprisingly, a top club from the 1st division decided to buy him and give him a second chance. They were playing in the Champions league qualifications and later the Europa league. He exploded there and scored some fantastic goals. Two months later the club sold him to Italian Serie A team for almost 2 million euros.  So in three months’ time he went from almost quitting football to playing in one of the best leagues in the world as well as playing for the national team. And that’s not all. In his first season in Italy, he was one of the best players there, scoring 10 goals in a low table team. Today top European clubs are scouting and monitoring him.

From the top to the bottom

The first player I described had never had an impressive quality but he is in top level right now and that is not a coincidence – he achieved it with discipline and hard work. The other player has the striking ability to make a difference with one single touch of the ball. He is the crowd pleaser. The media likes his rebellious lifestyle and people love his attractive skills on the field.

But it is always good to keep in mind that what goes up could also come down really quickly. In football we have a lot of examples when players reached stardom and then even faster were left with nothing. Just remember Paul Gascoigne or George Best.

It is important to have a strong character to cope with all the pressure surrounding you at your top level and most of all a clear idea about your life after your career.

Until next time.

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The Diary Of A Football Player
series of posts with everyday examples from a footballer’s real life. It’s a mosaic of sport life from someone with experience (the author has been a footballer for 15 years). Many times controversial in his career, but always with love for the game.