How to become a professional Soccer Player

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“At 13,” says Arsene Wenger, “you would have needed about one minute to know that Lionel Messi was the real thing. Most players aren’t so obvious.” This, in other words, is where the real work starts. You’ve got talent, that much is clear, but knowing what else you need to make it as a professional footballer – and there’s a lot – is vital. “Dedication” and “sacrifice” are the words used most often by FourFourTwo Performance’s panel of experts, but what do they mean in real terms?
Pay careful attention to the following advice – it could be about to change your life…
How to catch Wenger's eye
Theo Walcott: How to make it pro
Kieran Gibbs: How to make it pro (waiting for video to be finished)
Harry Kane: How to make it pro (to come in)
Toni Duggan: How to make it pro (to come in)

“If you want to be great, you have work hard. It doesn’t just happen overnight.” It may sound clich├ęd, but England and Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is not alone among FFT’s experts in believing a constant quest for self-improvement is the only way to be the best. But, says England striker Charlie Austin, never “lose sight of what made you start playing football in the first place”. Or, as the Premier League’s best player, Eden Hazard, puts it, “keep smiling and enjoy it”. Work hard, have fun, and you’ve got every chance.
Keep the fire burning inside courtesy of FFT…
Eden Hazard: Rise to the top
Charlie Austin: Climb the football ladder
Harry Kane: Raise your game (in issue 256)

Now you know what it takes to become a pro, it’s vital you believe you have what it takes. “If you haven’t got that confidence, there’s no point playing the game,” explains Derby County star, Tom Ince. Such self-belief comes in many forms: body language, preparation, positive thinking. Nothing breeds confidence like success, though, and to be successful in the future you need to have to confidence to do what has brought you success in the past, something Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain calls a “no fear” approach.

Now your head is in the right place, it’s time to build the key cornerstone of every professional player: a match-ready body. And gone are the days of cross-country runs and bulk-building weight sessions. As elite strength and conditioning coach Nick Grantham explains, football is “characterised by a high number of brief, high-intensity movements”. For this, you’ll need stamina and leg power, core strength and agility, raw pace and a prodigious leap, not to mention the ability to speed up, slow down and change direction. Over and over again. Nobody said it would be easy.
Following our extensive set of drills and tips will help you get in shape like a pro…
Supercharge your engine
Three drills to help football endurance
Ashley Young: Outrun the opposition 
Change of direction
Change direction in a flash

When the man who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final speaks, you’d better listen. “Diet is an important part of the professional game,” says Bayern Munich and Germany playmaker Mario Gotze. “A healthy and balanced diet helps me stay physically and mentally fit, which of course reflects in my performances on the pitch.” But, as our experts reveal, it’s not just about what you eat – and drink – but when you eat it – and in what quantities. 
FFT has broken down the nitty-gritty of football nutrition, so you don’t have to…
Pro diets
Diego Forlan: My 24-hour food diary
Mario Gotze's energy-boosting diet
Clint Dempsey: Eat like a star

As a professional footballer, you will sometimes be expected to play three games a week, running anything up to 12 kilometres per 90 minutes, so it’s safe to say drinking the pain away down the pub with your mates is not an option. Welcome to a world of protein shakes and ice baths; injury-prevention exercises and bespoke warm-down routines; sleep training, recovery tights, foot care and even a little pampering. For a footballer, resting is as important as running.
Follow these links and learn how to recuperate, re-charge an be ready to go again…
Pro tips
Recovery: A how to guide
Micah Richards: Recharge your batteries for the next game
Shane Long's rules to recovery
Bobby Zamora on recovery

Individual talent is one thing, but from ages 16 to 18, Arsene Wenger starts to look at whether a footballer “understands how to connect with other players”. This is a team game, after all, and as you step up a level, understanding your role as part of an 11-man framework becomes increasingly important. And while England U21 manager Gareth Southgate says “simplicity is genius” when it comes to tactics, believing few players respond well to complicated strategic instructions, becoming a student of the game will help make you a more complete player.
Some tips to help you understand and carry out your team’s masterplan…
Harry Kane: Understanding tactics (to come)
How to explain tactics
Watch and learn
The camera phone coach
Gareth Southgate: Simplifying tactics 

“The players at the top don’t have any weaknesses,” says Tom Ince. But that almost certainly wasn’t always the case. Only by practising all the basics until they become second nature will you be able to put them all together under pressure. We all know football’s fundamentals: first touch, passing, shooting, crossing, heading, tackling. But the use of these skills varies hugely depending on your position and the game situation. And are you really going to make it to the top with just one good foot? 
Make sure your technique is on point with this selection of drills...
Control the ball like Mesut Ozil
Control the ball under pressure
Master your control


It’s no secret that in order to feel the part, many top footballers need to look the part – even away from the pitch. “It’s all about the way you carry yourself,” says body language expert, Robert Phipps. Whether you aspire to be a Champagne Charlie, Solid Citizen or Stylish Swashbuckler, your hair, skin and clothes will all need attention if you want to present the right image and feel good about yourself.
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