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What really is Talent with regards to Football?

What really is Talent with regards to Football?

What really is Talent with regards to Football? What do we really mean when we say someone is talented? Do we mean that an individual is special or natural or highly skilled?

I think there’s something innate in every player that is said to be talented, either in the areas of physicality or cognition, but interest and practice is the main divider. Interest can also mean interest in certain aspects of the game.

Argentines and Brazilians are more likely to spend hours during their early development stages working on their ball manipulation because of the supporters’ demand for flair and the profile of players who have attained legendary status in the South American game.

Spanish and Italian midfielders are more likely to practice ways to gain space and time through ball manipulation and out-smarting/unbalancing the opponent due to natural physical disadvantages compared to other high profile footballing nations. And then environment, too, determines the things you can learn.

As with Ronaldinho’s elder brother teaching him little tricks and moves, most Brazilian talents are more likely to gain insights on ball manipulation due to the knowledge available in their immediate environment. Environment is more dependent on luck, placement and circumstances. And in a way it shapes interest. But the intersection of environment, practice and innate physical and cognitive abilities is where the gold is.

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To me, talent begins with interest & interest is spurred by your society & environment, your surroundings & culture have a huge bearing on what spurs that interest. So that kind of answers the question why Brazilians like football so much.

Although it doesn’t answer why they are so good at it. What comes after interest is knowledge of that particular interest. Is your interest that curious? Do you have the ‘capacity’ to learn more & practice the basics and learn the advanced parts of your interest? Do you enjoy that particular interest? Is there pressure (internal & external or combo of both) to learn that interest?

Reference Player: Ronaldinho Gaucho

Let me use Ronaldo Gaucho popularly known as Ronaldinho as my first reference. You might know the story but his father was an Ex footballer and his brother was touted as the next best thing before injury marred his career. So Roberto passed down all his knowledge to his Brother Ronaldinho. At 7 years of age, Ronaldinho learnt how to juggle the ball and practiced 1v1’s against his brother every day. He was made to do that on a rough turf in poor neighborhoods.

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He learnt the basics by juggling the ball 500 times a day and then he was taught how to bend his knee While dribbling, also learnt how to dribble while being a metre away from his man. While on the carry he learnt how to drive without facing downwards which made him have access to the width that his span could reach. These are the basics that shaped him.

After all this, Ronaldinho also learnt how to use skills like the elastico, reverse elastico and so on to make his 1v1’s unpredictable. These things shaped his first touch, close control in tight spaces & also his ability in large spaces. Did I mention that his brother taught him how to accelerate with the ball after every touch (diagonals and 90’s)? Well now you know.

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After all this he still played futsal to perfect all he’d learnt, it was at this stage faced with a variety of challenges that he truly gained mastery of the ball. It broadened his technique and imagination, making him the player that we know today, the rest is history.

Back to the main topic; Interest can be furthered by knowledge and education which Ronaldinho had loads of in terms of ball mastery, technique and locomotion with the ball. Space manipulation and off ball education came later In his life when he started playing on large surfaces.

So what is talent? Because it does seem like Ronaldinho went through loads of training to look so easy on the eye. Where is that innate ability that we speak of anytime we mention talent? I think talent are the intangibles we can’t immediately see but we can notice over time.

It could be collecting information at a very high speed while in motion. It could be a quick span of your whole area of view while in a stationary position and making the perfect decisions. The first sentence describes Messi while the second sentence describes an elite defender Or a deep lying playmaker.

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Dimitar Berbatov said he had countless hours of personal training to be able to kill a ball the way he used to. Hours of trapping the ball from incredible heights made his first touch incredible.

Talent = Natural ability could be physical and it could also be mental, it could be a combo of the two. In the quest towards harnessing what you are good at, you work hard but it might not feel like that cos you enjoy it

Your talent might mean you have more capacity to learn and adapt to conditions faster than a lot of people. There’s so much detail to talents that we just focus on the skill being portrayed and lose sight. I think I have strayed a bit but just a couple of thoughts.

The only thing that makes sense to be called natural talent are the physical elements, everything skill wise is practice. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t born being able to shoot like he does now. It’s the love of interest that makes you do whatever it takes to be at the top and it’s what drives consistency.


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