How have professional football players evolved over time?

image credits: UEFA 

We’ve witnessed many great football players make history. The likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Maldini, Buffon, as well as the legendary Pele and Maradona will forever be remembered by the football community as game changes and players that were simply several levels above their competition.

One of the most heated arguments between the older generations and newer generations of fans when it comes to the game and the football players is which era had better players and which era was superior.

Now, let’s see the areas which make today’s players superior compared to older generations.

  • Physical Attributes

Players’ endurance and stamina are far superior compared to the ones of the older generations. These days, players hire nutritionists, have a certain sleep schedule, are not allowed to party, and have specialized training sessions which will improve their effectiveness on the pitch.

Take George Best as an example. The late legend was known for his skills on the pitch, but he was more active in the nightlife and spent a lot of time partying. Even Jamie Carragher once said, “if a player followed the strict diet plans and had this type of dedication 20 years ago, we would consider him a madman.”

Modern footballer play more games week in and week out. From their club games and the Champions League matches to then flying across the globe to play for their country. Top football players have to take care of themselves if they want to have long football careers.

  • Football Tactics

All you had to do is dribble, make a name for yourself, and win the hearts of the fans. That may have been entertaining for the eyes, but a team of good players today would absolutely dismantle a team with that sort of tactic these days.

Managers and staff members these days spend hours and days searching for the best tactics as a way to outsmart their opponents. Just look at a manager like Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, who has changed the game with his attacking style of football that’s centered around possession of the ball but also relentless in how they press and defend the counter attack.

  • Football Skillset

Finally, each player these days has to have good control of the ball, passing skills, and much more to succeed. That was not the case back in the day, which is why individuals of today are far better players than individuals of older generations.

Today, every player on the field has a high level of skill on the ball. Defenders can get in the attack and forwards can defend.

How Sports Nutrition Works?

As the decades passed, more attention was given to the weight, health and fitness of players. Clubs, managers and players woke up to the fact that being fit and healthy may actually be a decent idea when playing professional football! In the 21st century, nutrition for footballers is based on science instead of simply giving the players what they fancy.

For example, when David Moyes took over at Manchester United in 2013, he quickly removed chips from the canteen menu, citing overweight players as the reason. A sensible decision some may say –apart from the potato-hungry United stars perhaps.

Yes, the days of the whole team eating the same meals together in the canteen are also over. These days, teams hire performance chefs to specifically tailor meals towards the requirements of each individual player.

There is no one-size-fits-all meal before a match, but players will often eat a dish with a focus on quality carbohydrates – baked potato, sweet potato, pasta (al-dente), rice, oats – and a small amount of protein, around two to three hours before the match to enhance their performance.

Importance of Performance Analysis – Science & Technology Meets Football

The attraction to view and analyse games is clear to see. Before the introduction of performance analysis, feedback after a match was based on a coach’s subjective observation, which is known to be unreliable.

A recent study conducted by the English Institute of Sport has found that international level football coaches could only recollect 30% of the key elements that determined a successful performance. Performance analysis helps with the remaining 70% by providing the facts of what happened.

It is statistics like this which highlight the importance of performance analysis, making it a vital component for footballer improvement.

Over the last 15 years, performance analysis has grown to be a crucial component in nearly every top level football club, and in an industry where results are everything, it’s clear to see attention to detail matters. 

Why have footballers’ wages increased so much?

Players are being paid increasingly high wages because the clubs are making more money than ever. As a result of globalisation and technological advances such as the digital market, football has become more popular and so more profitable. The rights for the first seasons of the Premier League in 1992-97 sold for less than £200 million. The TV rights for 2016-19 are in comparison worth more than £5 billion.

If people lost interest in football, clubs would not be able to make such high profits. The demand for players would drop and so would their wages.

Cristiano Ronaldo is going to earn $125 million before taxes in the 2021-22 season, with $70 million coming from salary and bonus for his return to United, where between 2003 and 2009 he delivered three consecutive Premier League titles and a Champions League crown. The rest comes from personal endorsements and partnerships with brands including Nike, Herbalife, Clear and his ever-expanding CR7-branded portfolio that includes perfume, underwear, eyewear, hotels, gyms and more. Only three other active athletes make more commercially: Roger Federer ($90 million), LeBron James ($65 million) and Tiger Woods ($60 million).Ronaldo is showing no signs of slowing down.

Lionel Messi, who after 21 years at Barcelona—and a soap-opera year of departure drama—jumped to PSG, where he will be paid $75 million this season. He’ll pad his PSG paycheck with an estimated $35 million in endorsements from the likes of Adidas, Pepsi, watchmaker Jacobs & Co. and Budweiser, which he just picked up last year under a three-year deal. Ultimately, it seems that football will continue to evolve towards a faster game, where the technical level of the players will be higher, and where high-intensity efforts will be more of a determining factor. Game time will progressively decrease until there is more time without the players playing than time with the ball in play

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