In order to become a top-class soccer star, you need to be blessed with plenty of skill and natural ability. However, intelligence is also a huge part of the game and an important trait for players to possess. The majority of the world’s elite players possess the ability to read the game and react accordingly. Some players can perform tricks to beat their opponent, but if they can’t finish the play, they are unlikely to maintain a career at the top level.
Anticipating situations is vital and can separate a world-class performer from an average soccer player. This skill is often developed over time and through the repetition of practice and game scenarios. Understanding how an opponent will react during a fast break or anticipating which direction a player is likely to pass the ball takes mental awareness and practice. A lack of awareness in these types of scenarios can cause players to “ball watch” and not track runners. Positional sense is also critical and players should avoid encroaching on a teammate’s space.
Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante is an example of a player who possess intelligence, awareness and ability to dictate a game without extraordinary athleticism. This makes him a rare talent. So much so that his manager Antonio Conte, believed he deserved to win the Ballon d’Or last season. Kante works hard, he gives 100% in every game. His habits of breaking up plays, making tackles and reading imminent danger make him a vital cog on Chelsea’s side of the ball.
Kante has been particularly effective against better opposition during his career and is part of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League squad. Even still, Manchester City have been favored in February 2018 for Europe’s elite club competition while Chelsea are actually outsiders to pick up the trophy once again.
Time will tell if these predictions turn out to be correct. As one of the best players in the game, Kante can certainly influence the outcome. He is not a goal scorer and with just one goal for every 2,008 minutes of Premier League football as of February 2018. However, his presence of mind and ability to react quickly helps to win many soccer games. He is two to three seconds ahead of the play and always anticipates his opponents’ next move. In the time it takes for a player to receive a pass or run to the ball, Kante has already taken up his position and is able to block or intercept the pass, preventing any further danger.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi possess all the hallmarks of world-class soccer players and they are quite rightly praised for their all-round game. Their ability to read the game did not come naturally, however. Studying the movement of opponents and recognizing the traits and habits of teammates are skills which are developed over time. They must be carefully honed by the individual.
For like-minded offensive players, anticipating where the ball will fall in the penalty area and making the correct run will inevitably lead to plenty of chances. That awareness of how to shake off your marker is a hugely underrated skill and possessing the natural instinct in front of goal can be the difference between a ten goal striker and a prolific scorer.
Reading the game is absolutely essential and any player who cannot anticipate an opponent’s next move is likely to struggle against better opposition. Players should take time to study matches at all levels of the game. While watching matches, it is important to note the positional play of everyone on the field. Make a point of Recognizing the players reactions to various situations. This is a great way to improve cognitive abilities and become a better soccer player. It will not come easily at first, but awareness and anticipation will improve over time. Noticeable all-round improvement in play will likely follow.
We have previously outlined the various pieces of gear that a player will need in order to practice and compete efficiently and safely. For every soccer player, soccer cleats are the most essential piece of equipment you will every purchase. You will want a pair that delivers excellent traction, support and feel of the ball. This article will dive deeper into soccer cleats and outline a few things to consider when evaluating which cleats to purchase as well as share some insight into which cleats the top professional soccer players wear on game day.
Elements of your Soccer Cleats
To start it is important to understand the various pieces of the cleat. Cleat designs offer players varying performance under various conditions. Understanding each element of the cleat will help you select the best pair for the playing conditions you most often face. You would not want to show up to a soft, mud filled field with cleats made for artificial turf or indoor play. The right shoes will provide traction which will help to prevent ankle and leg injuries while also improving ball control.
There are six main components of a cleat. The upper, outsole, insole, midsole, stud or cleat, and the heel (see diagram for labels of each component except the insole).
Everything above the insole/midsole. It impacts touch and ball control. Different manufactured typically make the upper sections of cleats with a variety of different materials. Try a few kinds and see what feels and performs best for you.
Bottom of the shoe (everything below the insole/midsole). This is the part of the cleat that is usually made of a rubber or synthetic material based on the type of surface the shoe was designed for.
While not labeled in the picture above, it is an important part of the cleat. Most manufactures will provide a basic insole, but if you experience foot pain you can purchase specialized insoles to reduce stress on your feet to improve comfort. Additionally, some players choose to purchase high performance insoles. Click the corresponding insole image for our premium performance insole recommendation.
The layer of material between the inner and outer soles of a shoe designed to absorb shock. Most cleats will have a midsole designed to perform best with the rest of the materials in the shoe. However, as you try different shoes you may find you prefer a certain type of midsole for your playing style.
The back portion of the shoe, offers heel support. Try a few pairs on and see which type of heel is the most comfortable or fits your playing style best. There is no right answer to selecting the proper heel.
The nobs on the bottom of your cleats. The three main studs are; bladed, hard grounded and round. Knowing which type is best for you is important because it will give the best traction on the field’s surface.
Selecting Your Soccer Cleats: Surface Considerations
A firm ground cleat is the most common type with studs designed to provide traction and stability. Its primary use is on natural grass and outdoor soccer fields. Firm Ground cleats generally have a series of non-removable rubber studs that are either bladed or conical in shape.
Soft ground cleats have longer studs for traction on wet or muddy ground. They typically have metal-tipped and sometimes detachable studs which allow for customization for varying conditions.
Artificial grass has rapidly spread around the world as it is more sustainable and not as susceptible to weather. It offers a consistent surface and it requires much less maintenance. Many schools are installing artificial turf as a result. Some players choose to wear a different pair of cleats on natural and artificial grass, but that can prove expensive especially for novice players. Adidas has responded with the hybrid outsole to help. Click here for high quality hybrid cleats. Artificial grass cleats or turf shoes usually have a rubber outsole. They also have smaller rubber studs on the outsole to improve traction. Turf shoes can also be used for training or as a back-up pair of shoes for play on hard surfaces.
How do your Soccer Cleats Fit?
Lastly, the fit of your soccer cleats is critical. Just like any other shoe, imagine the discomfort and problems if cleats do not fit perfectly. If the soccer cleats are too tight then the player will experience difficulty running and pain from cramped toes. On top of that, it will cut off blood circulation causing another level of discomfort. On the other hand, if the cleats are too big or loose a player is likely to get blisters or worse. Loose shoes will not provide the necessary support to a player’s feet and ankles potentially leading to injury. Finally, big or loose shoes will make running as well as juggling or controlling the ball far more challenging.
Also consider what position you play and your priorities out on the field before selecting your cleats. Certain cleats offer lighter weight for better quickness and speed, other cleats offer more cushion for protection. Some cleats are optimized for traction or touch. If you play midfield, you probably care more about quickness and touch than if you play defense. Similarly, defensive players should be less concerned with shooting features on a cleat.
Superstars and Their Soccer Cleats
Most professional soccer players own dozens of soccer cleats and the superstars even have their own custom designed cleats. Some help to design their own custom soccer cleats while others leave it to the sporting companies. Nike and Adidas sponsor professional soccer players so the superstars can promote their brands out on the field.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one player that is noticed wearing a unique set of cleats designed by his sponsor, Nike. His cleats play a big part in his successful career. He is very serious when it comes to playing well during games and the cleats he wears are equally as important. He even has at least three pairs of soccer cleats on hand in case he needs to change them during the game. His cleats are specially customized for games like the El-Clasico and the Champions League finals. Nike created something special for the superstar called the Mercurial CR7 Melhor. These are difficult to come by. The Melhor signifies “The Best” and launched just days before he won the fifth Ballon d’Or. Another CR7 cleat is the Mercurial Superfly CR7. These can be found and purchased here.
For the Barcelona and Argentina fans out there, superstar Lionel Messi is known to have worn unique, specially made soccer cleats for his country’s opening match in the 2010 world cup against Nigeria. Messi wore several other unique cleats in big games. Optimizing your footwear optimizes your play. One pair of his renowned cleats are the Nemeziz 17+ 360’s. They reportedly provide special agility while playing. They also have a snug fit for Messi’s toe box area. The presence of monotongue is meant to prevent any form of slip while dribbling and provides phenomenal grip on the ball. You can purchase a pair by clicking here or check our the more economical adidas Performance Men’s Nemeziz 17.3 FG by clicking here.
Chelsea superstar, Eden Hazard has also had his own share of custom-made cleats. The Belgain has enjoyed some great seasons in the past. Part of his success story is his cleats. Hazard developed a reputation of showcasing his cleats while playing and changing them during the heat of matches. His ability to control the ball and stun the audience will always partially be attributed to his cleats. For the 2017-2018 season he’s been wearing Mercurial Vapor Flyknit Ultra Cleats by Nike. The cleats are difficult to come by, though. He also featured the Mercurial Vapor XI’s during the 2017-2018 season. Those are easier to get and you can snag a pair of them here.
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior
Neymar also falls into the category of players who are known to enjoy the spotlight and “show off” their skills. To do that though, Neymar also needs a collection of great cleats. Well, he has an abundance of them. He has the same sponsor as Ronaldo and they ensure that their players have only the best on their feet. Neymar’s Mercurial Vapor XI NJR FG soccer cleats are depicted here. Click here to get your own pair.
Keep in mind, the key to quality soccer cleats is that they must be quality for you. There are many great cleat options out there for a variety of different prices. Make sure you use the guide above to figure what works for you in terms of the structure of cleats, they way they fit, and your performance out on the field. Then decide on what cleats you want to pursue based on price point. If you go into your local soccer shop, you can often try on cleats and kick the ball around. Take advantage of that opportunity.
Good luck out there and feel free to ask any cleat questions in the comments below!
Identifying the world’s greatest soccer players to watch and emulating their play will provide invaluable lessons on how to be the best. Equally as important as vital soccer tips, studying players can be a good way to improve on key areas to take your game to the next level. Even the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo grew up trying to mirror the styles of legends of the game like Diego Maradona and Pele. Now young stars are eagerly watching the Argentinian and the Portuguese in an effort to replicate their devastating styles. Here are some key soccer players to watch right now to greatly help improve your play.
Key Soccer Players To Watch:
One of the best soccer players to watch right now is Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is generally considered to be the best footballer in the world. The Real Madrid forward is the most recent recipient of the ultimate footballing accolade, the Ballon d’Or, along with the Best FIFA Men’s Player award. As of October 17, 2017, the Portuguese racked up an astonishing 613 goals and 200 assists for club and country in 871 appearances. This is a hugely impressive output. The reason the former Manchester United player is so effective is because of his speed and strength. He uses power and pace to charge past opposition defenders. He also knows how to pick a perfect pass to enable him to get in a better position to receive the ball again.
When discussing soccer players to watch and emulate, no list would be complete without the awesome Lionel Messi. For many, it’s hard to choose who is better out of the Barcelona man and Ronaldo. There is no doubt that they have been the two best players in world football for the last ten years. Messi’s all-time career stats are actually better than Ronaldo’s, because he scored more goals and claimed more assists in a fewer number of matches. For both club and country, Messi has notched 582 goals and made 233 assists in 716 showings as of October 17, 2017. The 30-year-old has been compared to Maradona in the past, and is regarded as the most skillful player in the world. He uses trickery and intelligence to get past opponents, and is a top-class finisher.
If you want to be a quality striker, arguably the finest of all soccer players to watch in the world right now is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane. The 24-year-old bagged 13 goals for Spurs and England in all competitions in September 2017. His output seems to be improving each year. In the 2015-16 campaign, the red-hot striker scored 25 goals to win the Golden Boot, and then bettered that last term with 29 goals to top the scoring charts. Prior to the Bournemouth encounter, Kane was 13/8 with Betway to win the sharpshooter accolade for a third time at the end of this campaign. The Nike-wearing AIA-sponsored forward excels because he always makes use of even the smallest amount of space. He has proved that he can fire a shot off and score from virtually anywhere in the final third.
Kevin De Bruyne
If your favorite position is in midfield, then one of the best soccer players to watch and learn from at the moment is Kevin De Bruyne. He uses skill, vision, and intelligence to run the show for Manchester City. The Belgian is only in his third season as a Premier League regular, but has established himself as one of the most important players in the division. As such, he is the bookies’ favorite to win the PFA Player of the Year award next year. After racking up a staggering 21 assists in the league last term, De Bruyne is showing his class even more this season. He is clearly the first name on Pep Guardiola’s team sheets. The 26-year-old is averaging 71.9 passes per game with a pass completion rate of 84.3% as of October 17, 2017. Players who want to be like the former Wolfsburg playmaker need to practice passing the ball through the eye of a needle and watching other players’ runs.
There is no doubt that studying these pros will help you raise your own soccer game because they will show you things you hadn’t thought of before. Other soccer players to watch include Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Antoine Griezmann.
For example, a player with mediocre passing ability only sees what’s directly in front of him. He passes the ball to a forward with a defender on his back.
A player with good vision will quickly scan the field and find a better pass. He sees the forward is marked tightly, looks right, sees the right winger can’t shake his man, then looks left. He sees a hole in the defense. He passes the ball through the hole into space and the left winger runs to the ball.