9 Differences Between Good and Great Soccer Players

Updated on 
January 20, 2021

At least 7 out of 10 people ask me this very simple question.

What separates good from great soccer players? Let me answer it for you!

What separates great soccer players from good ones are their abilities, dedication, habits, and discipline on and off the soccer field. The best soccer players are consistent with their performance and are able to change the result of the game with their decisions. That’s what separates them.

Throughout my life, I’ve met so many soccer players and I noticed this very common misconception.

They were focusing on too many “fancy” things, that had little to no value for their actual performance.

“I train super hard after every training”, they tell me. But when they actually show me the recording of their usual routine, it consists of too many things that they don’t actually ever use in the game.

They think that following will make the difference:

  • Juggle over 1,000 times
  • Being able to nutmeg player
  • Ability to do bicycle kick (that’s how I got broken shoulder btw.)
  • How many stepovers they can make
  • and etc etc etc

While it’s nice to know how to juggle, or to be able to nutmeg player 50% of the time, these are not things that will improve your game!

It’s not about being able to do nice freestyle tricks. Or be able to shoot like Ronaldo. It’s rather about being able to make a 30m pass to feet every time!

Here is a list of 9 differences:

  1. Great soccer players are consistent
  2. Great soccer players have good habits in place
  3. They are disciplined on the soccer field
  4. Great soccer players live a healthy lifestyle
  5. Great soccer players thrive under the pressure
  6. They master fundamentals
  7. Their work brings results
  8. They are creative
  9. They learn from the failure

Let’s talk about each one of them.

1. Great soccer players are consistent

They are simply very consistent when it comes to their plays.


An average player will pass a ball on 30 meters to the feet 70/100 times right.

A good player will pass a ball on 30 meters to the feet 80/100 times right.

A great player will pass a ball on 40 meters to the feet 90/100 times right.

Did you notice what I did there?

They are not just being more consistent, but they also do more of what is expected from them.

When a coach gives you a goal for the session to score at least 10 goals, you don’t just score 10 goals. You make more of what is expected from you right?

So you will score 15 goals and will get 10 assists for the whole season! This mindset makes great soccer players successful.

Being consistent and not satisfied with being average. It should always drive you!

I’m not sure how you, but I never satisfied with being an average. You have one life, so why not strive to be the best in your city, then in your country and etc etc?

2. Great soccer players have good habits in place

First of all, I need you to go check this video right now (3 minutes only):

The video basically shows you how small, insignificant actions and decisions will ultimately form your life a few months/years later.

Now, what is a habit?

Habit is a routine we develop and overtime does almost unconsciously (on autopilot). That means you don’t have to think about washing your teeth in the morning, you just will do it.

I’m not going to explain why it works, as it would take a whole book, but here’s a cool article explaining: https://jamesclear.com/habits

Habits are almost 95% of what we’re doing day-to-day. This applies to soccer as well!

You don’t think about kicking a ball the right way, you just do it right? Or passing a ball on 20 meters, you just pass it. We do most of these things automatically and you know what is even better?

We can develop new habits consciously by repeating them over and over again.

Yes! That’s why you’re practicing the same things in the training session over and over again. So when it’s game-time, you just automatically respond to things that you were prepared for.

This is a very big difference between great soccer players and good ones.

They have good habits in place that help them to perform under the pressure, to pass precisely, or to even right heading.

Really, habits are almost in everything you do so I highly recommend you to dig more about this topic. I will probably create a guide on this topic as it’s really important!

3. They are disciplined on the soccer field

Now I don’t mean following game rules and respect the referee’s decisions.

So what do you mean by discipline on the soccer field?

I mean the discipline to always come back as a defender after a counter-attack. Discipline to stay in the right position in corners. Discipline to open a space so your teammate has always more options to pass and etc etc.

Great soccer players are super disciplined, and when they do mistakes (because they’re humans too), they get easily punished by a scored goals. One mistake on this high professional level can cost you a lost game.

That’s why great soccer players are highly disciplined on the soccer field. Stay disciplined and you can achieve amazing results over time as well!

4. Great soccer players live a healthy lifestyle

This is related to the previous point, about being disciplined.

If some of you ever been to a village derby, or on some lower league match, you might notice that most of the players will go to a party at the weekend.

Don’t get me wrong now, there’s nothing wrong with going to celebrate, but you have to have boundaries.

If you go to the party after a match and will end up completely destroyed, it won’t really prosper you and you will feel terrible for the next 2 days.

Professionals go to rest and take care of their bodies even after a game day.

Take a look at Cristiano, in his gym:

You don’t have to have a pool at home to do some regeneration activities.

When I was younger, after every game I went to the swimming pool to hit at least 25x50 meters as a recovery. The next day a little bit of active stretching with some jogging and on Monday I was ready to go more!

A discipline off the soccer field will help you to stay healthy and prevent unnecessary injuries.

Professional soccer players really pay attention to this, and you should too if you ever want to go pro!

5. Great soccer players thrive under the pressure

From my personal experience, being able to play under pressure is a super important skill.

Imagine playing outside on Sunday, in front of 50,000 fans that basically want you to lose. If they would be a referee, they’d do anything so their team can win. Luckily for us, they’re not and the worst they can do is to shout you names and from time to time throw a plastic cup.

Even though most of the time that’s all they can do, great soccer players don’t pay attention to that and are almost completely immune to this external distraction.

Also, there’s another pressure. Pressure from losing. You’re losing 1:0 at home and it’s the 80th minute and you feel pressure to go forward and score a goal. Unexperienced soccer players tend to make really weird mistakes, but it’s a natural thing.

In spite of that, that’s what separates them from the great soccer players, that thrive on pressure and show their best at these times.

If you get easily distracted by pressure, don’t worry. Thick skin can be gained by exposure and experiences as you play.

6. They master fundamentals

This is exactly what habits in soccer are for. To master fundamentals and basics such as passing a ball at a short distance.

Great soccer players mastered these basic concepts and very rarely make a mistake. And if they do a mistake, it’s due to pressure or just a lack of focus.

When you think about it, soccer is all about fundamentals.

Receiving a ball, passing a ball, then opening more space so you create more options for your teammate, then communicate loud, and then again receive a ball and etc.. All these are fundamentals and great soccer players mastered them.

That’s why it’s important to work consistently on these, so you create a habit out of them and it’ll be natural for you to do these. You will not need to even think about them.

7. Their work brings results

The things they do in a game are effective and have a big value for their team.

Do you think making a few stepovers on the wing will be helpful for your team? No.

What about making a few fancy tricks in the corner? No way!

So what if I’d tell you that just opening a space by running to the line will be much more helpful than doing these things mentioned above?

I mean, of course, you can do tricks and fancy footwork is always cheered by fans, but first, you need to focus to help your team. 

I hope I explained it well because a lot of people really don’t understand this.

Great soccer players understand this. Even Neymar.. Yes he does nice tricks but he knows when to do them and how to use them in a real game, that’s what makes him great.

8. They are creative

The professionals must be creative. They can’t really rely only on the game plan told in the locker room.

Sometimes they have to take the responsibility in their hands, break some rules given by the coach, but ultimately making from it a situation from which your whole team will benefit.

They are super creative. They have to be.

Soccer on a professional level is very fast and they have to make tons of decisions throughout the whole game.

They have to come out from situations an average player wouldn’t know how to.

Creative and fast thinking makes these soccer stars stand out from others.

9. They learn from the failure

Most of us see failure as a bad experience. Of course, it’s better to win, but you’re forgetting that failure teaches you the most.

If you fail at something, you should learn something from it and go on.

Look at SpaceX. They understand this concept really well.

Take a look on the video they released on their official Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvim4rsNHkQ

They named the video: How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster

Do you see? They are making fun out of it because they know they’ll ultimately succeed. That all these small failures are stepping stones to success.

And that’s what I want you to take out of this article if nothing else.

Don’t be afraid to fail! If you don’t score a goal from that penalty, who cares!

In a few days, nobody will ever remember that and at least you can gain confidence because you know, you took your chance. Zero regrets! Only learning!

Fail often and fail forward!

Great soccer players know this and they are absolutely fearless in what they’re doing.

Yes, there are situations when they can feel stress or any other negative emotions, but they know that they will come out of that uncomfortable situation as better players.

Wrapping it up

So as you can see, there are only a few differences between great soccer players and good ones.

You can become great soccer too if you apply only a few of these things you learned today.

Trust yourself, keep your head up and work on your dream. If they can do it, you can do it as well!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this article and that you can understand what separates good soccer players from great ones.

Take care!

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Tom Lindeman
Ball Athlete project
Hey! My name is Tom and I created this blog in order to help people wherever they are in their sport journey. Inspirational posts, guides, reviews and much more! Read about the project here.
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