Football is one of the most popular sports with a following of over three and a half billion people. Wherever you turn, at whichever corner of the world you turn to, you'll find a pitch, a football, and players. Football players are an integral part of the sport. There are countless players who pride themselves as football players. However, to stand out above the rest and be a world recognized player takes a lot. If you're wondering if you have what it takes to have the world watch you on the pitch, or you want to grow your skills, here are the top tips on how to become a successful professional football player.

1. Burn with desire

There are countless people who go to the pitch every day to play football. Some do it for fun, others do it part-time, and others full time. If you've decided to take football as your career, you should have a burning desire to succeed as a professional player. Desire means you want it with all your heart, and it's all you think about. To an extent, you should be obsessed about success. Only then, will you do whatever it takes to make it as a pro footballer. However, you should watch it that you don't have a misplaced desire. For instance, wanting to be cheered by fans may be a misplaced desire. The correct desire is to have great football skills that will be admired.

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2. Training

You ever heard of the 10,000 rule? It states that for you to be exceptional at something, you have to train at it for ten thousand hours. It may sound like a far-fetched rule, but it works. The basis of it in this context is if you want to become a successful footballer, you need to train, train, and train some more. There's never enough knowledge to know or skills to have when it comes to football. You always need to learn more in order to stay at the top of the pack. You should, however, learn how to balance learning and training. You can take the time to learn a new skill, then spend some more time trying to execute the move.

3. Set goals

Goals are what keep us moving. Whether literally or figuratively, they are our driving force. If you want to become a successful footballer, you need to set goals for yourself.  A good example is when you start out in an academy, you can decide on how long you would wish to be there before you're recruited into another club or join the main team. When you know how long you want to stay somewhere, you will work day and night to ensure you're on track to reach your goals. However, when you're setting goals, you should be attentive to set realistic ones. You can't start out at the academy today and expect to be playing in the World Cup tomorrow. When you have realistic goals, then you will have a realistic approach to them.

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4. Find a team

This is a vital part of being a professional footballer. You can't be a footballer if you're only playing by yourself in the backyard. Sure, there are those players that go to the streets to showcase their skills, but more often than not, they only offer a moment's thrill. If you truly want to play at the epitome of football, you need a team. Through a team, you will have others to help you improve and motivate you. Moreover, you will have a chance to showcase your skills. Then, recruiters from big teams around the world just might recruit you, or you might be called to your national team to play in international matches.

5. Know the rules of the game

Every game has its rule, and soccer is no exception. When you want to succeed in anything, football or otherwise, you will need to have a clear understanding of the regulations involved. In football, there are rules that a player is expected to learn and adhere to. Besides knowing the rules, you will need to know how to apply them, and how you can use them to your benefit. Moreover, when you know the rules, you'll be a better player. If you're on the field playing, and you have the ball, but a player is fouled, the referee will blow the whistle and you're expected to stop the play. If you don't stop, the referee might have to take action against you.

6. Listen to advice

When you're a player, it means you're part of a team. The head of the team is the coach, and he will have a set of regulations for all the players to follow. If you wish to excel as a player, you will need to listen to the advice given by your coach.

In addition, your fellow players may offer criticism that they could have observed while you're playing. You also need to listen to their advice. This will also help in creating team synergy, and therefore advancing your skills, and that of the team.

A great deal of the skills you will need are listening skills. You constantly need to listen to what people are saying and see how you can improve yourself from their words of advice. However, as a player, people will keep talking about what you should be doing and what you should do better. You will need to learn how to filter what is important from what is not, and learn to act on that which is of use.

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7. Have a player's kit

Every player has a kit, from a jersey to playing shoes. At the professional level, these items will be provided. But when you are starting out, you will need to invest in getting most of the items yourself. Since not everyone is financially stable, there are certain ways that you can use to raise funds to buy a training and playing kit. You can ask for friends to support you financially, try and work part-time, or even look for football sponsorships in your area.

8. Dietary habits

What you eat heavily determines on what kind of player you will be. Eating unhealthily will only make you gain unnecessary weight, which will make it hard for you to perform mundane football functions. If you do, on the other hand, eat healthily, you will be filled with vigor and strength to play football, most notable world class players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo have integrated powerful diets into their daily routine. You should look for a way to eat healthily, and have a system that you can live by both short term and long term.

Pro tip: As much as you need to be a lean machine to make it in the congested football world, it doesn't hurt to have a little fun. When you have set out a diet plan, look for one day, or a reasonable interval where you can go off the diet and have some fun. Try not to overindulge though.

9. Exercise

Beyond just eating well, you will need to take a few extra steps to ensure you are fit enough to play. One thing that should be constant in is your will to exercise. Exercise may be tangled together with training, but when you delve deeper into it, you see the difference. Training is the targeted practice that you and your team will be taken through, often times by the coach or trainer. Exercise, on the other hand, is the extra effort that you will take in order to be fit enough for your usual routine. Such activities include running or jogging, going to the gym, hiking, etc. Think of exercise as an added advantage that will give you an edge both on and off the field.

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10. Motivation

Motivation goes a long way in making great players. Motivation is what keeps you going even when the odds are stacked against you. When you go back to some of the greatest games in history, you'll realize a fair share were won by sheer motivation. The whole team may have given up, but a player or two still believed they could do it, and true to the testament, they did. Look for something that motivates you and key in on it. Playing in the World Cup, or winning a trophy can be great motivators. Even when you're playing a game and it's not going well, when you picture your motivation, you will be energized to give the game your best.

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11. Give your body time to recover

Many football players are prone to injuries. Some are easy to recover from, while others are career ending. This is due to the exhaustive training and exercising that they undergo on a daily basis. When you are hurt, the first instinct may be to brush it off and continue playing. However, when you do that, you will only cost your team and your body. If you suspect you have an injury or something that needs attention, you should alert the coach, and have a trained medic have a look. When you are fully recovered, you will have your chance on the field. Also, it is important to give your body resting days to help it cope with the regular training and exercising.

12. Get a mentor

Mentors are those people who are in the same field as you are, and you look up to them and aspire to be like them. In football, there are legends that have gone ahead and set records either at local, regional, or international levels.You should scout your area and see if there is anyone who has achieved what you would want to, and see if they would be willing to help you. There are also countless pros who have played on the international scene and have had interviews that you can watch and learn from.

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13. Attend training camps

There is an influx of football training camps all over the world. While many may prefer the top camps, there is still a great deal that one can learn from the local camps.Moreover, many scouts have tendencies of visiting these camps to look for any promising talent. However, if you're not selected, remember there's always a next time, and appreciate the skills you pick up from the camp.If you have the opportunity of attending a camp and some of your other teammates don't get the opportunity, you can offer to train them on what you learned.

14. Have the right support system

A saying goes that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at the people they hang around. When you are determined to be a world-class footballer, you will need to surround yourself with people who buy into your dream and can help you get to it. The right support system will not only lift you up when you are feeling low, they will also celebrate your victories with you, and let you know when you're derailing from your chief goals.

15. Appreciate the place of patience

As mentioned earlier, while setting goals, you need to be realistic. One of the skills that can help you become a successful professional footballer is the ability to exercise patience.Sometimes, the coach may decide to bench you and put in another player. Instead of throwing a fete, you should try and see matters from the coach's point of view, and try to learn from the player that replaced you.When you exercise patience, you're able to see matters from a different perspective, and if you can learn from that, then you have got a bright future waiting ahead.

Some of the actionable skills that you need to improve on in the field include;

  1. Spatial skills
  2. Passing accuracy
  3. Dribbling skills
  4. Body control
  5. Tactical knowhow

The Important Take Away

Clearly, there's a lot that goes into making a professionally recognized footballer. More even for those who want to have the successes and skillset that matches the great legends of football. The above skills and tactics should help you to dribble past the horde of footballers. Who knows, you just might have the nations chanting your name at the World Cup, it doesn't get better than that. Good luck.