"It's a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get"
Arnold Palmer, the great golfer coined the phrase that I heard as a young boy and carry with me to this day. Too much emphasis is placed on luck. I am not disagreeing that an element of luck can be instrumental in success; lucky to be in the right place at the right time, lucky that your boss likes you over your promotion rival, lucky that your team had a good day and your opponents didn't. Luck definitely has its part to play. But the key ingredients are talent and dedication.
Like luck, "natural talent" often tips the scales of importance in the mind. People believe Messi is such a good player because he is naturally talented, Ronaldo, Xavi and Iniesta too.
Natural talent definitely exists. Genetics mean Ronaldo has more fast-twitch fibres and therefore possess the explosive and electric speed he utilises so well. Xavi and Iniesta are intelligent men, as well as footballers, and this helps them read situations more quickly and identify space others do not see. From an early age Messi has been able to dribble with the ball seemingly glued to his feet. Without doubt some find the game easier than others, some need to train less but still improve, but the thing that distinguishes the good from the average and the great from good is their dedication, application and unwavering desire to improve.
From grassroots football to full time professional it takes around 10,000 hours of football. That is 10,000 hours of high exposure to the ball to improve technique, high tempo tatical and functional practices, friendlies, league and cup matches, and tourments. It also helps if you have a kick around in the park/street/school, try to compete against yourself in ball juggling, and kick a ball against a wall or uneven surface to improve passing, first touch and reaction time. Suddenly the talent does not seem so natural.
Maybe people do not know that Ronaldo goes to training early to work on stretching and breathing exercises, or that Beckham would spend an hour or so after training working on set-pieces. This extra commitment and hard work makes it look easy. Xavi and Iniesta are able to play one and half touch football because their football education at Barcelona's La Masia has conditioned them, making their widely admired style of play second nature.
Education is very important, receiving the correct imformation makes all the difference. Realism in training gives you the skills to take into games. A good coach teaches you not only how to play but also to understand instructions; and maybe more importantly, how to take criticism and how to develop the attitude to learn from it.
Like everything in life, to succeed in football you can not rest on your laurels. Natural talent will only get you so far, the rest is hard work, dedication, application, the right attitude, and desire to be the best you can be. And if all of these added together are not enough, you can at least rest assured you gave it everything and avoid a lifetime of regret.