Specialization is Key in Soccer

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How can you stand out as a player? What skills or qualities do you have that make you unique? Are you a left back who gets into the attack and swings in a good cross? Are you a defender who gets up and wins head balls and is dangerous on corners? Are you a playmaker who can deliver that killer pass?

Today, not only do you have to possess all the requisite qualities of a top player, good technique, vision, touch, but you need to have a skill that sets you apart from everyone else – that little something extra that teams just can’t pass up on.

If you look at some of the greats of the game, they are all well-rounded players, but they also have that something extra, and specialize in one or maybe two things in particular that make them stars. As a young player, master those skills that you enjoy, whether it’s whipping in a cross or beating players on the dribble. Perfect those skills so you become a specialist and teams won’t leave you off the team sheet.

Carlos Tevez of Manchester City
Getty Images

Carlos Tevez. The Argentine is a work horse. It’s as simple as that. Yes, he can dribble, pass and score, but he’s tireless. That’s what makes him who he is. He chases every ball down and fights to win any ball that’s served in his direction.
Specialization: Hard work.

Carlos Puyol. If there’s a 50/50 ball to be one then Puyol will win it, whether he’s wearing the Barcelona jersey or the jersey for the Spanish national team. Whether it’s a high or low ball, whether he needs to slide or dive or use his face even, he’ll win the ball.
Specialization: Ball winner.

Roy Keane. Every team needs a leader on their team. He’s a player who demands the best from everyone and someone who will get in your face when needed to draw you out of a funk. Sure, Keane has let his temper get the better of him at times, but he is a player who wants to win and you want on your team. Besides being an exceptional passer of the ball and a vast amount of wisdom on the field, Keane is a leader.
Specialization: Enforcer, leader, and player who demands the best from his teammates.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Perhaps the hardest thing to specialize in and the most handsomely paid for this ability is the goal scorer. Manchester United made one of the greatest signings in their history, in terms of the low cost and the goal scoring outlay for this young Mexican. Chicharito, knows how to get into the box and score, it’s as simple as that. He’ll score with his head, his foot or even his neck.
Specialization: Goal scoring.

Javier Hernandez
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Arjen Robben. This man just knows how to take players on and must make defenders lose sleep. When Robben gets the ball he has one thing on his mind, go at the defender. Of course defenders hate this, they don’t want to be challenged.
Specialization: Takes players on.

Sergio Busquets. While not nearly as flashy and skillful as Iniesta or Xavi, Busquets role for Barcelona is the pivot man. He is the player who offers support and rotates the ball from one player to another. It’s not his job to try to beat players or hit that killer pass, that’s what Iniesta and Xavi are there for.
Specialization: Support and moving the ball.

Dani Alves. Getting into the attack. Alves has developed a unique partnership with Xavi and Messi, as they constantly share the ball and play quick little give and goes. The Brazilian born Alves is probably the best outside defender into terms of getting into the attack and overlapping from the outside, and this shows in his 18 assists in La Liga. This is an amazing stat for a right fullback.
Specialization: Overlapping on the outside and getting into the attacking third.

David Beckham. Let’s take Beckham, which is an easy one in many ways since it’s specialization is front and center, he’s deadly on free kicks. But Beckham is also deadly in the run of play and not just dead balls: he is the best passer of the ball in the game, still. If you watch the LA Galaxy play, Beckham feeds Landon Donovan with at least two goal-scoring chances per game. It’s amazing how he directs a forty-yard ball with precision.
Specialization: Free kicks, crosses, killer long balls.

You might even just be a good teammate, someone who plays for the team, works for the team and is purely unselfish, if you fill this role, and don’t play outside of yourself, you just might have found your specialization.

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