How difficult is it to become a professional footballer?

We Make Footballers
16 December 2020


It’s a question that many of us have pondered, either when we were growing up or when we imagine achieving the dream of playing football for a living – just how difficult is it to become a professional footballer?

The numbers show the competitiveness of the professional game. Out of the children who enter academies at the age of nine, less than one percent will make it as a professional footballer at any level. In terms of playing Premier League football, just 180 children of the 1.5 million who play organised youth football at any one time will go onto a career in football. That’s just 0.012 percent.

With chances so limited, how can a young a player give themselves the best chance of being in that one percent? The answer is that it takes far more than talent. We’ve put together a list of some of the other traits needed to succeed as a professional footballer.


Clubs and teams have ever rising demands and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the selection processes used to find players. Although the expectations may change depending on the professional club or academy, some are looking for more than natural talent. This means that they may expect players to demonstrate an understanding of the dedication that is required to become a professional footballer.

Positive signs that can help with this are displaying the right attitude and a determination to be the very best. By showing they are aware of the long journey ahead and are prepared to work as hard as possible for it, a young player will stand out above those with the wrong attitude.


The dream of playing football professionally in front of packed stadiums for a living should provide motivation enough – but even the most passionate young player can lose sight of why they want to become a professional soccer player.

Focusing on being the best, never losing sense of why they started playing football in the first place, remembering to keep smiling and enjoying the game are helpful motivations. Combining diligence with having fun is always essential to remaining motivated.

“The only thing that matters to me is playing, I do it because I love it” is one of Messi’s great quotes which highlights how building an enjoyment, love and passion for the game over the years is fundamental to the success of a player.


If a young player wants to become a professional footballer, it’s vital that they are confident in their abilities and have the desire to always improve them. If they don’t have a belief in what they can do, then chances are that an academy won’t either. Self-belief in footballers comes in many forms, from body language, communication and positive thinking, to preparation that ensures they are ready for any situation.

Belief is the key to success. When a player possesses self- confidence, they are more likely to play creatively and stand out in the crowd. They need high confidence levels on and off the ball, but also on and off the football pitch. The ability to learn from the past is vital to player development.


To be a professional, a player needs to be much more than a footballer – they must become an athlete as well. That derives from lifestyle. A healthy and balanced diet will help keep the body physically and mentally fit, which will reflect in performances on the pitch.

Getting into the best possible shape by working on stamina, leg power, core strength, agility and raw pace will improve a player’s effectiveness. This is a hard part of becoming a professional and can often require strong levels of determination and will-power.



Recovery is critical. Overtraining and not looking after the body can lead to injuries and fatigue and professional club are far less likely to take on a young player if they’ve got a history of spells on the sidelines.

Professional footballers can be expected to play up to three 90 minutes a week, covering anything up to 12 kilometres per game. That’s where the world of protein shakes, ice baths, warm downs and recovery tights come in.

Sleep is also vital for a footballer–resting can be as important as running. Ronaldo sleeps 12 hours per night and even has a sleep coach!


Football isn’t just played out on the pitch, but within your head as well. A young player who is aware of their role in various formations can be an asset to the club.

Football intelligence and knowledge of the game are relevant to progression and these can be worked on in a player’s own time through videos, match replays or studying different playing or and coaching styles.

Football intelligence can also derive from understanding how to connect with other players and being an expert in a designated role or system. The most complete players are students of the game as well as prodigiously talented, but they have one thing in common: the desire to always learn and improve.


Becoming a professional footballer is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish and there are many things that a player must master to be successful. Some key characteristics that many professionals have in common our desire to win, a drive for continuous improvement, a willingness to learn and most of all enjoyment of the game– these qualities are vital to success. 

Everyone has a different football journey, it is unique to each player and the most important thing is to enjoy it. We Make Footballers have helped over 2000 players enter grassroots teams and 180 players sign at professional academies. We focus on helping players of all abilities become the best they can be.

Contact us today if you would like us to help you.