By how much are professional footballers/soccer players better than amateur players?

When I started working as a trainee lawyer in Milan many years ago, I frequently went to grab lunch in a coffee shop close to our firm.

One of the young baristas there was a very nice guy who happened to play in the AC Milan Primavera(the semi-pro youth team) and occasionally train with the AC Milan Serie-A pro team.

It was year 2002–3, so this guy met and trained with the legendary AC Milan line-up which eventually won the Champions League against FC Juventus in Manchester in May 2003 under Carletto Ancelotti’s helm.

For those who are not old enough to remember it, that was a stellar team, made of legendary players going by the names of Shevchenko, Maldini, Pirlo, Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi etc., all of them in the prime-time of their careers.

That season, we bought the cheapest season-ticket to San Siro we could find (“Terzo Anello”, the top outer ring) and went many times together to watch Serie A and Champions League matches.

Through a common Romanian friend who was a waiter in the VIP zone, he was able to sneak us in the VIP zone at half-time and there he introduced me to Arrigo Sacchi, the legendary AC Milan former coach of the 80s, and even Kakha Kaladze and Massimo Ambrosini (who were both injured at a certain point of the season so they were watching the game from the VIP zone) and I often asked him how was like to play against the Pros.

He explained me the following:

  1. Pro players are not magicians making incredible tricks with the ball on the pitch: zero. Quite the opposite, their game is pretty straightforward to the point: get the ball, pass or shoot it. Little to no “tricks”.
  2. Pro players are physically extremely fast: they get to the ball incredibly quickly and much faster than semi-pro players. Compared to semi-pro, they play another game: they run amazingly fast with / without the ball. They also execute much faster. They take the ball, move, pass / shoot much quicker than semi-pro players, thus leaving a much shorter response-time for defenders to take appropriate countermeasures.
  3. Pro players are mentally extremely fast: they know where the ball will be (and can run there faster). Before they will receive the ball, they already know how to move, they know who will be in a certain position to receive their pass, they know what a certain player will do, where he will shoot, etc. Mentally their brain is hardwired to be “already there”.
  4. Pro players are extremely focused on the task assigned to them by the coach and use their superior performance for the benefit of the team.

The guy finally added that when the youth semi-pro team was playing against the Serie-A formation, the pros were so quick in their movements, actions, passes, etc. that the semi-pros basically did not see the ball.

I hope this helps!

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