By 90Min
June 18, 2018

Natural talent and skill is sometimes only a fraction of what it takes to make it as an elite professional footballer. Hard work is a huge part of it, without which all the flashiest tricks and flicks in the world won't be enough.

Here's a look at seven stars whose hard work helped them nail it.


Gary Neville

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Gary Neville played close to 700 games for Manchester United and England during a 19-year professional career, but the retired right back would be among the first to tell you he was far from technically gifted, and that hard work was responsible for his footballing success.

In his 2011 autobiography 'Red', Neville recalled the huge sacrifices he made as a young player.

"If there was a game on Saturday, I was in bed by 9.15pm every Thursday and Friday night. I was a robot. I cast off all my mates from school, never saw them again. I decided, ruthlessly, that I was going to make friends with my new team-mates, who shared the same goals as me.

"As far as I was concerned the lives of athletes and non-athletes were incompatible."


Gabi

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After initially starting his professional career at Atletico Madrid, it wasn't until his late twenties and a spell at Real Zaragoza - that included time in the Spanish second division - that defensive midfield workhorse Gabi began to really hit his stride.

He won the Europa League in his first season back with Atletico in 2011/12, and was named club captain in time for the 2013/14 season in which the team won a first La Liga title in 18 years, and came within seconds of Champions League glory as well.

Gabi had played like a man possessed in the final and rarely has a losing player deserved to be on the winning side more. In March 2014, it was revealed that he had covered more ground that any other player in the Champions League at that point of that season.


Philipp Lahm

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In many ways, Philipp Lahm enjoyed the perfect career. As a Munich native, he emerged as a product of Bayern's youth ranks and went on to win eight Bundesliga titles, six DFB-Pokals and the Champions League, with much of his later success as captain.

Lahm, who went out at the very top with an early retirement in last year, also captained Germany to World Cup glory in 2014; the country's first as a unified nation.

None of it would have been possible without his professional work ethic. 


N'Golo Kante

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N'Golo Kante was completely unknown outside his native France when he joined Leicester City in the summer of 2015. The midfielder had played only one season of top flight football at that point of his career and few would have raised an eyebrow had he slipped off unnoticed.

But Kante, seemingly incapable of playing badly, left a permanent mark on English football when his tireless running inspired Leicester to the most unlikely of Premier League title wins.

Doubters still wondered if it was a fluke and questioned whether Chelsea made a mistake paying £32m to sign him, yet he did exactly the same again in 2016/17 - arguably playing even better - to bring his new club the Premier League trophy as well.


Harry Kane

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Not blessed with natural pace or a bag of tricks and flicks, Harry Kane instead worked on honing his great football brain to get where he is today. Now he always seems to be in the right place at the right time to inflict most damage on opponents.

As a youngster he was released by Arsenal, and many believed his breakout 2014/15 campaign would be little more than a one-hit wonder. But Kane has worked so hard to make up for his shortcomings and is legitimately a world class goalscorer as a result.

147 goals for club and country in the last four seasons tells its own incredible story and Kane is now set to lead England out as captain at his first ever World Cup.


David Beckham

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Among the greatest free kick experts of the last 30 years, David Beckham's technique was only perfected after thousands of hours of relentless practice.

"I must have taken tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands [of free kicks]," the former England captain recalled in his 2013 illustrated book.

Beckham's dedication was second to none. He would often stay late on the training pitch, working on his free kicks and crossing, proof that practice really does make perfect.


Cristiano Ronaldo

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When Cristiano Ronaldo first arrived at Manchester United as a skinny teenager he had all the potential in the world, but his game was far too one dimensional to be a long term success. Tireless training in the gym to bulk up, and working on his decision making, changed all of that.

An unquenchable thirst for success has driven him and, after 16 years as a professional, Ronaldo is arguably fitter now than he has ever has been.

The fact that he has never had any real trouble with injuries and has already played over 900 senior games for club and country at the age of 33 shows just what good care he takes of himself. That may look easy but it isn't and requires incredible hard work and dedication.


HAVE YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES?

You don’t have to be a professional footballer to put in the work and nail your goals. You just have to be committed, stay focussed and put your all into it. If this sounds like you, check out NCS, a summer experience aimed at 15-17 year olds who are willing to put in the time and get the results they want. Fancy tackling outdoor activities, learning new skills and changing the world around you? Then NCS is for you.

Check it out:

http://www.ncsyes.co.uk/


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