Football & The Age Flaw

Why Do We Allow Age Stop Us From Signing Effective Players

Once you hit your thirties many people in football regard you as old.  How often do we hear managers speaking about their preference for youth due to the logic that ageing players supposedly do not offer as much and are less effective on majority than a youthful footballer full of energy.  There is flaw in that logic and preference for simply youth when you think of every footballer in the greater scheme of life.  We all share a common destiny in life, that is that every single human being will die, when this happens can be anytime at any age, we just never know.  Now that sounds morbid, but the truth is that at the highest level of football results are king.  With that in mind I always struggled to understand why managers plan beyond the present when nothing in the future is ever guaranteed, especially given the fragility of our lives and general health.  Add to all of this the fact that one bad challenge can end a football career at any age and the case against the belief that all players are past it at a certain age begins to build.  Surely the approach of a manager should simply be to assess what effect the footballer has on a pitch, team, club regardless of age.  To overlook a player based on age seems a backwards non logical way of thinking given the fragility of a football career and the vast amount of real world scenario's that can led to a football career ending prematurely.  Beyond this comes other facts about footballers and the 'past it in your thirties' myth.  Let's take Cristiano Ronaldo as the physical example.

Dedication Dispels The Past It Myth

In a medical study of Cristiano Ronaldo before the Fifa World Cup in Russia this summer results of Ronaldo's physical condition were simply mind blowing.  Cristiano Ronaldo's body fat was measured at just 7%.  Considering the majority of top level professional footballers body fat is anywhere between 10% to 14% that is quite extraordinary given that Ronaldo is thirty three years of age.  Next consider that the average muscle mass of a top level footballer on average is 46%.  Cristiano Ronaldo prior to the World Cup had a muscle mass percentage of 51%.  We all know how physically big and strong Ronaldo is, the man is not easy to cope with physically.  Yet when weighed on the scales prior to this summers World Cup Ronaldo came in at exactly 13.2 Stone, that weight testimony to the sheer muscle mass of the man vs Body Fat.  The overall results of the tests showed that Cristiano Ronaldo has the physical condition equivalent to that of a twenty three year old male.  If ever there was an example of sheer dedication rubbishing the 'past it in your thirties myth' then Ronaldo is the best physical example there is at the highest level of the game.  

The Brain Improves With Age

Players reliant heavily on physical attributes are far more likely to retire from the game or become less effective at an earlier age when compared to footballers with a high level of game intelligence and technical ability.  Andres Iniesta heads into the World Cup this summer at the age of thirty four leaving little room for argument among football fans worldwide that he is still comfortable at the highest level of the game, and not just comfortable, Iniesta is easily one of the best central midfielders on the planet right now. His understanding of the game and positioning coupled with technical ability means Iniesta doesn't need to be heavily reliant on physical attributes to be very effective.

The Message

The message is one that could be shared at all senior levels of the game.  If your goals and targets involve winning and results then focus on assembling players who affect the game, don't allow age and a preference for youth distract you from that focus.  Sometimes youth is more effective, but not always, nobody is the same.  Just because a player is in his thirties it doesn't mean he can't be as effective if not more effective than a player far younger, that logic is flawed for many reasons.  No matter the age, if you want a winning team, then assemble players capable of doing it in the present because who knows if they will or won't be capable of doing it in the future.