25 year anniversary | Evolution of the football player from 1995 to 2020


Written by Lasse

As a part of our 25 year anniversary, we thought it would be fun to look at some of the differences between football in 1995 and football in 2020. One of the most evolved factors in football today compared to 1995, must be the players. So we reached out to one of the leading speed coaches in modern football to hear about the differences between the professional football players in 1995 and 2020. And you might learn a thing or two yourself!

First of all we want to introduce you to Carsten Effertz. Carsten is one of the leading speed coaches in Europe and the CEO of Tanner Speed Academy. An academy, which is using one of the most advanced speed and agility training systems in the world! A system, that is similar to the one used by top European clubs such as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Well, we asked Carsten a bit about what he thinks is the main difference between the professional football players in 2020 compared to those from 1995. It’s easy to see that not everybody looked like the machine by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo back in 1995. But why is that? What has changed? We’ll start off with the characteristics of football players in 1995.

Football players of 1995

We would lie, if we told you that everybody had a six-pack, ate properly and had their own physicists back in 1995. Just look at top players like Paul Gascoigne and the Brazilian Ronaldo. The players back then didn’t care as much as they do today about their health. When we asked Carsten Effertz about players from 1995, he said:

“I would say that they are a lot different from the players that we see today. Their mentality, physics, etc. were far from what we see nowadays. They didn't care too much about their health, e.g. nutrition or sleeping habits etc. It wasn't unusual that the players went out to party after a match.”

One of the best players back in the early 2000’s was the Brazilian Ronaldo. And ‘O Fenômeno’ didn’t care about his weight that much. He once said the following about being left on the bench, because of his weight: “... sometimes in football, 100 or 200 grams doesn’t make the difference.” You probably wouldn’t hear that from CR7.

Football players of 2020

If we move forward to today's stars of football, such as Adama Traore, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo, they are all machines in their own way. According to Carsten Effertz the top players of modern football are true athletes;

“The foundation for success is now to be in a top physical condition. Only with the right preparation can a pro player follow the high physical requirements. Players like Ronaldo or Ramos have their everyday life fully dedicated to success. This is also why they can play on the highest level for so many years.”

As Cristiano Ronaldo once said: “Talent without working hard is nothing.”

Top players and their habits

Carsten Effertz has also given us an insight into some of the top players’ habits and their professional life. He says that they are much more aware of their body needs than before;

“Leon Goretzka has 4 individual sessions every week - on top of the training sessions that he has with the team. Actually, about 70% players in the Bayern München squad have an individual coach.”

But it’s not only the physical training. The right diet is also one of the secrets for the top players. And also the right sleeping habits;

“The first thing Toni Kroos always pays attention to is his sleep rhythm. Sufficient sleep is essential for him to feel good and to be sufficiently focused in training sessions and games. The rest phase is also extremely important for regeneration.”

Football is faster than ever

But why do the players of 2020 need to be at their best at all parameters? Because football is becoming faster and faster, according to many people - including Carsten Effertz;

“The game overall has become significantly faster and more athletic. When we compare the World Cups in the 1990’s to the last World Cup in 2018, we can see a big change in the running statistics.” says Carsten.

“The change in the total distance covered is actually less than before - or it hasn’t increased that much. But the distance that the players run at high speed has increased a lot. And this is clearly indicating that sprinting skills are becoming more and more important in modern football. Additionally, the top speed is much higher than back in 1995.”

A tip for the young players out there

As you probably know by now, football is not only about how great you can kick the ball. Physics is more important than ever, and speed is an ability that is essential to young players. Carsten Effertz tells us why;

“Speed is the first ability where a young player can compete with the more experienced players. The young players can’t pass a ball better than an experienced player. They can’t read the game better than an experienced player. But they can run faster! This can be their first competitive advantage.”

Besides speed is coordination and cognitive speed - to think fast and act them out - a very important ability to work on. To get an idea of why it's important to think and act fast, here is what Thiago (Liverpool) is quoted for, when asked about how much time you have when receiving the ball:

“This may be difficult to understand for outsiders, but the truth is: You have minus one second. So - none at all. Even before you receive the ball, you have to have an idea and always think faster than your opponent. Orientation is the key. You have to know where you are, have control of the ball and know where your teammates and opponents are."

This was it for now. We hope you enjoyed learning about the differences between the professional players from 1995 and the players of 2020. We thought that there were some differences - but we didn’t know that sleeping was the key to Toni Kroos’ success or that you have minus one second to create an idea, according to Thiago.

A big thanks to Carsten Effertz for talking to us and to give us some insights about the modern day footballer.