Becoming the best footballer in the world is an aspiration many of us have growing up, but there are plenty of us who don't realise how athletically fit you need to be to become a pro.
Football is a high intensity sport and it doesn't matter where abouts you are in your career, fitness is imperative if you're going to last running around for 90 minutes and this gets more important, the older you get.
You often hear football sceptics say the professionals are being paid millions to 'run about and kick a ball for 90 minutes'. However, people who know and enjoy the game will be knowledgeable on the fact that this really isn't the case.
Average distance comparison
Since the Premier League began back in 1992, the fitness and physicality of the game has significantly progressed and today, the players are fitter than ever.
Last season, the lowest average distance covered by a team across the season was Manchester United's figure of 106.1km, with Crystal Palace being the next lowest with a combined 106.6km figure.
Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. 🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/sDunenwouy— Adam Lallana (@officialAL20) 9 June 2017
Divide United's figure by 11 and you'll see, if every player covered the same distance (which of course, they don't), that individuals covered an average of 9.6km per game.
Now let's take Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side who topped the distance covered charts last season. Their average of 116.9km works out at each individual 10.6km, a whole kilometre more than the Manchester United players.
American footballers are considered to be some of the fittest athletes on the planet, with the build and speed they're able to run at.
During a game, players will only run around 1.25 miles, which is largely down to the vast amount of stoppages. There's no denying you still have to be mega fit to be an American Footballer, but their aerobic capacity will be far less superior to those who play in the Premier League every week.
As many of you will know, the levels of fitness required by players will vary in Rugby Union depending on what position you play in.
On average, Union players will run around 7km a game for the 80 minutes they're on the pitch.
Due to the faster paced nature of Rugby League compared to Rugby Union players, professional League athletes will cover slightly more ground than their Union counterparts.
People sometimes forget just how physically demanding a tennis match is. Of course, the distance covered depends heavily on the length of matches, style of plays and who your opponent is.
If we stem back to the 2010 Wimbledon championships where John Isner and Nicolas Mahut took part in a mammoth 11 hour game, we'll see they covered an estimated 10 km each. In a normal game, players will cover around half of that, which again, depends on the different variables we previously mentioned.
We see that football players are covering more distance than some of the world's biggest sports, but just how fit do footballers need to be and from what age to clubs start to test their players physicality?
The football fanatics amongst us will be well aware that different positions will require different levels of fitness. Everyone needs to have exceptional aerobic capacities but, for example, midfielders and strikers will use their energy is different ways.
A midfielder will cover more distance but at a lower intensity, whilst a striker will cover less distance but at a higher intensity.
A Premier League players VO2 Max, which is the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, is between 60-70ml. Take the recordings of the average male between the ages of 20-29 and you'll find they measure in at 38-43ml.
However, it isn't just their aerobic capacity that needs to be well developed. Due to every player, at some point during the game, needing to sprint for the ball or to make a darting run, their anaerobic capacity needs to be heightened to cope with these demands.
Research has shown that players can make up 40 explosive sprints per game, with the quickest players, like Jamie Vardy, reaching speeds in excess of 30kph. This goes to show the strain a professional footballers leg muscles have to cope with and how important preparation and recovery is during the week, to minimise the risk of injuries.
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A Premier League players body fat percentage is also massively low compared to the average UK's male, as you would expect. The top footballers will have a percentage of just 6-10%, carrying any excess weight around the football pitch will have detrimental affect on a player's ability to perform at their best.
Starting them young
Footballers are not only required to be strong and powerful, but they need to have excellent agility and the ability to repeat these movements over a sustained period of time.
Making sure the players in Premier League academies are aware of this and are starting to work on every aspect of fitness is high on the agendas.
When players hit their teenage years and start to have their biggest growth spurts, clubs will start to place a big emphasis on the importance of their athletic movements and developing the correct movement patterns. As they get older, they will be able to control the movements and replicate them in a game situation, something that is vitally important for players.
It goes without saying that clubs want their academy players as well as their senior players to be strong. However, making players lift heavy weights when they are too young can be damaging. As they get older, clubs will then focus on the bigger compound training to improve their strength and power.
People may have the perception that academies will only focus on the skill attributes of their players, which isn't true. This goes to show how vital fitness is and to make it to the top and although clubs won't judge you soley on your physicality and fitness perfromance, it plays a huge part when deciding if they want to offer someone a contract or not.
Top 5 fastest players in the Premier League this season
5. Ryan Fraser - Bournmouth (21.62 mph)
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4. Sadio Mane - Liverpool (21.65 mph)
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3. Laurent Koscielny - Arsenal (21.82 mph)
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2. Kiko Femenia - Watford (21.83 mph)
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1. Kyle Walker - Manchester City (21.85 mph)
How do you compare?
It's never too late to boost your fitness levels and as we know, the better they are, they better you're going to perform throughout the game.
Pre season is when the hard graft is really put in. If you're serious about your football and are still aiming to be the best, make sure your fitness levels are as good as they can be.