The guy who has the ball is not the most important player“. This is what two coaches from Valencia told my friend Tim Wareing in the YouTube interview below. Brilliant! I think this quote gets to the heart of development in Spanish football, and is one factor that makes them so good. Here are my thoughts about the game ‘off the ball’.

My friend Tim Wareing has a very successful soccer school called TWSports in Northern Ireland. He regularly brings some of the best coaches in Europe to NI to work with his young players. The interview above gives a fascinating insight into the mindset of a Spanish coach. It gives us a clue as to why they produce so many fine players.

The guy who has the ball is not the most important player. The other players are as important as the guy who has the ball. When you don’t have the ball you have to do something.

This is such a basic quote yet is a truism few people in global football adhere to. I have spent thousands of hours over the past 10 years standing on the side of training pitches in the Premier League. Time and time again I see players who switch off when they are not near the ball or when they have just been involved in a passage of play.

Coaches must communicate the importance of ‘off the ball’ to their players. This is a time to predict play. This is a time that they should be noticing what is going on around them. This is a time they should be taking pictures and preparing to act on those pictures.

One thing players should be asking themselves is this: “What next?” These two words are critical in the development of any player. They are vital if players want to remain switched on, on their toes, ready to compete.

What next, what next, what next?

This is a simple tool for coaches and players to apply in training everyday. It is simple football psychology.

Tim can be contacted at