How do you identify a good footballer when scouting?
There are many ways of determining a quality player, but before delving into this it is important to say that even within the framework of scouting, the definition varies from one player to another.
All players develop differently due to differences in nutrition, growth spurts and other independent variables. However, the 'Ajax philosophy' of spotting talent is one that has proved its worth over the last few decades. They identify and develop high-end talent year in year out.
A good footballer can be determined from these four key areas.
Overall skill and quality of ball handling, body coordination whilst running, dummying, passing and shooting the ball. The aesthetic quality of the way the player handles the ball is visible if the player has refined this aspect of the game. Emphasis is usually placed on this from ages 6-14 since it is most effective at this age and is easily learnt.
This includes overall football intelligence, spatial awareness, reading of the game and movement without the ball. How he moves into positions, covers, supports and so on shows the player's reading of the game.
Remember, as Johann Cruyff said: "When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball 3 minutes on average … So, the most important thing is what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.''
How a player reacts to certain events and teammates shows a player's mindset, character and the desire to win. Does he crumble under pressure? Is she overconfident? Do match situations make a player anxious? The greats fight till the end, and mentality plays a huge role in this.
How fast a player makes decisions as well as acceleration and sprint speeds is important. A player needs this to be able to function well with the others in a team as a cohesive unit.
Also, according to this philosophy, strength and the physical component is not too important for selection as it can be developed as time goes on. For young footballers, emphasis should be placed on development in these key areas to increase chances of being spotted.