Train like Ronaldo – Develop your Brain!

Ian McClurg founder of 1 v 1 Soccer has decided to write 1,000 blog articles (over the next 1,000 days) to share performance improvement tips with players, coaches and parents. The tips will cover all four corners of the player development model – technique, tactics, psychological and physical. Amplified Soccer will share some of these posts on our pages but to get them all make sure and check out Ian's site at

As performance coaches, we are always looking at the secrets of success for the world’s greatest players. What made them the players they are today and how can the young players of today learn from their experiences as they progress down their own development pathway?
Hard work is a constant theme! There is no substitute for this and it is an element that many young players overlook. While players like Ronaldo make the game look easy and execute complex skills effortlessly, young players have not seen the sacrifice, struggle and hours of deep learning that have been responsible for their success.

Mick Clegg was Manchester United’s power development coach for 11 years and worked with Ronaldo for six years. Clegg worked closely with Ronaldo and attributes his success to the following:

“I get a lot of lads who come in and say that they want to be the next Ronaldo. They say they’ll work as hard as him, but they’re looking for a magic exercise that will turn them into him. There is no magic wand. Ronaldo’s secret was hard work and variety. He was in the gym every day and trained intelligently for six years.”

Clegg always feels that training the brain is a key element for a top professional footballer. Based on his work with Ronaldo he feels that after technical skill, speed is the next important thing in the modern game. According to Clegg the brain controls everything and if it can be developed, then physical and mental speed can be improved.  In his gym in Manchester, Clegg now works with young as 5 years of age and combines traditional weight training and brain work using several cutting-edge pieces of technology.

In 2010, Clegg traveled to Canada and met with leading brain experts to try and understand the science behind top players like Ronaldo. He consistently switches between big and intricate movements in his training to duplicate the demands constantly placed on players on the pitch (field).  A lot of his current work also revolves around developing players emotionally and putting them under pressure to see how they respond. He said Ronaldo was very good at that and it is a big reason why he has achieved the success that he has.

Clegg’s innovative work is paying dividends and he works with a growing stable of academy players from Premier League and Football League clubs. Last year he worked with a 15-year-old called Thomas Sang, who had not played for 18 months due to a series of serious injuries. After 6 months working with Clegg, he was signed by Manchester United!

Look for ways to develop your brain….it can improve your physical and mental speed!

Source: Four Four Two Magazine, November 2016