Why is Christiano Ronaldo the best football player in the world?

Christiano Ronaldo is arguably one of the best football players the world has seen. He is certainly the richest football player – having earned over a billion dollars in his career. And he has won multiple cups for the teams he has played for.

Back in 2011, as a promotional idea, Castrol sponsored a documentary video where a bunch of sports scientists worked with Ronaldo to evaluate why he is just so good. Ronaldo was given test after test to evaluate him on everything from his body strength to his playing technique. One of the tests that the scientists conducted was: in a lab condition, the ball was shot towards Ronaldo. But the lights were switched off as soon as the ball was shot.

When this was done with other amateur football players, they did not always anticipate where the ball would go. And the ball would often fly past them. But Ronaldo anticipated where the ball would go every time even in complete darkness. He never missed connecting with the ball.

It is this ability to anticipate where the ball will go so well that makes him one of the best players the world has ever seen.

The best hotel in the world

What’s the similarity between the one of the best football players in the world with one of the best hotels in the world?

The Grand Del Mar hotel in San Diego is consistently rated as the best hotel in America. Its customer service is legendary. What makes them so?

They anticipate what the customer wants and delivers it without being asked to. As an example, Carmine Gallo – a senior contributor at Forbes magazine – describes his experience staying there. When his young daughter was playing in a sandpit, a staff member walked by within seconds, and without saying anything, dropped a few sand toys for the kid to play with.

Ask any customer service expert and they will tell you that you have to listen to what the customer wants. But listening is not enough. Listening is overrated. You have to anticipate to be a winner.

How do you anticipate accurately?

When the sports scientists put on an eye tracker on Ronaldo’s head while he was playing, they found something amazing. Most players track the ball while playing football. But Ronaldo tracks the hips and legs of the person who has the ball.

Because of this, he is better at anticipating where the player will move and direct the ball. This ability to read others makes him great at anticipating where the ball will go.

Amateurs track the ball. Experts track the player.

By focusing on the player’s movement, something magical happens. Mirror neurons fire up.

What are mirror neurons?

In the 1990s, neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues placed electrodes in the brains of monkeys to study which neurons specialized in the hand and mouth movement. And quite by accident, they found that the same neurons fired up when the monkeys picked up a banana or when they observed someone else picking up a banana!

There is a part of our brain that does not distinguish between action and observation! For these neurons, seeing and doing is processed in the same way. And this has made learning possible.

These mirror neurons make us anticipate other people’s needs. It makes us empathize with others. It is what makes yawning or laughing contagious. And it all happens automatically, without our conscious input. Simply on observation.

Decodifying anticipation

When Steve Jobs was launching the Apple stores, he wanted it to be the best user experience anyone could have. And so, he asked people around him to tell him about a wow experience they’ve had. Again and again, he heard the name Ritz Carlton. And so, Jobs sent all the future store managers to a hospitality training session with Ritz Carlton.

Like Grand Del Mar, Ritz Carlton is also known for their legendary service. They have three steps of service:

  1. Start with a warm and sincere greeting
  2. Anticipate each guests needs
  3. End with a fond farewell.

Ritz Carlton provides each of their new employees 250 hours of training on these three steps! And how do they teach them to anticipate guest’s needs?

By observing. By paying special attention to moments of change. In the training session called “Radar on, antenna up” – all the employees are told to pay attention to every detail about a guest. They are given scenario after scenario and taught on how to pay attention to seek out information. And then how to use that to wow the guest.

The steps are simple:

  1. Be alert. Observe. And make notes about likes and dislikes.
  2. Understand the journey and anticipate what will come next.
  3. And then make the next thing easy.

When a person leaves Ritz Carlton, they will be asked if they have their travel documents with them. If it’s a guest’s birthday, they will be surprised with a cake. If a person is going to leave very early, they will be asked if they would like a hot pot of coffee delivered to their room before checking out.

Don’t track the ball, track the player

Most good hotels track the ball. They make sure that their rooms are clean and their breakfast spread is scrumptious and their wifi is working. The focus is on making sure their processes and routines are followed diligently.

A few select ones will even ask their guests if there is anything else they can do to make their stay comfortable. They will listen and respond.

But exceptional hotels go beyond that and track the player. They train their staff to observe the guests and anticipate their needs.

If you observe well, anticipation becomes automatic. But you have to observe with complete awareness – keeping the player in center focus. Practice makes it intuitive.

The recipe to greatness is: Observe, anticipate, and wow.

Action Summary:

  • The bare basic you can do to be considered good enough is focus on the ball. To wow, you have to focus on the player and anticipate.
  • Anticipation is identifying likely movements based on observation. The more aware you are during observation, the more automatic and intuitive anticipation becomes.