The king of all games is undoubtedly football.

It is a practice as human and significant in our time as few sociological phenomena can be, since it encompasses the different fields of human nature and is capable of calling upon the globality of the human being in its different levels of consciousness and expression. Its practice knows no boundaries as it is practiced in the five continents making the whole world revolve around the ball.

Football: a social… and psychological phenomenon

Both success and failure of a player come from a combination of physical, psychological and technical conditional abilities . For this reason and due to the global relevance of this sport, it is necessary to study these factors that affect the performance of the sportsman, positioning the study of the personality of the footballer as one of the most determining factors for sporting success, being of great use since it is a territory in which behaviours are going to depend more on the personality traits of the players than on their environment.

The personality of footballers

Knowledge of the football player’s personality, according to the position he holds could help improve the performance of the team in general, and the player could be selected for each specific position taking into account not only his physical abilities but also his personality traits that will allow a given player to function better in one position and not in another.

Defining concepts

But to be able to talk about personality in sport and in football in particular, it is necessary to make a general description of what this construct we call personality is .

What is personality?

  • Personality is a hypothetical construct , inferred from the observation of behaviour, not being an entity in itself that does not imply connotations of value about the characterised person.
  • Personality includes a series of elements (internal traits or dispositions), more or less stable over time, that make a person’s behaviour consistent on different occasions and different from the behaviour that other people would show in comparable situations. These personality characteristics of a stable and consistent nature allow us to predict the behavior of individuals.
  • Personality also includes other elements (cognitions, motivations, affective states) that influence the determination of behaviour and that may explain the lack of consistency and stability of behaviour in certain circumstances.
  • The behaviour will be the result of both the most stable elements (whether psychological or biological) and the aspects more determined by personal influences (perception of the situation, previous experiences), social or cultural. These individual and general traits arise from a complicated combination of both biological determinants and learning products, and ultimately comprise the idiosyncratic pattern of perceiving, feeling, thinking, facing and behaving of an individual (Millon, 1990).

Position in the field (demarcation) and personality: is there a correlation?

One of the fundamental characteristics of this sport is that each player plays a tactical position on the pitch , in which four main categories are identified: the goalkeepers , whose function is to prevent goals from being scored; the strikers , to score goals; the defenders to defend the danger zone and the midfielders who strategically handle the ball in the middle of the field generating the plays aimed at scoring goals.

These four categories are also characterized by having their own particular personality styles according to a series of stable response dispositions that are traits and that are defined as the overall tendencies that each particular player has to emit one or another type of response that determines his or her behavior and characteristic thoughts. That is, each player, depending on his or her personality traits, would be predisposed to respond in the same or similar way to different types of stimuli.

For this reason, the concern arises not only to know the general profile of the football player, but also the individual differences in personality according to the position that each player plays within the field as this would help the coach to his best position within the field; take into account the tolerance to frustration of their goalkeepers, resistance of the goalkeeper to the pressure of penalties, aggressiveness of defenders and emotional stability to see how they influence each other within the same team, etc.

General personality traits of a footballer

There are individual differences where the practice of sports is related to a certain number of personality traits, especially in traits such as extraversion, emotional stability and responsibility, these being the traits most associated with sports such as football, although not the only ones, as we will see below.

  • Extraversion , which refers to an active, optimistic, impulsive subject capable of easily establishing social contacts.
  • Emotional stability , which refers to a serene and carefree individual.
  • Responsibility , which indicates a tendency to be orderly and achievement-oriented

Therefore, footballers in general are balanced, extraverted, emotionally stable, dominant, aggressive, competitive and ambitious. They are geared towards achievement and team cohesion, active and with few depressive manifestations (Pascual, 1989).

Different investigations also show that the soccer player presents these characteristics: Affability, Abstraction, Dominance, Animation, Attention to rules, Daring, Sensitivity, Vigilance, Apprehension, Openness to change, Perfectionism and Tenacity. (Guillen-García, 2007).

More attributes and features of footballers

Footballers also possess defensive and adaptive strategies in behavioural terms, which defines them as players who are characterised by a great ability to perceive situations favourably and with a high attention span, according to Apitzsch (1994).

The image they give to others is of highly narcissistic and self-centered people (Elman and McKelvie, 2003).

They have high scores on the factors of radicalism, intelligence and control. (O’Connor and Webb, 1976)

Footballers are presented as self-sufficient as they tend to seek to build their own future and have it depend on them alone, individualistic and supportive, as well as tense, energetic, impatient, restless and reactive. (Marrero, Martin-Albo and Núñez, 2000).

Footballers define themselves as self-fulfilling, confident, self-assured, goal-seeking, optimistic, humorous, socially likeable and humanitarian. (Bara, Scipiao and Guillen, 2004).

Football players in general belong to the Conformism scale, which indicates that they conform to authority, respect it and abide by its rules. (García-Naveira, 2008; Aparicio and Sánchez-López, 2000).

Football players in general are dominant, manipulative, aggressive, competitive and ambitious in their social relations (Apitzsch, 1994; García, 2004 and García-Naveira, 2008).

These players move and act upon individual interests such as motivation to improve a personal skill, to be recognized as the best in their position, to be a starter, among others; and group motivations such as winning a cup or championship (Díaz-Morales and García-Naveira, 2001). They are demanding with themselves and brilliant, and keep their self-esteem high so that the environment will comfort them.

This indicates that football players tend to meet their own needs but take others into account when making decisions about group goals.

Although football players, being group sportsmen, are more dependent on their own teammates, they need to turn to others to seek external stimulation , constant attention from the other team members, they possess confidence towards the other, self-control and social responsibility at a higher level than individual sportsmen Bara et al. (2004).

As we have seen, football players have a characteristic style of personality, but differences are also established according to the location and the role that each player plays on the field (Goalkeeper, Defense, Midfielder and Forward) according to the tactical position they play within the team (Millon 2001).

Personality differences between footballers according to their position on the pitch

1. Goalkeepers

They are characterized by their intuition and because their knowledge is derived from the concrete, relying more on direct or observable experience than on the players who occupy the other positions.

They are players who are very confident, believe they are talented, competent and very self-centred.

Goalkeepers are the players most capable of taking risks and are highly dissatisfied with predictable situations .

They are very creative, communicative, dominant and aggressive and are always looking for stimulation and attention. They are friendly and bright but also demanding and prefer to satisfy their personal needs first, rather than those of others.

2. Midfielders

They are characterized because they are reflexive, tend to process knowledge to a greater extent through logic and analysis and are able to make decisions based on their judgment and on their direct and observable experience (intuition). (García Narváez, 2010).

They are the most likeable of the team (concordance) and those who establish the strongest emotional bonds with the other players and tend to hide their negative feelings.

They are intuitive, seeking the abstract and the speculative and making decisions based on their own emotional reactions and guided by their personal values.

3. Fenders

They are characterized by being the most intuitive players. They are confident and very competent and talented .

They are players who seek their stimulation from others and are motivated to satisfy the needs of others first and not those of themselves.

They are placed in the scale of submission which indicates that they relate in a submissive way to others and conform to the norms held by others .

4. Front

They are characterized by being the most systematic players. They are predictable, organized, perfectionist and efficient , capable of adapting new knowledge to existing knowledge, thus looking for safe ways to generate productive moves and stick to them without going too far out of that proven pattern. (Pérez. M, Navarro. R, Navarro. R, Ruiz. J, Brito. E, Navarro. M. 2004).

They are receptive, dominant and socially aggressive, ambitious and obstinate (control polarity) . These are the players that act more independently and less conformist with the predictable, besides not abiding by common or traditional rules, assuming the risks (discrepancy).


Although they are socially friendly and establish good ties with other players and strong loyalties, they are the least motivated to meet the demands of others first.

They lean towards the scale of Affectivity, which describes them as players who make decisions based on their own emotional reactions and guided by their personal values.

By way of conclusion

For all the above reasons, an integrative model is needed that takes into account variables that are stable over time, such as personality traits or styles, and other more changing variables such as goals, motivations and cognitive styles.

Bibliographic references:

  • Apitzsch, E. (1994). The personality of the elite football player. Journal of Sports Psychology, 6, 89-98.
  • García-Naveira, A. (2004). Individual differences in football players through time: Personality style and motivation. Graduation Report. Department of Differential Psychology. Faculty of Psychology. University of Complutense of Madrid.
  • García-Naveira, A. (2007). Study of the personality in sportsmen from the models of Cattell, Eysenk and Costa and McCrae. Cuadernos de psicología del deporte, 8(2),43- 51.
  • García-Naveira, A. (2008). Personality style in competitive football players and differences according to demarcation. Cuadernos de psicología del deporte, 8 (2), 19-38.
  • García-Naveira, A. (2010a). Individual differences in personality and performance styles in athletes. Memory for doctoral candidates. Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatments II. Faculty of Psychology. Complutense University of Madrid.
  • Millon, T. (2001). Million Personality Style Inventory. Madrid: TEA Ediciones.