Xavi, Lampard, Iniesta: Viral Twitter thread shows the genius of pro players 'scanning'

Xavi playing for Spain.

Xavi is a prime example of the intelligence required to be a world-class footballer.

The Barcelona legend might well be the greatest male player in history when it comes to the ability to read the game, picturing moves unfolding in his mind three or four passes before they even transpired.

You could just see the way in which the eagle-eyed midfielder marauded around the pitch that he was treating football like a chess match, always plotting multiple steps ahead of his opponents.

The intelligence of pro players

Now, as fans, it’s an aspect of the sport that we understand to a certain degree and often label it as ‘football IQ’ or ‘footballing brain’ in reference to players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo in particular.

However, it’s one thing to have a rough idea about how elite footballers master the game and another thing entirely to look under the bonnet to see how they actually achieve it.

The simple fact of the matter is that professional football is much, much harder than we think a lot of the time and the ability to have that forward-thinking intelligence on the pitch is as vital as it is difficult.

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‘Scanning’ in football

But thanks to the fabulous work of football psychology researcher Geir Jordet, we can come one step closer to understanding the genius behind pro players by looking at the world of ‘scanning’.

Jordet produced a fascinating Twitter thread in October 2021 that documented his research into scanning, which is essentially the visual analysis that players conduct mid-game on matters other than the ball.

In other words, looking around to collect vital details such as the position of the opposition and the runs of teammates in order to plan ahead and adapt as the move progresses or if they’re given the ball.

Messi and Xavi at Barcelona.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (L) and Xavi Hernandez celebrate a goal against Real Betis during their Spanish First division soccer league match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN – Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Researcher’s viral Twitter thread

It’s a concept that, frankly, feels alien to mere mortals like me and you who no doubt play football with our eyes stapled to the ball itself – but it’s absolutely critical at the highest level of the sport.

However, we couldn’t possibly break it down in a manner anywhere close to the lucidity and passion of Jordet’s original thread covering 25 years of study into what makes players like Xavi so very, very special.

So, be sure to step into the shoes of elite footballers by learning more about ‘scanning’ because trust us when you say that you’ll never look at the pros the same way again – check out the thread below:

Twitter thread on 'scanning'.

Midfielders use 'scanning' the most.
Xavi was a master of 'scanning'.
Xavi was well aware of his 'scanning' skills.

Timing 'scanning' is a key skill.

Players have to compute the information so quickly.
'Scanning' must be taught.
Players pick up habits at a young age.

'Scanning' tends to be the sign of a top player.

So, so fascinating. Take a bow, Geir.

Take a bow, pro players

The level of detail required from top players in pretty much every second of every game is simply staggering and frankly, sounds exhausting.

To think that world-beating players like Xavi are constantly keeping tabs on every little movement across the pitch between individual touches from their teammates is enough to blow anyone’s minds.

Marry that to the point-of-view footage showing just how swiftly and attentively players are looking here, there and everywhere to appreciate the dizzying intelligence required to succeed in the sport.

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And in a world where footballers are so often lazily branded as unintelligent individuals, remember just how much skills like ‘scanning’ show how high their IQs need to be within the sport that they love.

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