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Published 17 January 2023 4 min read
England Men's Senior Team

What is a rondo and why do England players love it?

Written by:

Frank Smith

The likes of Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden explain why they enjoy doing rondo football training drills

You've seen it on your TV screens in the pre-match warm-up and on your favourite team’s social media channels, but just what is a rondo and why are they performed across the world?

You'll spot the odd variation from team to team but the principle of the rondo largely remains the same.

As you can see from our video below, most of the players love it and it can become the topic of fierce debate and plenty of laughs.

But there's a lot more to the rondo training drill than Conor Coady winding people up and Bukayo Saka getting grief from his team-mates.

Jude Bellingham has his say on who he thinks is the best at the rondo in the England squad
Jude Bellingham has his say on who he thinks is the best at the rondo in the England squad

What is a rondo in football? 

The principle of a rondo remains the same at all levels of football. In simple terms, it is a glorified game of piggy in the middle, where a group of players form a small circle or box and then two or more of their team-mates are in the centre trying to win the ball back.

If your pass is intercepted, misplaced or your coach and team-mates deem the end of the possession sequence to be your fault, then you replace those who are in the middle.

It's not a one-size fits all drill though, with aspects such as the number of players, the number of touches allowed, the size of the circle or box, the addition of sections where those in possession are encouraged to play through the lines, and even the introduction of goals all differing based on the coach.

Rondos strike the balance between humour and technical development
Rondos strike the balance between humour and technical development

Why do players do rondos?

The exact point the rondo or a variation of keep-ball started as a training drill is hard to pinpoint but it rose to prominence in the 1990s at Barcelona.

Their head coach Johan Cruyff had reportedly been influenced by former Barca coach Laureano Ruiz, who himself was said to have been inspired by the incredible Hungary team of the 1950s.

Cruyff is widely considered to be one of football’s great thinkers and had a transformative impact on Barcelona and a number of the players and coaches there, including Pep Guardiola, who has adapted and continues to use the rondo extensively.

In Stan Baker’s book Our Competition is the World, Cruyff explained: “Everything that goes on in a match, except shooting, you can do in a rondo. The competitive aspect, fighting to make space, what to do when in possession and what to do when you haven’t got the ball, how to play ‘one touch’ soccer, how to counteract the tight marking and how to win the ball back.”

The benefits are wide-ranging, with aspects such as instant decision-making, communication, composure, high-intensity possession and defending all developed and the variations adding additional dynamics, such as being able to play in transition.

17 Jan 2023 9:00

Rondos | The Great Debate

England players debate who is the best and worst at the rondo and much more

Why England players love the rondo

With Manchester City boss Guardiola playing under Cruyff, Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag working alongside Guardiola at Bayern Munich, and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta a Barcelona academy product, it comes as no surprise to hear the rondo is used extensively at a host of Premier League clubs.

Manchester City and England star Phil Foden said: “The rondo is my kind of game, with possession and keeping the ball. We do them at Manchester City for long periods of time and I enjoy it.”

The punishments and banter which fly around during rondo sessions do not only make them more fun for the players, but it also helps drive the competitiveness within them and increase the intensity of the training drill.

Arsenal and England’s Saka added: “Rondo is a technical drill but it is always funny because people are getting nutmegged, people are in the middle and players are giving the ball away.”

Marcus Rashford, of Manchester United and England, claims: “Rondo is just fun. It is good to help you loosen up and it is fun with the banter involved if someone does get megged.”

The rondo is popular among the England squad
The rondo is popular among the England squad

Which England player is the best at rondo?

In our video above, Harry Maguire joked about England having a ‘big boy box’, where the more senior players did their rondos and where Maguire, Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, John Stones and Kyle Walker can usually be found, with Jordan Henderson among the other regular visitors.

But who do the England players consider to be the best at rondo?

“Phil probably,” Jude Bellingham replied. “He is always clean technically and doesn’t really give the ball away much. His pass detail is always decent and he is someone who you don’t mind being next to. And Rashy as well.”

Declan Rice continued: “Rashford is very good in the box. He's just so smooth with it. His feet are so sharp, he finds little pockets to pass into.”

“Rashy is very good in the rondo,” added Saka. “He hardly ever goes in and every time he has to nutmeg at least one person!”

As for the player you don’t want to get stuck next to in the England camp, the name Coady got mentioned a few times.

Not because he isn’t good at rondo, far from it, but the accusation goes that Coady loves a stitch-up.

Trent Alexander-Arnold explained: “Conor doesn’t move! All you want is someone to try to get there. Even if you do a half-bad pass, you at least want the person to attempt it. He won’t attempt it so for that reason, Conor Coady, you are the worst rondo player here!”

You can see the England stars discusses the best and worst rondo players – and coach – in the hilarious video above.

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