Spain is a nation that has given many things to the world of football. From their incredible run of trophies between 2008 and 2012 (Vicente Del Bosque's tiki-taka team won two European Championships and a World Cup in this period) to the production of mind-blowingly technical players such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the Spanish have had an undeniable impact on world soccer, particularly in the 21st century.
It may not be a surprise, then, to learn that Spain has also played a key role when it comes to naming and developing some of the most impressive individual skills used in modern professional soccer. Whether it's 'La Croqueta', a dribbling technique pioneered by Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, or the 'Rondo', a simple passing drill used by teams all over the world, their influence is significant. But one skill you may not have heard of - even if you have seen it used on the soccer field - is 'La Pausa'.
La Pausa is a trick made famous by some of the most celebrated midfield and attacking players of recent times. In this article, we'll be listing some of the technicians that have showcased this trick, and we'll be giving you a simple step-by-step guide to performing the skill yourself. But first of all, let's spend some time discussing the history and origins of La Pausa, as well as the basics about what the skill actually entails...
If you've got even the most basic grasp of Spanish, you might have already guessed what "La Pausa" translates as... it means "The Pause". In terms of technique, the clue's in the name, here — this is a dribbling skill whereby a player pauses while in possession of the ball, luring in defenders before quickly speeding up play or moving the ball on once the defender makes a movement towards the ball.
Pronounced "pow-sa", this Spanish and South American term is used to describe the moment when players stop the ball, even just for a split second, to wait for the perfect moment to unleash a pass. It's a simple skill that doesn't sound like much when you describe it, but it can create important advantages in midfield areas, bringing a sense of calmness under pressure that can make all the difference. Slowing down to a walking pace and getting your head up can open your eyes to the variety of passing options ahead of you, while also lulling opponents into a false sense of security and making them think they can take their foot off the gas. In this moment, you can switch up play and move the ball forward with speed.
If you watch the team of a heavily possession-minded coach like Pep Guardiola or Luis Enrique, you will often see their players implementing changes of tempo like this, and while it's fairly simple in principle, there are some variations of La Pausa that can be used to switch things up. One method, used brilliantly here by Xavi back in the early 2000s, is "La Pelopina", a 360-degree turn (similar to a Cruyff turn) that is based on slowing down, feinting a pass, and swiftly changing direction to move away from a defender.
This skill will typically be used by silky, highly technical midfield players such as Xavi or David Silva. It's particularly useful in tight areas in the middle of the pitch, which is where these magicians tend to operate. However, it's not just attack-minded players who can benefit from La Pausa. One of the most impressive proponents of this technique is the legendary Barcelona central midfielder Sergio Busquets, a player known for sitting deep as a single pivot and dictating play with his majestic mix of positional discipline, close ball control, and elite level passing. Slowing things down and speeding them back up is one of his most fundamental skills when it comes to helping his team manage possession.
Many coaches, tacticians, and writers have described "pausa" as a commodity, something that is possessed by certain players, rather than performed by anyone and everyone. It's seen as a rare ability to know exactly when to stop for a moment, and use this pause to your team's advantage. According to this Athletic article, it's Ilkay Gundogan's ability to pause in this way that has made him such a huge asset to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
You probably won't be surprised to hear that Guardiola, a possession fanatic who is all about seeking order and balance in the midst of chaos, is a big fan of La Pausa. According to Argentinian coach Angel Cappa, a major influence of Guardiola's philosophy, "Pausa in football is speed. Football without pausa is slow, because it's chaos." This is a principle that's understood by the soccer wizards we've mentioned in this article, the likes of Silva and Busquets. But these players weren't the first to use this technique... let's spend a little time looking at the origins of La Pausa.
Most people believe that La Pausa originated with Argentine footballer Ricardo Bochini, a player known for his ability to predict exactly what his opponent was about to do. By using this intuition to tweak his own moves on the ball, he was able to effectively slow down the game whenever he picked up possession, before quickly speeding things up with sharp passes and movements based on opponents' reactions. This possession-based work can help teams control the tempo of the game and keep hold of the ball.
Bochini saw "pausa" as equating to advanced football intelligence, the ability to visualise and predict the behaviour of other players, and make rapid calculations about what is going to happen in high-pressure, intimate midfield situations. After he helped develop this skill, players like Maradona, Riquelme, David Silva, and of course the World Cup-winning Argentina star Lionel Messi have demonstrated "La Pausa" on the world stage.
In a way, La Pausa is all about generating healthy habits. Pausing on the ball causes players to think meticulously about each decision they make, ensuring that every pass is spot on, and reducing the chances of them kicking the ball or running off at pace with it as soon as they receive it. Of course, certain situations can call for these responses, but in general it's good practice for young players to spend more time thinking about exactly what they're doing with the ball.
Slowing down the game at intervals can also keep opponents guessing and ensure that the team in possession maintains control of the tempo of the match. Stopping and starting like this also helps create space for players to move into, particularly because while the player in possession holds onto the ball, defenders will most likely be ball-watching in a static position, while the player in possession's teammates will be moving around off-the-ball and getting themselves in more dangerous positions.
At the same time, talented midfield players such as Busquets will often use La Pausa to open up their body as if they're passing in one direction, before zipping the ball into a different area to a player in more space. Ultimately, all these moves are about enticing and tricking opposition players in order to move possession into more threatening zones of the pitch.
La Pausa means waiting for the right moment to pounce, being patient in order to unlock an opposition defence and exploit it to the max. These are points that you must bear in mind when it comes to developing your ability to play with "pausa", that heightened sense of positional awareness and vision that's allowed some of the world's greatest midfielders to rise above the players around them.
In order to help you channel this side of your game, here are a few tips to help you out:
#1. It's a state of mind - Remember, La Pausa is as much an attitude as anything else. Try to approach each match with a sense of clarity and calmness that permeates your every move on the pitch
2. Be patient - La Pausa is all about timing. Never force a pass that isn't on, or rush with the ball when you receive it. While the masters of La Pausa are ambitious with their passing, ultimately it's all about keeping possession, so don't move the ball on until a teammate is ready to receive it
#3. Get your head up - Arguably the most crucial thing when it comes to using "pausa" is to keep your head up as much as possible, constantly looking for passing options and creating a picture of where teammates and opposition players are, and the spaces that they're moving into
#4. Identify your opponents' weaknesses - Knowing whether your opponent is left or right-footed, and what their main strengths and weaknesses are, can help you predict what they're going to do in certain situations. This sense of foresight is absolutely crucial to La Pausa as a skill.
Keeping these simple tips in mind will help you become a calmer, more composed footballer. La Pausa will improve your ability to maintain possession and look after the ball, and it will also increase your sense of vision and allow you to get a couple of steps ahead of your opponent.
Our blog is packed with other informative guides to some of the most famous soccer skills there are. Why not start by taking in our article on the trivela? It's another crucial trick for any top-class creative midfielder. Or for a broader perspective, check out our comprehensive guide to 10 soccer skills you should learn.