Each one of these is vitally important in football. You can’t have no technical ability but make up for it by having twice the amount of tactical understanding to make up for it. It just doesn’t work like that. Although they all work together, they are all individual of each other. All the parts come together to make you a player.
We have all watched a player who can’t control or pass the ball and in my opinion, there is nothing more painful. It is like watching a nature show and it’s always the same member of the group at the back. You just know he’s not going to survive. This is a sport that requires skill and every single skill in the world requires practice. If you do not want to practice it then choose another sport. Goalies this does not exclude you! Gone are the days when you just watched the game until you had to make a save. Don’t believe me? Look at Joe Hart. Josep Guardiola got rid of him because he is useless at playing.
Athletic ability is the base on which technical ability sits. If you can’t move then it does not matter how good you are on the ball. Look at Diego Maradona for example. He can still do most of his skills, touches and tricks with a ball now that he could do back in his prime. He can even juggle an Orange more times than most people can a football. However he is now overweight and has no legs so it is therefore impossible for him to play. Even the two best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the two best athletes in the game. (And don’t try to tell me Messi is not an athlete)
Tactical understanding can be the key to winning things. The majority of the top managers training/planning will be around tactics and making sure each player understands his role in the system. Even after matches, it is always positioning and tactics that are analysed and some pundits even blame the managers tactics when a team are not winning. (Think back to Chelsea at the start of the season. Not so many problems with a back 3 now though). The higher the level, the more tactics are involved especially in a champions league semi final or final.
And finally, Balls. Without balls, you will not do anything. In an interview with Ronaldo, he was asked what is more important. Practicing the skills or having the confidence to do them? First he replied with “practice” but then thought about it and changed his mind. Basically, if you don’t have the Balls to show something or stand up for yourself, it will not matter how good you are at it.
The one thing that decides what is more important for me is location. England and Italy are known for being more rough/physical whereas Spain and South America, do not like that the game is losing its creativity and beauty. For this reason, I think in England/Italy, Athletic ability is the most important and in Spain/South America, technical ability. But you need all 4 parts to be a player