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Sprints before strength

‘We train the things we need in matches’

The sound of Marcelo Martins setting the pace could be heard all over Bayern’s Säbener Strasse training ground. His steady, metronome-like hand-claps established the rhythm, before the fitness coach barked a short command, and the players exploded from their starting position. They sprinted away, making several sudden changes of direction, slaloming through cones, and jumping over hurdles.

Louis van Gaal observed the exercise from his seat in Hermann Gerland’s golf cart. As a player himself in the 70s and 80s, he experienced a completely different type of workout at this stage of the pre-season programme. The absolute priorities were strength and stamina, to the exclusion of anything else. He grinned as he spoke to “I saw what not to do, so I developed a very different training programme.”

A stop-start sport

Medicine balls? Lead-weighted jackets? Long-distance runs? Not for Van Gaal. “I have a different philosophy,” the FCB head coach explained, “we train the things we’ll need in matches.” That is, not the ability just to chug away at low speed. “I know they like their long runs in Germany,” the Dutch boss continued, “but I won’t do it. Football is a stop-start sport.”