Skill doesn’t develop in isolation. Talent doesn’t grow alone. Success takes a highly-skilled team in the background. To win against the challenges in front of you, you need excellence ability and dedication behind you. With the countdown started for another high-stakes season, we went behind the scenes for an exclusive look at the exceptional people and preparation behind the FC Barcelona team during pre-season. The science behind the nutrition, the experts behind the training, the care behind the kit, The Pros Behind The Pros A Barça player’s diet must be carefully planned. But who plans it for them? A few years ago, footballers didn’t think that diet was a factor that could affect their performance. In most football clubs, just a few years ago, the idea of having somebody in charge of nutrition – be that a doctor or nutritionist – didn’t exist. Nowadays, all clubs have one or two nutritionists. It’s an important role, and the players recognise that too. These days, we know that through nutrition we can control emotions, moods, rest and injuries… The players understand that nutritionists are an important part of their team. They seek our help and the tools to be at their best. They choose to do it. Many of the appliances that Toña and her team use to support the players are provided by Beko, the exclusive training partner of FC Barcelona. For each player to play like a pro, they have to eat like a pro, and Beko helps them all the way. Pre-season is a very special period. Special because training starts early in the day and ends late. In pre-season we’re pushed close to the limit. Because there are two shifts: morning and afternoon. Breakfast and lunch, then an afternoon snack and dinner. It’s difficult – imagine there are four days with double training. That’s eight meals. You get to the point where you are left without meat. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning. The kitchen and nutrition team are already working. They’re responsible for ensuring that the FC Barcelona players are fully fuelled for performance from day one. A double training session requires a lot of energy and planning. Touring overseas is an important part of pre-season training. Away from the familiar setting of the training ground Ciutat Esportiva, it’s even more vital for the professionals to have every detail planned. The idea is for every player, despite being on tour and travelling to think as little as possible about food. We are very lucky here to have a wonderful team of professionals who long beforehand look at every hotel and every place that the team will be going to. The players and nutrition staff are on the move to Japan. After much effort, there’s always a reward, the kitchen staff prepare a pack lunch for each player. The players have a packed lunch after a game while they’re travelling from the football ground to the airport. But no two are the same. We don’t just make 30 packed lunches with a sandwich, salad and piece of fruit. No, they’re more complicated, more personalised. Sushi, for example, features often in the packed lunches. Cured ham sandwiches… I’m good at making lunchboxes, I must say! The pre-season tour rolls on, and the kitchen crew don’t stop. The aim is to make every player feel like they’re still at home in Barcelona. Here in Catalonia, in Spain, we have an infinite variety of products. And they’re top quality, so it’s easy. On tour in Japan or the US, it’s harder to access our favourite products. So I think it’s very beneficial to have a travelling chef. Especially on tours or in the Champions League when they have breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. They’re in the dining room for an hour and a half on average so that’s a lot of time spent there. Antoine Griezmann: Boss or Chef? Antoine Griezmann: Chef, right? Antoine Griezmann: Chef sounds better! Setting the tables – how many people per table? Where will the staff sit? Where will the players sit? What kind of TV will we use? How many inches wide is it? Or can it be lowered? Room temperature is very important for them. The layout of the buffet – shall we use bowls or cheffing format? The most important thing is for the kitchen and dining room to be very close together. So they go into a dining room in Manchester, for example, and they think it’s almost the same as they were in a month ago in Tokyo or wherever. We always set it up the same. I’m making a special dish for Marc Ter Stegen. For seconds, we have fish. Our role is a bit like playing the mums and dads. What can I have today? What’s best, meat or fish? That’s a very typical question! They always look for a familiar face So we’re always in the dining room, both Adrià, the chef who travels with us… and me, and we both help them. My father doesn’t live here in Barcelona and I say “Dad, I spend more days with the players, with Leo Messi, than I do with you!” That’s how it is. But we are a great family. Ask him if it’s the first time he’s made a veggie burger. Yes, he’s made them before. Not many people in Japan speak English. So it was difficult, and we had a translator with us all the time translating even the simplest of things. I can’t give you a glass of milk without knowing what kind of milk it is, but it’s all written in Japanese. The job entails huge responsibility, and here I’m travelling alone. And it’s all here… So… If someone gets sick and can’t play a game, just imagine. We have the staff coming at 7:30, and then have the players set up at 8:00 No, at 8 O’clock, all of the buffet must be ready. The timings are the hardest thing at the hotels we go to. It’s very hard to work with people I don’t know in the slightest. I have very little time with them, and they’re not used to my pace or work standards. I’m a bit like a tornado when I go into the kitchen! At this time in the day, there’s a lot of pressure on the kitchen staff to have all the food ready on time for the players’ routine. The tomato sauce was here, where is it now? It was there, one pot with hot tomato sauce. Ask if somebody has thrown it away, or something. We can ruin a game. If we get our work wrong from start to finish, that can be the consequence. We need very tight control of every element, both in the kitchen and dining room to prevent intoxication. Things may be stressful for them behind the scenes, but they never show that side to the players. Can you see if there’s any ‘Busi’ pasta left, with ham in it? It’s tough, always having to be there making sure everything goes perfectly. OK so, that’s it. Go home and rest. Thank you. Can we go and get a drink? Yes, let’s have a drink…. But that’s my job. To make sure it all goes well and that we maintain our high-quality standards. As the team everyone wants to beat, it’s a way of life at Barça to always push yourself to be better at everything. That mentality begins right here in pre-season, when past glories or excuses are banished and the quest for success starts afresh. A quest that starts with a healthy balanced diet. The food and drink is the fuel that powers the players to reach optimum performance on the pitch. She’s an excellent manager in the dining room She takes care of us a lot. The pros on the pitch know that they have the pros in the kitchen to thank for that. A footballer’s diet is totally compatible with the everyday diet of any regular person. A lot of the staff here learned to eat well thanks to the players’ habits! Industrial pastries, sausages, fried foods… None of these things are advisable. Neither for the players or anyone else. There are three main groups in an athlete’s diet. Those that give energy: rice, pasta, bread and cereals. Those that give muscle and proteins: meat, fish, egg. But there’s another important part of the balance, which is all the antioxidants: vegetables and fruits of different colours. The big problem in today’s society is that we have no time. So we eat or buy the first thing available… and I understand that. Because people are tired when they get home from work. But we should all think about this and spend a bit more time on our diet and nutrition. It’s vital. Next time: The trainers behind the training, the physios behind the physiques, the work behind the work outs. Meet the Barça coaching team as we go behind the scenes for Training Days, our next exclusive episode of Pros Behind The Pros.