The secrets of Juande's success
Ex-Sevilla coach has brought his winning ways and olive oil to Tottenham25 January 2008
MADRID - "It was one of those matches that turns out exactly like what you draw on the blackboard. We scored five goals, but we could have gotten more." With his customary Spartan attitude, the ex-Sevilla coach Juande Ramos showed little emotion at Tottenham's crushing 5-1 victory over Arsenal in the Carling Cup semifinal - Spurs' first triumph over its London neighbour in 22 matches, stretching back to 1999. It is also the team's first final in six years. Ramos, its coach, is used to success. On 24 February in Wembley he will face Chelsea in his seventh final in two years.
When he took over as coach in the autumn, Ramos oversaw what he describes as "a total transformation" of the team. "I found a losing, depressed team," he says, "that had lost seven matches out of 11, and was letting itself get run over. We have transformed the mentality with constant effort and work. The players had to believe in themselves. And we're back in the game."
As soon as he arrived, Ramos sidelined the underperforming Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane. Three months later the two forwards and Aaron Lennon, a fast player and the shortest in the Premier League, blasted Arsenal with a string of textbook counter-attacks.
"We played with the lines closed tight, with a lot of pressure and speed. We knew we couldn't leave openings for Cesc and Aliaksandr Hieb. We had to use the best players for each position," says Ramos. Arsenal got so unhinged that the referee had to stop a confrontation between two of its players, Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Adebayor, near the end. "No, you heard it right. Tottenham scored five goals and Arsenal one. It's a fact, not a dream," wrote the Times about a "five-star match."
Ramos has changed the waistline of Tottenham, with the help of trainer Marco Álvarez and nutritionist Antonio Escribano, both colleagues of his at Sevilla. "Juande oversees everything," says Escribano, who has overhauled the team's diet after noting some players were overweight. "They used to eat a sort of restaurant buffet menu, with flavour more important than health."
"Is anyone getting married here?" the coach asked on entering the dining room and seeing the pastries being consumed the night before a match with Middlesbrough. Out went sweets, ketchup and sauces - "20 different kinds" - and in came olive oil. The players now eat nine kinds of salad with 12 ingredients in alternation, grilled chicken and greens. Escribano goes to London every week to give the menu to the club cook. And before every match he sends the hotel a 60-page dossier of food information, with details such as the number of minutes the spaghetti has to boil.
"The players don't complain; they see the logic," says Escribano. Before matches they have a special menu, and another for recovery after the match. At home they also follow the nutritionist's diet and its schedule.
Tottenham is the third highest goal scorer in the Premier (44, after Manchester and Arsenal), and the fifth most scored against (40). And it is celebrating a metamorphosis at the hands of Ramos. Since his arrival the team has won six matches out of 12 in the League, and lost only to Arsenal and Chelsea.
After more than EUR 50 million spent last summer, the owners see Ramos as the key to success. The fans have been chanting his name, while the object of the cheering stood, impassive as usual, as the players celebrated on the field. As one newspaper noted, "There is a lot of good soccer hidden in this reserved, intense man."
[Copyright EL PAÍS / JUAN MORENILLA 2008]
Subject: Spanish news