It is easy to denounce one’s artistry, and even easier to brand him/her an absolute failure. The middle ground though is usually overlooked as to how that player is settling in to his new abode. Earning a big money move to a finest European club and seizing the front pages surely uplifts the responsibilities and even the pipe dreams of the new set of supporters, but all this limelight tends to envelop the hardship that one player has to encounter in his new surroundings.
It all starts with finding a new base in your new territory and once it’s done, the cardinal necessities such as redecoration, setting up the internet – you know the rule – comes into effect. And then there’s this master of all muddles; the language barrier. They say communication is the jack of all trades, and for a new player – in an alienated enclosing – a next to zero knowledge of the native language is a massive hitch.
Knowing the basics of English/Spanish/Italian or whatever league a player is plying his trade in is the biggest fish to fry for a foreign player. When Jasper Cillessen moved to Barcelona from Ajax, he was forced to get the Spanish lessons. In all fairness, it’s not a rocket science really; in order to get the coach’s tactics, one needs to understand the dialect. The idea is simple, the first and utmost thing for a club is to acquaint the player in a manner so that he understands the coach.
When a player struggles to cope with the energy or even with the tactics during his initial days, it is apparent that the phrase ‘running like a headless chicken’ will be in the media the following day. But do we ever, even for a second, think that maybe he didn’t grasp the important gimmick he was supposed to. This fact may/surely goes beyond the term professionalism, but as they say, it is easier said than done.
Of course, the club’s hierarchy helps them in various aspects, but learning or even understanding an alien language is a completely different ball game.
Then comes the training. Andragogy or the training drills differ from coach to coach. A manager like Jurgen Klopp, who deploys a high-intensity regime, will have a different ideology altogether compared to the teams who majorly like to enjoy ball possession. That tactical switch for a new player to get affiliated with is again a big fish to fry. A basic training drill involves work on the core, stamina, strength, basic ball control and building up the muscle power.
An average footballer runs around 8-14 kms per game, hence putting a foot right in training is a must. There are different drills for sprinting, developing/maintaining stamina and fitness, and when it is about the latter, footballers and even the managers are very particular about it. For example, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger once banned booze. The new Arsenal manager Unai Emery has banned high-sugar drinks. Former Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri had once revealed Pep Guardiola banned his players from having sex after midnight, even if there is no match the next morning. The idea was to limit the number of muscular injuries.
But then again, there needs to be a proper balance and to have sufficient energy during the games, many players consume carbohydrates just before the kick-off. Consumption of potatoes, brown bread, brown rice, cereals and even pasta help them in retaining energy for a long time. Then there are post-match meals which usually involve a rich protein diet.
Changing a club, for a player, is a quantum leap to say the least. In Elvis Presley’s words, “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes.”