Gian Piero Ventrone is Antonio Conte’s torturer in chief, the frightening fitness expert tasked with making Tottenham’s players the fittest and most resilient in the Premier League.
When Ventrone worked at Juventus, he was dubbed The Marine because he would play Ride of the Valkyries over loudspeakers as his players ran and placed a ‘bell of shame’ to be tolled by the first to drop out.
This Thursday, in 30-degree heat and 70% humidity in Seoul, his characteristic drill – 42 lengths of pitch covered at a good lick with limited recuperation time – wreaked havoc.
World stars were reduced to shivering physical wrecks, with England captain Harry Kane throwing up on his knees.
‘That’s quite typical,’ said Tottenham defender Matt Doherty.
‘Even the previous week in London was along such lines.’ I’m not sure if there will be any teams more fit than us.
‘This is the most difficult preseason I’ve ever experienced.’ It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done.’ However, once the session is through, you will feel a fantastic sense of accomplishment.
‘Your mind was tortured in the middle of it, but when it was through, you felt proud and went to bed thinking, “Yeah, I worked hard today.” “Don’t quit,” you’re thinking. Even if you have to crawl over the line or jog or stroll towards the end.
‘It’s the drive the manager instilled in us to never give up.’
With no Wagner operas blasting from the speakers at Seoul’s World Cup Stadium, Ventrone implored local fans to cheer on his team despite their discomfort.
He cuddled, smiled, and encouraged them after they finished and recovered enough energy to go back to their feet.
Conte, who worked under Ventrone as a player at Juventus, jokes that the 62-year-old has softened.
‘It’s weird because generally when you have a fitness instructor like him who is driving you ragged, you start to dislike him — yet we all love him,’ Doherty said.
‘We have so much regard for him that we do anything he says.’
Doherty missed the final seven games of the season due to a knee injury and has spent the summer getting in shape to compete for a spot in Conte’s new-look club.
‘My plan is to stay and fight for my position,’ he explained. ‘We have a fantastic season ahead of us.’ ‘Why would I go anywhere else?’