Fitness and finance jostle for football pre-season spotlight

first_img0Shares0000Real Madrid’s head coach Zinedine Zidane (C) leads a training session at The Principality Stadium in Cardiff, in June 2017 © AFP/File / Adrian DENNISPARIS, France, Jul 12 – Real Madrid and Barcelona square off in a rare overseas Clasico while Manchester United and Manchester City meet for the first time outside Britain as the world’s leading clubs strive to optimise their pre-season preparations.Pre-season tours have grown significantly in importance over the past decade as teams promote their brand visibility while simultaneously striving to ensure players are ready to hit the ground running. Asia, Australia and the United States are popular destinations for the top clubs, but there is more to these trips than simply pitching up and kicking a ball.AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund kick off the International Champions Cup (ICC) in Guangzhou, China, on July 18, the first of 19 matches in a pre-season tournament featuring several of Europe’s top clubs spread across three countries.Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich then meet Arsenal in Shanghai before the Gunners take on Premier League champions Chelsea in Beijing.“What I really stress whenever somebody comes out here is that the game is probably actually the least important part. It’s really just 90 minutes,” Tom Elsden, senior client manager with Shanghai-based Mailman Group, told AFP.“You can’t expect to come out here on a China tour or do one deal and you’ve made it. It’s a continuous commitment to this market.“You need to come out every year or other year to continue that connection with fans, relationships with sponsors and grassroots initiatives. It’s a long-term play.”Elsden, whose company handles the China digital marketing presence for a range of internationally known players, clubs and leagues, adds: “In China, this is still the first generation of real sports fans. So teams can come out here for the next five, 10, 15 years and pull in a fan that has no natural allegiance.”– ‘Perfect marriage’​ –Bayern Munich’s players warm up during a training session in Munich, on July 1, 2017 © DPA/AFP/File / Andreas GebertChelsea, Bayern and Inter Milan will also visit Singapore, but the bulk of the fixtures take place Stateside where Jose Mourinho’s United play Pep Guardiola’s City on July 20th in Houston, with European champions Real meeting arch rivals Barcelona in Miami on July 29 — the first Clasico held outside Spain since 1982 in Venezuela.Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports which oversees the ICC, believes the appeal of the US is its “perfect marriage of commercialism and football”.“(Clubs) have an opportunity to have training facilities which are second to none,” says Stillitano. “(Zinedine) Zidane came last year (with Real), they didn’t do anything except train for 10 days, then they play very competitive matches.“It was always thought that pre-seasons should be playing against easy teams, don’t stress the players, they will only come to America for really what they said was marketing, but they weren’t really doing much, except just coming.“Now everything has changed. Now the players are serious, the commercial departments are serious.”Stillitano credits Mourinho for changing the way clubs approach their pre-season plans.“The guy who really led the way was Jose Mourinho in 2004. Alex Ferguson said later in his book that he learned a lot from Jose, because Jose won the Premier League two years in a row and Jose attributed the two titles in a row to playing big teams in pre-seasons and being ready,” he explained.But Stillitano notes the marked difference between tours to the US and Asia.“The idea of a long pre-season doesn’t really exist in China or Singapore,” he says. “It’s much more commercially driven, they come in, try to play games in a short amount of time, they do their preparation first at home and then leave.”After the Manchester derby, United will play Real in Santa Clara — a fixture that drew a record US crowd of 109,318 at Michigan Stadium in 2014 — in a dress rehearsal for next month’s European Super Cup, before meeting Barca, while City play Real in Los Angeles and round out their tour against Tottenham Hotspur.“The US, which we’re visiting this year, and China, which we toured last summer, are two of the biggest and fastest growing football markets in the world,” says Tom Glick, chief commercial officer at City Football Group.“There are few better ways to enhance awareness and exposure of our club in particular markets than having our players on the ground, training, playing and meeting fans.”0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

Mourinho an ‘inspiration’, says Spurs boss Pochettino

first_imgMourinho will be desperate to get United back on track after a 3-2 defeat to Brighton but the game is also important for Spurs as they look to improve on a generally poor away record against their biggest rivals under Pochettino.Despite Mourinho’s travails, his opposite number at Spurs, who has two wins out of two games so far this season, still holds the utmost respect for the man who has won multiple trophies during a glittering managerial career.Asked what he has learned from Mourinho, Pochettino said: “A lot of things. I think for every single manager that is younger than him he was the inspirational manager.“Of course he is an unbelievable manager and of course the circumstances that happen with myself and happen with different managers is always going to be up and down. He has been inspirational — but I am younger than him.”If Mourinho had had his way this summer, defender Toby Alderweireld could have been featuring for United against Spurs.But despite strong reported interest, a bid was never made and the Belgian has so far stayed at Spurs, playing 90 minutes against Fulham last week.Alderweireld’s future has been a constant source of speculation ever since he failed to agree a new deal and Pochettino did not commit to whether he will be playing at Old Trafford.“This season is a challenge, a completely different challenge for us, because it’s only three weeks that the players arrive from the World Cup and are in training,” he said.“Always you need six or seven weeks to start to compete in a normal season, that is why sometimes you need to be careful how they react after the effort of 90 minutes.“Sure I am going to do some changes, some names, sometimes I keep this formation, or we are going to play with different formation.”All eyes will be on Monday’s teamsheet to see if Hugo Lloris features after the goalkeeper and club captain was charged with drink-driving on Friday.The French World Cup winner has apologised “wholeheartedly”.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino (left) describes Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho as an ‘inspiration’ © IKIMAGES/AFP/File / Ian KINGTONLONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 27 – Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says Jose Mourinho is an inspiration despite his current frustrations at Manchester United as he prepares his side for Monday’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford.United have had a turbulent start to the new season, with Mourinho appearing to be at odds with the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and French World Cup winner Paul Pogba.last_img read more