What’s your greatest ever goal?
The most exciting goal I have ever scored was probably the one against QPR in May 2012 in extra time that led us to win the Premier League title that year. These are the exact moments I train hard for every day, to be able to score, to be awake and make an impact in the game, even after 90 minutes on the pitch. Days like these are the pay-off for the hard work we all put in.
How does training help your performance on the pitch?
In football, training is absolutely key to performance. Being able to run, switch directions and change speed whilst simultaneously controlling the ball and overseeing the whole pitch is extremely complex. You need to practice your tricks and shots again and again, to enable muscle memory and to help your body perform. In addition to this, you need to be physically strong and absolutely fit to be able to last 90 minutes, and sometimes even longer. Without constant and intense training, my performance on the pitch would be impossible.
What’s a typical training session for you?
It depends on the day and the time in the year. During pre-season we train very differently to how we train towards the end of the season. In general, it is always a mixture of running and workouts in the gym for physical strength, and actual training with the ball on pitch. On the pitch, the training consists of shooting and passing exercises, game practice and tactical sessions.
How often do you train in a year?
During the season, we train almost every day. After a match day we often only have a light training session, with mostly running and stretching to relax the body. This is complemented by massages and sometimes a day off. But this is followed by days with 2-3 training sessions per day. I would say I train on 90 per cent of the days in a year.
Any specific training tips for getting faster?
When training for speed in football, the ball plays a huge role. You can be as fast as you want, but if you cannot control the ball at the same time, you are lost. I recommend to run with the ball, and also to train to change directions, so you will be able to outdo opponents with really quick moves.
What kind of obstacles have you overcome to achieve your goals?
The journey from being a kid dreaming of the national team to being a professional footballer living in Manchester was a long and hard one, and there were always obstacles. When I first played professionally at my old club, Independiente, I was only 15 years old. Looking back at it today, it feels crazy how young I was. My appearances at such a young age, meant that expectations were very high, and the pressure was hard to deal with. After I had already played for the Argentina senior squad, I moved back to the youth team, which felt a little bit like a step back at the time. But I always believed in myself and also had people that supported me, so thinking about it now, I am happy about every obstacle that was in my way, because it made me stronger.
What’s your advice for someone who’s struggling to find motivation to reach their goals?
My advice would be to never give up and always believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? And don’t tell everyone about your dream, because people can be judgmental, which can have a negative impact on your motivation.
Has training changed a lot for you in the past few years?
Yes, definitely. The training with the clubs constantly moves forward and coaches try out new things and training variations. The style of play of most professional football leagues has changed a lot. It has become much quicker, with a lot of pressing. Because of that, training routines have changed of course, too.
How do you fuel your body to train so hard?
I try to eat and drink healthily all year round, so I drink a lot of still water every single day, at least three litres. I love pasta, but I need to cut down on that as too many carbs conflict with my need for speed (laughs). Because of that I try to combine chicken or fish with vegetables and salad.
What milestone in your career are you most proud of?
I think it is the move to Europe in 2006. This was an important step for my career and I will always be thankful for this opportunity, thankful, and at the same time I will always be proud of myself, for how I managed the move back then.
What does #NOMATTERWHAT mean to you?
It really describes my attitude that brought me to the position I am in right now. No matter what day, what mood, what weather, what circumstances, I always played football, because it was the one thing that made me happy and gave me hope.
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For more football tips:
James Milner: Getting the best out of training
Prepare like a professional
Beef up like Bale
Gareth Bale: Boost your performance
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Maximise your training