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FourFourTwo trains with Andres Iniesta

Iniesta sleeps; FFT doesn’t

Oh dear. Knowing we would be training with Andres Iniesta, FFT’s attempts at calming our nerves at the hotel bar the previous evening have resulted only in a thick head and fitful night’s kip. “I sleep for a minimum of eight hours a night,” the Spanish playmaker tells a bleary-eyed FFT later that morning. “Resting fully is so important to perform at your best level. I need total darkness and no noise. I have to take advantage of the rare times that my young daughter lets me sleep!” FFT has no such excuse.

Starting the day in the proper way

“I get up at about 8.30am,” says Iniesta, “which gives me plenty of time to wake up slowly and have breakfast with my family. I usually have cereals and a light sandwich for energy. You’ve got to look after yourself. That should be life for everyone, but for a sportsman even more so.” Unable to stomach much beyond cereals and fruit at breakfast, it’s strictly carb- and protein-heavy pasta salad for us before we’re put through hell in the Barcelona sun.

The fear slowly begins to set in…

Once Iniesta has that perfect start to the day, he’s off to Barcelona’s state-of-the-art Ciudad Deportiva for training, which officially starts at 11am. “I try to stay as relaxed as possible on the drive,” says the Spanish playmaker, looking the very image of cool. “In the changing room there’s music or the radio to create a bit of atmosphere and I prefer to have a chat with my team-mates, and occasionally we’ll do our exercises before we go out to the pitches.” Going a whiter shade of pale later that afternoon as we get changed, FFT chats nervously with the coaches who will take training, trying and failing miserably to follow Iniesta’s advice.

Pre-training routine

“I always arrive an hour early, at 10am,” Iniesta tells us. We’re barely going to be able to make it through one session, mate, let alone two. “I go to the gym to do my own personal exercises and stretches to activate my body’s muscles so they’re in the best conditions to train well. Sometimes, if I’m a bit stiff, I’ll also have a massage.” The massage we can do, but we worry our “best conditions” have long since passed us by.

Know what you’re going to do

A sea of barbells, bright green walls and obstacle courses greet a sweaty FFT on the training pitch. Whether this is fear or the product of an unseasonably warm spring afternoon, we’re not sure. “It is helpful to visualise and prepare for what I’m about to do, so I ask for the coaches’ plans the day before,” he says, a knowing smile glued to his lips. “The further you go in tournaments, the fewer the longer sessions like this!” He doesn’t believe FFT when we tell him we’ve got a game the following day.

FFT = Idiots

“Imagine you’ve just been born,” says Mike Clegg, former Manchester United midfielder and Sunderland’s strength and conditioning coach, who will be leading our session with Iniesta. Squats, lunges and planks are performed as we’re guided through rolling, crawling and eventually walking, all watched over by Iniesta. Then, stood on a line, we’re told the call “north” means run right, “south” to the left. When Clegg bellows “north”, your brain-dead reporter foolishly sprints to his left (above) – the only person to do so. If only we’d listened to all Iniesta’s talk of concentration and visualisation. Oops.

“That was just like Iniesta”

Keen to prove that the world’s best football magazine isn’t populated by a bunch of incompetent sporting nonentities, we attack the hurdles, slalom courses and ball exercises with gusto and concentration. Finally, it’s time for our date with destiny as we attempt to recreate the Spaniard’s World Cup-winning goal from 2010. We exchange passes, Iniesta lays it on a plate and your reporter smashes it hard – but straight down the middle. If the keeper was made of anything other than bright green plastic, he’d surely have saved it. “That was just like Iniesta,” lies the man himself.

Recovery is key

Session over, it’s time to put into practice some of the recovery tips Iniesta has given FFT during the day. “You must drink to keep yourself going. Hydration is basic for your muscles, which will lose definition otherwise, so an isotonic drink will help them replace electrolytes lost in sweat,” the Barça No.8 tells us. “After a long session, I keep on stretching and doing little things when I get home. If you play and that’s it, that’s no kind of preparation to get the best out of yourself.” And with that it’s back to the hotel lobby for a stretch.

Andres Iniesta is an ambassador for Powerade, the official sports drink of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For exclusive videos

For more football tips see:
Andres Iniesta: How to boss the midfield
Sidestep your marker like Iniesta: Drill one
Sidestep your marker like Iniesta: Drill two
Sidestep your marker like Iniesta: Drill three
Sidestep your marker like Iniesta: Drill four
Sidestep your marker like Iniesta: Drill five