Professional soccer players are looking more and more like pop stars, including their own entourage

Professional soccer players are looking more and more like pop stars, including their own entourage
Louis van Gaal praised the professionalism of the Orange players

NOS Soccer

Footballer you are not only at the club. Footballer you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And to become the best version of yourself, as a current top soccer player, you often gather a platoon of experts around you.

“This is the best group I have ever worked with,” former national team coach Louis van Gaal said time and again around the World Cup in Qatar about the Dutch national team. Of course, the 71-year-old coach wanted to give his group confidence, but he was also genuinely impressed by the professionalism of the current generation of soccer players.

It starts with an agent doing a contract negotiation. These days, the coaching comes from agencies that arrange the most luxurious nights out on the beaches of Ibiza. In between comes physical, mental and tactical coaching if required. Everything to polish the ultimate footballer.

Outside the club

Outside the club, players are increasingly looking for their own club of confidants. Specialists with whom they have a bond, who know their file, whom they can rely on. Regardless of which club they play at. Experts who think of the interests of the player, not the club.

For example, on the physical level. Rani Chaoui is a personal trainer and works with internationals Georginio Wijnaldum and Steven Bergwijn, among others. “With me, players get much more personal attention to specific needs. At a club, a lot is focused on the team.”

“There is still a lot of profit to be made there,” says Chaoui, owner of Rani Training. “A two-meter goalkeeper at some clubs still gets the same program as that quick outfielder of 1 meter 78.”

Ajacied Steven Bergwijn with personal trainer Rani

He himself is approached by soccer players, who hear good stories about him from other players. “Many people want something from footballers. It’s hard for them to trust someone. That’s why they like to work with people they know.”

So this happens outside of the club – which pays their salaries. Chaoui: “Clubs are not necessarily happy about it, but tolerate it. With me, they know I can be trusted, although the cooperation with Bergwijn is becoming less intense, because Ajax is a little less keen on it. They have brought in good guys there themselves now.”

Clubs want control

Clubs are struggling with this. “The trick is to stay in control,” explained Jordy Zuidam, FC Utrecht’s technical director. “We want to be aware of everything that happens outside the club. It has to be of added value and not at odds with the club programs.”

Footballers are coming up with their own physios, haptonomists, recovery coaches and so on. Feyenoord player Marcus Pedersen thanked his breathing coach after his winning goal against AZ. “This allows me to take in more oxygen and go even harder,” Pedersen said.

It doesn’t stop at physical coaching. Many players also talk to a mental coach. Just recently, Orange player Bart Verbruggen indicated that he has contact once every three or four weeks with someone who teaches him how to better deal with his emotions.

Players such as Cody Gakpo, Stefan de Vrij, Sherida Spitse and Victoria Pelova are known to receive individual coaching on tactics. Watching and analyzing match footage together, in order to improve, for example, their posture, running actions and viewing habits.

Orange international Victoria Pelova also gets personal coaching

“You notice that a soccer player is an athlete nowadays,” Zuidam states. “They want to develop in all sorts of areas, and they are offered help from all sides, not just in terms of soccer technique. As a club, you try to offer customization within team development.”

Apart from soccer-related issues, soccer players turn to experts in more areas. Think about managing their social media, but it goes much further than that. Memphis Depay recently posted a call: he was looking for a new PA, or personal assistant.

On his social media, he wrote: “Who wants to dedicate her life to me and has ambitions to travel when needed? Be warned: it’s not easy and requires a lot of dedication. Send me a message!”

Anyone who saw the documentary “With Both Legs” about Depay knows that his PA of the time mainly helped in the household and provided a sandwich if the footballer was hungry while he was by the pool. Anything to spare the athlete. It goes even further.

Arranging gift for daughter

Just made a transfer to Madrid and no idea which tapas restaurant to go to? Or is it summer break and you want to go on vacation for two weeks but have no idea where to go? The Dutch company Con Questa arranges it all for soccer players. Their customer base includes several Ajac players, including captain Dusan Tadic.

“We want to unburden players,” explains founder Patrick Smit. They work mostly for foreign soccer players who come to the Netherlands at a young age. “They get a huge salary, but it sometimes seems like clubs say: look no further.”

“We arrange housing, a school for the children, we teach them about the city, arrange for family to be picked up from Schiphol Airport, arrange a good home security system, create a complete customized vacation, you name it. We are available 24/7 with a team of twenty.”

A soccer player only has to make a request via WhatsApp and Smit and his colleagues, supported by their network, get to work on it. “Then someone sends at ten to seven in the evening that he wants to eat at the best Japanese restaurant in town that same evening. That one has been full for three weeks, but then we go and arrange it for him anyway.”

“Or a soccer player sends that his daughter’s birthday is the next day and he doesn’t have anything for her yet. Whether we can come up with a gift. Those are the nicest requests. We’re a travel agent, event planner and lifestyle agency all in one.”

Kayleigh Williams