Spurs are fighting to come to terms with the death of Gian Piero Ventroni, a fitness coach. The 61-year-old Neopolitan, nicknamed “Navy” for his tough sessions, had leukemia.
“We are shocked to announce the passing of Gian Piero Ventroni,” Tottenham said on Thursday morning. “As loved off the pitch as he demanded, Gian Piero quickly became a hugely popular figure with the players and staff. He will be greatly missed by everyone at the club and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this impossibly sad time.”
Ventroni joined Tottenham last November as part of Antonio Conte’s coaching staff and has been credited with helping bring about a dramatic improvement in players’ fitness. His most famous moment at the club came during the pre-season tour in Seoul when he pushed the team Through a harsh session in the heat of 30 degrees Celsiusleaving many of them collapsing on the grass and some – including Harry Kane – vomiting.
The players could see the importance of his work, their respect for him was huge and it was evident when Son Heung Min celebrated with him after he scored a hat-trick. Against Leicester on September 17th. Ventrone has been in the bunker recently showing how he was suddenly moved.
“I have a really good relationship with Gian Piero,” Son said. “His English is not perfect, sometimes he comes on his phone and translates from Italian to English. It means a lot. Not from a football perspective, I think he gives me a lot of advice in terms of life, which I am really grateful for. He was very helpful, always giving me a big hug. In difficult times and even great times he was always by my side and all the staff.”
Conte canceled his Thursday afternoon press conference to review Saturday’s game in Brighton as a sign of respect. He has known Ventroni for many years, working with him as a player at Juventus. Ventrone was brought in by then manager, Marcello Lippi, in 1994 and was instrumental in forming the team that won the Champions League in 1996. Conte played for Juventus between 1991 and 2004.
Ventroni spent two stints at Juventus – from 1994 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2004. He was a member of Lippi’s crew when Italy won the World Cup in 2006. He went on to work as an assistant manager at Ajaccio in France before returning to fitness training in Catania, Italy, Jiangsu Suning and Guangzhou Evergrande in China. Then came the move to Tottenham.
Ventrone earned his nickname “Marine” at Juventus, playing Ride of the Valkyries from speakers while his players run. He installed a bell of shame to be rung by the first to leave school. He would recite motivational phrases such as “Winning belongs to the strong” and “Work today to run tomorrow.”
Ken Ventroni described him as a “really wonderful man” and wrote on social media: “His words and wisdom will live with me all my life and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with him. Rest in peace Professor”
Kane’s team-mate, Spurs striker Richarlison, said Ventroni was “a huge inspiration” and helped him “much more than he can imagine”. The Brazilian added: “We will keep playing for you my friend, who taught us never to give up!”
He described Juventus Ventroni, whose funeral will be held on Sunday in Naples, as “one of the historical names in the club at the turn of the century”. They added: “He has used innovative methods of physical conditioning inspired by modern standards, which have led the way in Italy and abroad.
“We will always remember his attention to detail, his work philosophy and perhaps his greatest talent – understanding that football and especially the basic components of adaptation and sport are gradually entering a new era. A new era he helped write in part. Ciao, Gian Piero.”