Welcome to Milanello - AC Milan`s groundbreaking medical lab and training centre
None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm. (Henry David Thoreau:)
There have always been talks and endless articles about the “ageing squad” of Milan: especially in recent weeks as tensions are building up for the Champions League knock-out stage. There is no doubt that the current Milan line up is somewhat different compared to what is otherwise displayed at various football clubs all over the continent. There seem to be some sort of obsession by the media as they scrutinize the age of Italian players like Pippo Inzaghi (36) or Alessandro Nesta (33). If you are happened to be a Milan player over the age of 30 or so, some journalist would nearly question the right to be even allowed out on the pitch. (not so much if the player in question is English) And they most certainly would blame any unsuccessful attempt on glory on the age of the players.
Milan and with that Signori Berlusconi and Galliani have often been accused of simply not having (or not wanting) to spend the cash on new, younger players. But if the club does fork out the millions for new players and those footballers happen to be not Italian, than the club would be accused of not developing their own talent and not supporting their own, gifted players. How does one win in this situation? How about prolonging your players careers and try to prevent injuries?
Milan`s world-class training and medical centre Milanello is one of Europe`s most innovative sport centres and a truly magical place, where footballing careers can be extended beyond what is generally accepted as normal.
Milanello Sports Centre
This 160 thousand square metres complex was built in 1963 and is situated some 50 km North of Milan. As per Berlusconi`s request it has been completely restructured and is an invaluable asset not just for the team of Milan but also for the whole Italian football system.The Italian national team often relocates to this centre before important competitions such as the World Cup or European Championship.
There are 6 regular pitches, a synthetic grass pitch, also a covered pitch and of course the famous small sized outdoor pitch:“the cage”: this unique playing field is surrounded by a 2.30 m high wall completed with 2.5 m high fencing. The idea is that inside the cage the play never stops, the ball is always in motion in order to enhance the speed of execution. As part of the training and/or recovery players run or cycle on the picturesque 1200 m running track through the woods at various altitudes.
The main building hosts a variety of facilities: the all important gym, dressing rooms, press room, player`s rooms, kitchen etc. The one of a kind gym is the most recently renovated, perfectly equipped with latest the technology to help to get the most out of the players.
Describing this truly outstanding establishment could go on and on. For a visual tour check out:
Two of the "oldies": Zambrotta and Pirlo in trainig
Of course there is more to this complex than a poxy gym and a few football pitches: the real reason that this place is called world class and cutting edge is the Milan Lab. The Milan Lab is a High Tech Scientific Research Centre set up by A.C. Milan in 2002, and is based inside the Milanello Sporting Centre. It represents an ideal combination of science, technology, IT and psychology. The mastermind behind this operation is the club's medical director Jean-Pierre Meersseman, a Belgian kinesiologist and trained chiropractor who has been Silvio Berlusconi`s personal GP since 1977. (Meersseman co-funded this facility with Bruno De Michelis who, not surprisingly has moved to Chelsea FC alongside with Carlo Anchelotti and is now Anchelotti`s Scientific Asistant Manager).
In a nutshell the Milan Lab is designed to help the athletes to achieve the most optimum performance possible, to reduce the risks of injury and to aid with decision making in the team selection process. It`s certainly not just a glorified phisyio room. Here they analyze everything: every movement of each player, the clothes and shoes they wear. The retrieved data is quintessential in transfer dealings: it could decide who to buy and who to sell (Andriy Shevchenko anyone?). Milan wasn`t prepared to make the same mistake they made when signing Redondo from Real Madrid in 2000. Once a wonderful player, Redondo`s body had eventually given up and he hardly ever played during his 4 year stint with Milan.
Of course all of this magic does not mean that just about any Milan player could easily match the career of the exceptional Paolo Maldini, who only hung up his boots after his 40th birthday, spending an incredible 25 years with his beloved club. But surely it`s worth the investment, especially if it means that clubs could save an absolute fortune on crazy signings. It is well publicized how most of Europe`s giants are struggling with finances, and with the media, clubs and managers talking up players and creating hideous transfer fees, this situation urgently need a solution.
Loyalty and class
This article wouldn`t be complete without mentioning a certain David Beckham, one of the players who has been recently receiving (a lot of) attention in the Milan Lab. The club didn`t take Beckham on loan for his pretty smile and world fame alone. Yes, he is a marketing magnet but he also happened to be an incredible athlete. Upon his first visit at Milanello he went through hours of gruelling tests just to determine if he was worth to take the risk on. The staff at Milanello was genuinely surprised to find out that the former England skipper had a natural fitness that could actuallysee him playing into his forties. What has been decided that Beckham would have to wear a support in his mouth until some dental work has been done as they felt this could affect his balance. Since his arrival he has proved to the world that being 34 years old means nothing as long as one still has the ability and is willing to work hard, very hard.
This sublime facility does not get the deserved recognition outside of Italy as it really should. What is out here these days is quiet the opposite: no praises at all just cold critisism of the football that is coming out of this wonderful country. I am hoping that one day this will change.
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