A sweet spot between personal support and high demands is a complex balance only the best get right

Jose Mourinho has to tread carefully. “You had a very good relation with Mauricio [Pochettino]?” he asks Harry Kane inside his office at the Tottenham training ground. “Yeah,” affirms the club captain, with a nod. “I love that,” Mourinho fires back. “I always think: good relation with the previous man and why not good relation with me?” Kane scratches his nose, a silent signal he’s not convinced. Mourinho knows earning the England striker’s approval will help secure the support of a broken…


Body language expert Adrianne Carter breaks down the silent signals between Tottenham’s manager and two of his key players

Harry Kane’s evolution from top Premier League striker to Ballon d’Or contender can be traced back to his early exchanges with new manager Jose Mourinho. The All Or Nothing cameras capture a public display of affection on the training pitch, then a one-on-one meeting in the manager’s office, where Mourinho, bristling with self-assurance, imitates an explosion with his hands, leans in, fist pumps and uses his profile to massage Kane’s ego. Tottenham’s captain nods, shrugs, gulps and rubs his nose. …


How Zlatan, Ronaldo and Europe’s veteran hitmen are staying top of the scoring charts

The ability to pump oxygen around the body is the first thing to go. The heart can’t beat fast enough to feed the grinding pistons. Fast-twitch muscle fibres start to deteriorate. Speed, power and agility lose their snap. Energy reserves deplete. Muscle mass retreats. Then there’s the aches and pains, the stiff limbs and creaking joints.

This is the harsh reality for each and every one of us as we enter our 30s, but for elite footballers, this is nature sapping them of their superpowers. The…


What happens physiologically when we lose our rag?

Marco Materazzi grabs Zinédine Zidane around the chest as another hopeful cross is repelled by Italy’s rearguard. The France captain, drenched in sweat, turns back towards the defender and the pair exchange words.

“I prefer the whore that is your sister,” says Inter’s master of the dark arts. Zidane slams on the brakes, plants his right foot forward, dips his head like a bull preparing to charge and tries to put a hole through the Italian’s chest with the full force of his shaven skull. There’s a moment of confusion as ball-watching…


Tim Flowers’ face shimmered with sweat. “Don’t talk to me about bottle,” he said, eyes widening. “Don’t talk to me about bottling it, because that’s bottle out there, that’s quality players giving their all.”

The goalkeeper gestured in the direction of the pitch, where a raucous Ewood Park was in full voice following Blackburn Rovers’ victory over Newcastle United in the penultimate game of the 1994/95 Premier League season.

“We’re going to fight to the death, cos we’ve got bottle,” he reiterated with conviction, as he scratched his head. …


Having long been the domain of men who are physically tough and emotionally impenetrable, the British game is now undergoing a major cultural shift — but why?

A cluster of England players are squashed together just inside Panama’s 18-yard box like a pack of impatient commuters shoving their way onto the Tube. As Kieran Trippier whips the ball in, they scatter in different directions, as if they’ve just heard over the Tannoy that their train will now be departing from another platform.

Anibal Godoy can’t pin down Harry Kane, so he hangs on to the Tottenham striker like a leopard…


Tottenham’s leading man has had a stellar 2017, hitting 44 goals in 39 games for club and country. But how has the story of an NFL superstar inspired a quest for greatness?

“Poor build, skinny and lacks great physical stature and strength, lacks mobility, system-type player who can get exposed when he’s forced to ad-lib and gets knocked down too easily,” was the report of one scout.

The subject of that stinging assessment wasn’t Harry Kane, but Tom Brady: the greatest quarterback in American football history and the Spurs striker’s idol, and the source of inspiration that has powered the…


From a limited defender making up the numbers to the modern team’s hardest worker, no player’s role has changed more radically than that of the full-back. FFT salutes the wide boys

Dreams of winning La Decima were fading fast. Carlo Ancelotti could almost feel the cold steel of Florentino Perez’s axe cutting into the back of his neck.

Real Madrid’s obsessive wait for a 10th European Cup looked set to continue as Atletico Madrid defantly hung on to their one-goal lead at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz.

Ancelotti needed to fnd a solution. As the game approached the hour mark he…


With the January window upon us, FourFourTwo delves into the grey area at the centre of every transfer, and discovers why a ticking time bomb to one club is a risk worth taking for another…

The 2014–15 Premier League season is just three weeks away, and Loic Remy has been handed some bad news: his big move from QPR to Liverpool is off.

In Chicago on the club’s pre-season tour, Reds manager Brendan Rodgers addresses the press. “We made a decision as a club not to go ahead with the Remy deal,” he says. …


Getting the right blend of characters in the dressing room can be the difference between humiliation and glory — FFT speaks to those seeking to prove that team chemistry is an exact science

Sunshine stretches out across the vineyards that encircle Nyon, a picturesque lakeside town 15 miles from Geneva.

Tightly-packed streets that trickle down from the imposing Middle Age castle begin to hum with activity, as suits from UEFA’s headquarters spill out.

After a long, hard day administering lots of red tape, a glass of wine harvested locally is top of the bill.

Tucked away in one of the…

Ben Welch

Football writer specialising in sports science and performance. His work has appeared in FourFourTwo, Men's Health and The Independent https://www.benwelch.org/

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