With clubs across Germany's top division in the throes of an intensive pre-season schedule, Bundesliga.com assesses the the training terrain and hears the thoughts of those involved as the preparation for the 2017/18 campaign continues apace .....
From fan-filled open training sessions to blood-thirsty medics performing lactate tests: pre-season is officially in full flow. As the summer sun and days of double sessions soak the Bundesliga’s brave returnees in lathers of sweat, it’s payback time for those who stoked our envy with blissed-out beach selfies and images of jet-ski high jinks in recent weeks.
Watch: Eintracht Frankfurt sweat it out in California!
Sure enough, those 40 days of Bundesliga absence affected us all. Yet none more so, it seems, than Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol, who giddily declared in his first press conference of the new term, “The desire for football is always there, it’s like a professional illness!” The Red Shorts boss said that on, “Looking into the eyes of my players, I could see how good the break had done them and that the energy was back.”
Fortunately for Gisdol, he wasn’t gazing into the eyes of Hertha Berlin defender Fabian Lustenberger when making his enthusiastic assessment about the weeks ahead. “I don't wake up at night in a hot sweat during pre-season; I don't exactly look forward to it,” the Swiss defender declared with a giggle. “Generally pre-season is the same every year,” he continued. “The first three or four weeks are very strenuous. The fitness coach is the boss.”
Intensive workouts on the training pitch now abound with player performance diagnostics inside club gyms and on running tracks already conducted. None have avoided the vampires wielding the ubiquitous ear-pricking device that draws blood to test lactate levels, the results of which allow the Bundesliga’s finest to get the best from their training sessions. “The boys have really made me feel welcome; I really, really like it here,” new Borussia Dortmund signing Ömer Toprak was telling the club’s TV cameras, when the former Bayer Leverkusen defender was jabbed unawares in the earlobe.
For those clever enough to follow specific fitness regimes over the summer recess – like Schalke defender Naldo, for example – the shock of suddenly sprinting back into shape is lessened. “I didn’t just lie on my backside whilst I was away,” the Brazilian Bundesliga legend boasted. “I worked out a training programme with my fitness coach before I went on holiday. Obviously I had a little rest at first, but 30 days before the start of pre-season I began working toward making myself as fit as I could be.” The priceless wisdom eleven seasons and over 300 Bundesliga appearances brings.
Naldo’s team-mate Atsuto Uchida has viewed this pre-season period as a gift from the gods. The 29-year-old hasn’t featured in a Bundesliga game for the Royal Blues since March 2015 because of a chronic knee complaint, but managed to score twice in a high scoring friendly win recently. “If you don’t mind me saying, being injured is crap!” the Japanese full-back was quoted as saying on Schalke’s official website. “And to miss two years is really bad. But I always believed in myself and kept saying ‘Never give up, you are a Samurai.’”
In terms of mixing things up, a dojo might not seem a bad option for a workout. Coaches can look at different ways to obliterate the monotony that sometimes accompanies tough pre-season training. Take André Breitenreiter, coach at newly promoted Hannover, for example. His charges could be seen competing fiercely in tug-of-war contests, or trying out some foot-volley and target practice on the sands of the North-Sea resort of Sankt Peter-Ording. "We trained very intensively and picked up plenty of sand. But [the sessions] were always connected with fun, the guys were full of life,” Die Roten’s overseer said.
Of course, pre-season is not just about the players warming up for the 2017/18 season. The Bundesliga is blessed with the best fans in the world, and they too have been building up to the big start on the weekend commencing 18 August.
“Even though I am no longer surprised that so many supporters were here today, I still find it absolutely great,” RB Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhüttl said, echoing the feelings of players and coaches around Germany who have been blessed by the presence of enthusiastic fans at training sessions and club events during the past weeks. “It is the best compliment of what we can get as a team when there is no more free space in the grandstand at our first practice session,” Hasenhüttl continued. “Every day I feel the euphoria in the city. It is nice to start the season and the anticipation is huge on both sides,” the 49-year-old added.
With global enthusiasm for the opening round of Bundesliga fixtures rife and clubs embarking on a busy schedule of friendly games, we’ll leave the last word with Hertha Berlin, who kindly reminded us this week that, “The next summer break is 314 days away (or 321, should Hertha make the DFB Cup final).” Now get back to work!