Serie A is a league in constant growth and increasingly competitive, which is why physical preparation has never been more important for players as they strive for championships and accolades. It is no coincidence that players like Romelu Lukaku, who joined Inter Milan after a turbulent spell at Manchester United in 2019, have made a complete turn on arrival in Italy, thanks to better nutrition and increasingly innovative training methods.
It’s also no coincidence that many Italian athletic trainers are part of the staff of top coaches in Europe and in the world. What are the secrets and methodologies? Adriano Bianchini, a professional athletic trainer specializing in injury recovery, prevention and reathletization of players, shares his take in an exclusive interview with CBS Sports. Bianchini worked for Lazio, arguably one of the most prominent clubs in Italy, from 2005-2020.
How was this Italian excellence in athletic trainers born?
Bianchini: Italian excellence in athletic training was born thanks to work that started in the 80s. The main creator was Vincenzo Pincolini, who arrived in the legendary Milan of Arrigo Sacchi; he landed in football from athletics which was at the forefront at the time. So Pincolini actually brought athletics to football, hence the evolution of the Italian coaches with key figures such as Enrico Arcelli, Roberto Sassi and even Gaetano Colucci who won Serie A with Roma.
A real revolution in Italy which today is producing great results.
Bianchini: Before the presence of the athletic trainers, the coaches managed everything in a less thorough way because there was no methodology dedicated to the established principles of preparation, training, recovery. Each one brought back to the field in the experience as a coach what [they] had learned as a footballer. Then from the end of the 1980s, the introduction of athletic trainers in Italian football changed this perspective by creating a real school until the foundation of AIPAC, the Italian Association of Athletic Football Trainers.
What is the main secret in your experience?
Bianchini: I worked for a long time as a trainer, in charge of athletic training and in recent years I have also been involved in recovering injuries. In the latter aspect, the psychological aspect is fundamental, this is another of our secrets in Italy. There is a human relationship that is created with the injured player, each player reacts differently to the same injury and therefore the mental component is really decisive.
How important is the physical preparation that takes place preseason?
Bianchini: In Italy we are at the forefront, we are recognized all over the world. Summer preparation is something fundamental. Many see it as a superfluous detail, instead those weeks of work with the whole team during the preseason helps to create a physical base to carry around for the whole year but also to compact the group under the psychological aspect. We know each other, there are no distractions, a real team is formed because all the players are attentive 24 hours a day to the working methods. We can also check the team’s nutrition every single day for several weeks. In this way, the availability of the players is complete: Excellence in preseason preparation is one of our secrets.
In his experience you have met many champions: Which one of them comes to mind?
Bianchini: Something special is really created when the relationship is strong between the coach and the player, in this I believe that in Italy we have something special. For example, I worked with a champion like Djibril Cissé at Lazio. After many years we are still in contact through messages, we have remained on good terms and also because he played for Liverpool, which is the team I am a fan of. He told me about his [career-threatening] injury, something traumatic. Working with him was an honor.
What about a prodigious case of recovery from injury?
Bianchini: There is a case that can explain well how important this human factor is. This is Cristian Ledesma, a midfielder who for many years has been a symbol of Lazio. He had injured his external meniscus, with a predetermined recovery time of over one month. With him we did a great strategic job, we managed to complete the recovery in just 24 days to play in the highly-anticipated derby against Roma. An incredible number: Ledesma recovered in 24 days, wore the No. 24 shirt and scored in that match in the 24th minute!
What about a player you can tell us a background about?
Bianchini: I would like to mention Lorenzo De Silvestri. He has played in many important teams, he was with us at Lazio, today he is at Bologna. His physique has always been exceptional, a pleasure to work with him but the bond on the human level is something unique. I still remember one day De Silvestri arrived and gave me a shirt of his when he played in the national team without me having asked him. It was a beautiful moment.
Would you like to bring this experience as an Italian trainer also abroad?
Bianchini: It fascinates me a lot, I am open to having an experience abroad as has happened to many of my Italian colleagues. My biggest wish would be to work in England for which I have a particular passion. But I know that MLS is also in great growth, and improving more and more. I would like this type of opportunity in my future so much that I am improving my study of the English language even more for this.
Are there any former players of yours who speak well of MLS?
Bianchini: Former Manchester United Nani, now Orlando City player. I talk to him often, he is a special guy, the relationship is really beautiful. He played in Lazio and I have excellent memories, he speaks to me very well about football in the United States. I really like the American mentality, the potential of MLS is enormous: I would accept to have this type of experience one day.