Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have led the tributes to Tottenham Hotspur fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone, who has passed away at the age of 61.
The sudden loss of Ventrone has brought enormous sorrow to Spurs, where the Italian was a much-loved member of Antonio Conte’s coaching staff despite his famously gruelling methods. According to reports in Italy, Ventrone had leukaemia.
Kane described Ventrone as a “remarkable man”, while Son said the fitness coach was a “truly special person”. In a club statement, Spurs said: “As loveable off the pitch as he was demanding on it, Gian Piero quickly became a hugely popular figure with players and staff.”
Ventrone, who spent almost a decade at Juventus, earned a reputation for being one of the toughest taskmasters in the sport and was dubbed ‘the Marine’ in his home country.
The intensity of his methods was made clear on the club’s pre-season tour, when Kane was seen vomiting and Son collapsed during a gruelling running session in the heat and humidity of South Korea.
At the time, full-back Matt Doherty said: “Normally when you have a fitness coach like that, who is running you ragged, you start to not like him. But we all absolutely love him. We have got so much respect for him that we do whatever he tells us to.”
In a statement on social media on Thursday, Kane said: “A truly remarkable man. I’m devastated by the passing of our coach Gian Piero. My love and strength is with his family at this time. His words and wisdom will live on with me for the rest of my life and I’m just grateful I had the opportunity to spend time with him. Rest in peace Prof.”
Son, meanwhile, said: “The world has lost a truly special person. Gian Piero, you helped me get through the hardest times, and together we celebrated some incredible memories. I cannot put in enough words my gratitude to you, and how much I owe to you. We will miss you so, so much. Thank you for everything my friend. I am sending all of my love to you and all of your family.”
Ventrone’s popularity with the squad could be seen at the end of Tottenham’s recent victory over Leicester City, when Son scored a second-half hat-trick. Son and Ventrone embraced for a full 15 seconds at the final whistle, and the South Korean later explained the Italian’s importance to him on a personal level.
'He has been so helpful, giving me big hugs in tough times and even great times. He gives me so much advice, for which I am really grateful.'
Son on the moment he shared with Gian Piero Ventrone after his recent hat-trick vs Leicester ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MVa7Isa4Mc
— Tom Olver (@TomOlver1) October 6, 2022
Ventrone’s relationship with Conte dates back to their time together at Juventus, when Conte was a player. It was during Ventrone’s spell at Juventus that he introduced a “bell of shame”, which was to be rung by any player who dropped out of the running session. Zinedine Zidane once said he would often be “at the point of vomiting” in Ventrone’s intensive drills.
Ventrone went by three mottos at Juventus: “Work today to run tomorrow”, “die but finish” and “victory belongs to the strong”. He would also play classical music through speakers while the players ran, including Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’.
After leaving Juventus, Ventrone also spent time in France and China. He held roles at Catania, JS Suning, GZ Evergrande and AC Ajaccio before reuniting with Conte in November last year.