Real Madrid

Real Madrid stars would wear disguises to be able to go into town

Grégory Dupont, a fitness trainer who worked under Zidane, revealed what life was like during his time at Real Madrid: "I received threats".

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Real Madrid stars would wear disguises to be able to go into town

Grégory Dupont was a member of Zidane's coaching staff during his second stint in charge at Real Madrid. Known as The Scientist, Dupont joined Madrid with an excellent reputation for the  work he did with Lille, Celtic and especially with the French national team, who he prepared to become world champions in 2018. Despite doubts about the number of injuries affecting the squad in his first season at the club, he played a key part in getting the players fit and giving them the stamina they needed to make up lost points and clinch the league title in 2019-20.

Dupont also had the task of making sure the players kept in shape while isolating during the pandemic. In 2020-21, his methods were questioned again after a spate of injuries and he ended up leaving the club in June last year, leaving his position to Antonio Pintus. In an interview with La voix du nord he looked back at his time in Madrid.

Receiving a call from Real Madrid: "I was fine where I was, but I hadn't experienced working for a big club. I'm not saying that Lille isn't a big club but Real Madrid is on another level... So I needed something like that. So when the opportunity arose, I accepted. My role was only to be the fitness trainer for the first team. At the French Football Federation I had more freedom and other duties to perform. At Real Madrid, everything was in its place and you had your obligations to fulfill".

Was there less room for mistakes at Madrid? "Totally, we knew what it meant to be at the service of the club. It's very professional, everything is calculated and measured. The club's image is very important, the way in which we went about things… Everything was orchestrated".

Relationship with French colleagues: "With all of the French speakers because Eden Hazard also speaks the language. I knew Eden from Lille, I watched him growing up there… My relationship with all of them was great - Raphaël (Varane) and Karim (Benzema), of course, Ferland Mendy. Thibaut Courtois too".

And with Zinédine Zidane? "Of course, and his assistants - David Bettoni, Hamidou Msaidie… There was a great, little community of French speakers".

How did the coaches handle criticism? "It's part of football and part of life at big clubs. At Real Madrid, Zizou was criticism - and he is Zizou! As a coach, he won the Champions League three times, and on top of that you look at his career and all of the things he has won... But yes, sometimes criticism can affect the coaches, it all depends on their personality. And it's the same with the players. Some say that it doesn't affect them, but it does. A lot of it depends on what mechanisms they have to handle it - their families and home life for instance".

Zidane: "Zizou is very demanding. Sometimes we have this image of a very talented player, someone who makes everything look so easy, but he is someone who has worked very hard at what he does. He is a very demanding coach and a very respectful one. He makes the players work very hard. He is always trying to get them to progress. We would often talk about our own experiences. For example, playing games every three days, is it more beneficial to always sleep at a hotel the day before a game rather than be at home with the family...?"

Benzema: "Karim is incredibly professional, very rigorous. He tries to optimise every aspect of his game, he works very hard, he is precise and looks at every detail. At Real Madrid, everyone has to train hard. Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vázquez, Raphaël Varane… Eden Hazard as well. Some might think that having talent is enough. Talent is useful but at any given moment it might not be enough".

Media attention: "That's something that we are all aware of. At Madrid, even small things can be magnified into something worse. Something a player might say during a training session might come out in the newspaper the following day. Once we were working with a player who needed to work on his acceleration and the next day, there was a piece on him in the paper… It's unsettling".

Did you feel under pressure at Real Madrid? "Yes, I even received threats. If you didn't give them information, they would say things about me. The only way around it was to not respond. But they would do it anyway. At one point, when we had injury problems, it was all my fault. They even went as far as distorting results to make it appear that injured players had tested positive for Covid..."

Did you feel bullied? "Yes, and so did the players. At Real Madrid, the players would dress in disguise so that they could go into town and not be recognised - even just to go to the cinema. If they are at a very high level it's because they've been through a lot of different stages during their careers. They find a way around things to make their lives as comfortable as they can. They know that we, the staff can't control everything they do. They only thing that is within their control is how they are perceived. These days, there are journalists who write whatever they feel like writing. And at Real Madrid, everything is exaggerated - much of what is written is completely false and there is not a lot you can do about it because correcting them is only giving them importance which they don't deserve".