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Why do Real Madrid players smell the chests of their jerseys during games?

The Champions League semi-finalists have got into the curious habit in recent times, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by onlookers.

Once inicial del Real Madrid.

We watch soccer for the brilliant goals, the intricate passing and the sublime skills, but our curiosity is often aroused by other goings-on on and off the field which don’t really have anything to do with 11 players kicking a ball around. Even at Champions League level, and in the game between Manchester City and Real Madrid, there’ll be something that catches our eye that isn’t necessarily ‘supposed to’.

One example which has emerged in recent weeks is that of Real Madrid players smelling the chest of their jerseys, with Luka Modric and Vinícius Júnior amongst the stars that have been caught doing so.

Conspiracy theories abound

What’s going on here, then? Well, as you might imagine in this day and age, conspiracy theorists (presumably mostly Barcelona fans, in this instance) have spread rumours about how they are using some kind of illegal substance as a performance-enhancing doping agent. Surely Los Blancos’ performances in LaLiga this season is proof enough that that’s not the case…

Madrid looking for that extra one per cent

A much more logical explanation, however, is that the players are in fact applying Vicks VapoRub to the front of their jerseys. The brand’s different products have different functions, but one is to relieve nasal congestion thanks to “blend of eucalyptus and essential oils, and scents of menthol and camphor”. You may well have tried it yourself, in which case you’ll know all about it. Although whether you’ve used it to gain any kind of sporting advantage is another matter.

Patrick Vieira won three Premier League titles with Arsenal.
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Patrick Vieira won three Premier League titles with Arsenal.Getty Images

Vieira: Vicks VapoRub legend

Premier League fans of a certain vintage may at this point have former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira in mind. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Frenchman could regularly be seen sporting a Gunners jersey drenched in Vicks VapoRub (or something similar), which he became famous for as much as his considerable on-field success.