An exclusive Swide interview with club doctor Massimo Manara and long-standing club chef Michele Persechini.
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How long have you been responsible for the players’ diet at A.C. Milan?
MANARA: Since I arrived at the club, about a year ago.
PERSECHINI: I’ve been the A.C. Milan chef since 1st May 1988, always working in collaboration with the club doctor.
How important is the diet in terms of preparing the team before and during the season?
MANARA: The diet is fundamental; it has a huge influence. The quality of the ingredients is more important than the quantity. It’s all about improving the athletes’ performance on the pitch and replenishing the nutrients lost in training or during a match.
Do footballers follow an unbalanced diet at certain times of the year or on certain days of the week?
MANARA + PERSECHINI: I wouldn’t call it an unbalanced diet, but it does vary depending on the work being done. For example, before a game the players eat more carbohydrates than usual.
New talents: Di Gennaro and Abate in Dolce&Gabbana
Does the warm or the cold season make a change in diet necessary?
MANARA + PERSECHINI: Not really. In winter the players might eat more minestrones and vegetable broths, things like that. Rather than salmon, which is fatty.
Do they ever get “reward” meals?
MANARA + PERSECHINI: Of course they do. After a win, for example. And as the club has been very successful there have been a lot of “reward” meals in recent years! After a match, if we’re not preparing for another game immediately, the players are free to eat what they want. And we usually prepare a special menu for special occasions – after a win, for example, or on a successful away trip, or if one of the players has their birthday while we’re in a hotel together.
What food is completely banned?
MANARA + PERSECHINI: Fried food. But also cream, butter and heavy sauces, because they’re more difficult to digest.
New talents: Thiago Silva and Albertazzi in Dolce&Gabbana
And what food is absolutely essential to their diet?
MANARA: Water is the most important thing, because it’s what our bodies are mostly made of. Then vegetables and pasta, but also meat and fish.
What are the average percentages of carbohydrates, proteins and fats?
MANARA + PERSECHINI: The players basically follow a Mediterranean diet. On average about 50/60% of it is carbohydrates, but a lot also depends on what they’ve done during the day. If, for example, they’ve been doing a lot of gym work, then their diet needs to be supplemented with proteins. But after a match they’ll eat a lot more carbohydrates.
New talent: Ikande in Dolce&Gabbana
Do any of the players have special requirements?
PERSECHINI: Of course. Even if we go to the North Pole, Filippo Inzaghi has to have his bresaola. Rino Gattuso takes his Calabrian chilli pepper with him everywhere – that’s always on the table. Paolo Maldini would always insist on having bread and Nutella at breakfast and for snacks. And some of our youngsters belong to different religions, so we adapt their diets to their habits and culture.
Tell us about the strangest meal you’ve had to prepare for A.C. Milan players.
PERSECHINI: In November 1988 a game in Belgrade was suspended due to fog. Nowadays you can buy pasta anywhere, all over the world, but not back then! I was really worried because I had no idea how I would be able to cook for them. So, as there was no shortage of flour, we set about making home-made pasta, 7 or 8 of us all together. Fortunately we came up with the goods in the end.
New talent: Albertazzi in Dolce&Gabbana
New talents: from left Albertazzi, Zigoni and Beretta in Dolce&Gabbana
And your most popular dishes?
PERSECHINI: The players go literally crazy when they’re a long way from home (like when we spent two weeks in Japan in December 2007) and a plate of rigatoni with ragù, something really Italian, – suddenly appears on the table. They also love my artichokes ‘alla romana’ and saffron risotto.
Editing: Giuliano Federico
Photo Credits: Stefano Guindani Photography
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