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Running, Running and more Running

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If ever a book is written on the greatest coaches in football, Diego Simeone will find a glowing reference. The Argentine has transformed Atletico from a mid-table club to the only team challenging the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly. Under his tenure, Atletico have won seven trophies, including two La Liga titles. And apart from being an incredible coach, Simeone has recruited a star-studded staff that helps him implement his style. One of those is Oscar Ortega, Atletico Madrid’s fitness coach.

The Uruguayan, known as the ‘El Profe’, the teacher is famous or, should we say infamous, for his training methods. Ortega’s drills are one of the most intense in not only football but also in entire sports world. His philosophy is to improve players’ efficiency no matter what. And for this, he will leave no stone unturned—Ortega’s methods border on cruelty and demand 100 per cent physical commitment. 

His philosophy is the reason Atletico Madrid are physically superior to almost any side in Europe. In addition, since Atletico does not have the financial resources of Europe’s top clubs, they must ensure they make their resources as efficiently as possible. 

So, who is Oscar Ortega?

Who is Oscar Ortega?

Born on March 29, 1958, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Oscar Exequiel Ortega Del Rio Uberto is a master fitness instructor. Ortega worked as a fitness coach in Mexico, Colombia, and Japan before arriving in Spain. His first job was at Sevilla before arriving at Atletico in 2001. It was here that he and Simone would first meet. 

Simeone was then a player in his second stint with Atletico Madrid. The Argentine was highly impressed with Ortega’s methods. Simone would depart the club in 2005 and, just a year later, would launch his coaching career. 

And one of the first things he did was ask Ortega to join his coaching staff. He joined him as a fitness coach at Estudiantes, and 16 years later, the partnership is still going strong. The duo’s journey took them to River Plater, San Lorenzo, Catania, and Racing Club before concluding at Atletico.

Ortega has also served as fitness coach for Uruguay national team for four matches. He is also expected to go with the national team to the World Cup. Over these years, the fitness coach has established himself as one of the biggest names in the business.

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Oscar Ortega, Atletico Madrid’s fitness coaches’ methods

The most famous part of Oscar Ortega’s methods is his infamous summer camp. Before the pre-season, the entire Atletico Madrid team goes to Segovia on the outskirts of Madrid. It is here that Ortega puts his master plan to work. The players are expected to run for more than 12 hours during the entire camp. Ortega’s philosophy is that the players should have incredible stamina to last an entire season. And for that, they need incessant running. 

Hills surround Segovia, and Ortega uses its slope in his player training. Ortega makes players up and down these slopes. The running goes in different shifts. The exercise is so intense that it induces vomiting due to fatigue. The most treacherous of these is Profe Slope. Developed by Ortega himself, it is a 50-metre slope with a steep 30% gradient. 

Ortega only allows breaks for meals and vomit. Nevertheless, the summer camp’s importance can be gauged by the fact that Kieran Trippier was taking part in the camp 10 minutes after Atletico announced his signing. 

The drills, though intense, put the team in prime shape by the start of the season. It is one of the reasons that Atletico’s injuries are few despite a gruelling season. 

Because Atletico Madrid spent most of the time in a match without the ball, they don’t control the game’s tempo. This means they must cover a lot of ground while retaining the tactical shape. However, only players with incredible stamina can do it. And Ortega’s job is to turn players into these tireless running monsters which he has been doing for years.

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Oscar Ortega, Atletico Madrid’s tactician 

What separates Ortega from the rest of fitness instructors is that his role is not limited to training but also traverses into coaching. Ortega ensures that his training during the season is as intensive as an entire match. Due to this, his drills are long with little few breaks as possible, which mimics an actual game. 

And Ortega also tweaks his training methods based on the opposition. This means that a specific match would demand a different approach, meaning a change in line-ups and substitutions. For this, Simeone relies on Ortega, who gives his tips on what players to use when to make substitutions etc. 

Ortega’s methods make Atletico players tenacious, the reason they make such brilliant players. Every player at the club is a physical and mental beast. Furthermore, they have an easier time settling in at other clubs when it comes to covering a lot of ground. 

While Diego Simone is an incredible coach, his fantastic staff, such as Oscar Ortega, also deserves much praise for the revolution at Atletico Madrid. And while the El Clasico remians the top match in the league, a match with Atletico is a top match in itself.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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