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The evolution of football nutrition: from chocolate to ‘Kevin Carbonara’

Diets have changed a lot since Arsenal players ate Mars bars en route to matches – but bull testicles are still off the menu

By Richard Foster for the Guardian Sport Network

When Arsène Wenger arrived in England in 1996 he was alarmed at the diet – or more accurately, lack of diet – among his Arsenal players. Wenger banned chocolate immediately, causing senior members of the squad to bristle with resentment. He recalls the resistance en route to his first game: “We were travelling to Blackburn and the players were at the back of the bus chanting: ‘We want our Mars bars!’” Almost 25 years later, the landscape has changed dramatically in English football. Clubs now provide detailed nutritional advice to their players, with the richest clubs even employing full-time nutritionists.

Shortly after Jürgen Klopp moved to Liverpool in 2016, Mona Nemmer joined the club as head of nutrition from Bayern Munich, where she had worked with Pep Guardiola for three years. She quickly established individual dietary plans for every player in the first-team squad. Her sphere of influence does not stop at the club’s training ground, but extends to what players consume on the team bus, in the hotels they use for away games and even their homes. “Some players like to cook for themselves, some like to take away a packed bag with food in, but here we like to react individually,” she says. “If the player wants a cooking lesson, or their wives or girlfriends do, we are free in the sense to help them with whatever they need.” A Liverpool FC recipe book was even mooted but it has yet to see the light of day.

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