Rodrigo Bentancur’s exclusive interview: Tottenham’s running player is thriving under Antonio Conte and the influence of Gian Piero Ventrone | Football news

Rodrigo Bentancur was answering a question about his rapid adaptation to life at Tottenham but the banging, growing louder as he spoke, made it increasingly difficult for the Uruguayan midfielder to concentrate.

High above, outside the first-floor canteen at the club’s Hotspur Way headquarters, grinning Heung-Min Son is banging his hand against the glass window, his laughter reciprocated by Bentancur as he succeeds in the competition. distracting his teammates in the middle of an interview.

“A great player and a great person,” said Bentancur Sports sky of Son, still smiling. “It’s an honor to be his teammate, above all because of his personality. We enjoy ourselves every day.”

Bentancur and Son communicate in a variety of languages ​​- “some English, and he also learned a little Spanish,” he said – but their friendship shows exactly what he just talk about.

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Bentancur has only been a Spurs player for nine months, the midfielder joining Juventus for £20m on the last day of the January transfer window, but he is already a popular figure among his team-mates as well as himself. fans and he clearly feels right. at home.

“The truth is I was able to adapt brilliantly from the moment I arrived,” he said. “My teammates gave me a phenomenal welcome and the club has been incredible.”

He came to Dejan Kulusevski. “That makes it a lot easier,” he said, describing the Swede, his teammate for a year and a half at Juventus, as a “fantastic player” who had “boomed” at Spurs before his expected return. from injury against Everton on Saturday.

“He doesn’t have a lot of continuity here, but we’re seeing his qualities explode. And Son in particular. They’re an incredible trio of strikers.”

Rodrigo Bentancur has started a friendship with Heung-Min Son
Bentancur has started a friendship with Heung-Min Son

It’s been a busy time off the pitch for Bentancur, the 25-year-old and his girlfriend, Melany, welcoming a daughter over the summer. Meanwhile, he insists adjusting himself to the Premier League has not been as easy as he did.

“The first week was really tough,” he said. “The pace, the rhythm, the intensity, the power of the players. It’s a complete change from the level I was used to in Italy.”

However, he is grateful to Antonio Conte for throwing him straight in.

Since his official debut, in a 2-0 win over Wolves after several substitute appearances in February, Bentancur has started 28 out of 31 games, the only game he missed due to injury.

“I think the fact that Antonio trusted me and made me join the games as soon as I arrived helped me adapt very quickly,” he said. “Minutes on the pitch are the best way to adapt and that’s fundamental for me.”

Bentancur has an important role inside and outside of ownership

It also helps him approach his work with total commitment.

Bentancur’s thirst for self-improvement is evident by the revelation that he “barely sleeps” after a frantic 3-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday, his mind reeling with his performance until every little hour. “That’s normal for me,” he laughs. “I’m always wired after games.”

It can also be seen in his decision to bring in Daniel Fernandez, a family friend who has acted as his personal trainer since his move to Juventus from Boca Juniors, with him from Italy to England.

“He was my dad’s best friend, I call him my uncle,” he explained.

“We worked really hard physically when I came here. He also analyzed my performance. Good passes, bad passes, balls I won.

“Now, in this phase where we play every three days, we don’t do too much physically, it’s the recovery, the little details. I take those details very seriously.

“All the work we do is to help me improve.”

However, it is Conte, who has been the biggest driver of Bentancur’s improvement at Spurs, his previous experience in Italy, where he won three Serie A titles with Juve, that has helped him thrive. under a manager who loves his tactical intelligence and defensive abilities.

Rodrigo Bentancur enjoys working with Antonio Conte
Bentancur enjoys working with Antonio Conte

Bentancur said: “When I first entered European football, I thought Italy was the best possible choice for me because tactically and defensively, the class was incredible.

“That helped me a lot, and then, going to a team like Tottenham, with another Italian coaching staff, I integrated very well.

“I’ve improved a lot in intensity and transition from defense to attack. I think I’ve gotten a lot better in those areas. But being a player is a constant learning process. .”

Conte regularly reminds Bentancur and his teammates of that – “he wants to get 100 per cent out of every player”, he says – and doesn’t have any frustrations about how well he is. he pushes them.

He didn’t relax for a second and he didn’t let us relax either. I believe that’s one of the most important things about him

Rodrigo Bentancur on Antonio Conte

“Antonio has a lot of qualities, but I think above all he is a coach who wants to win and is very motivated,” said Bentancur. “He lives football like some of the other coaches I’ve known.

“You see that on the bench. He’s in the game all the time. He doesn’t relax for a second and he doesn’t allow us to relax. I believe that’s one of the important things. most important about him.

“He then gave an identity to the team that we didn’t have before, in terms of the way we played, and I think we’re showing the benefits of that this season. want to win, like all of us..

“It’s an honor to have him as my manager.”

Bentancur, along with team-mate midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, acted as the fulcrum of Conte’s side, responsible for getting them off the field, but also disrupting play and harassing opponents.

Rodrigo Bentancur celebrates with Dejan Kulusevski after scoring against Leicester
Bentancur celebrates with Dejan Kulusevski after scoring against Leicester

All of that at the same time fulfills Conte’s strict tactical requirements.

“Above all, tactically, he likes his players to be in good positions. I think I learned that very well and I do it very well.

“He also asked us to never reduce the intensity of the game, that we try to always press and not allow the opponent to have the ball easily.

“Then he wants us to try to play our game, enjoy ourselves when we can. I think we’ve generally been doing that.”

Spurs third in the Premier League table and top of their Champions League group will attend Saturday’s meeting with Everton, which is live on Sports skybut their progress was tragically interrupted last week by the death of 61-year-old fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone, a prominent member of Conte’s coaching staff.

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Harry Kane dedicated Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Brighton to Gian Piero Ventrone

Bentancur said: “He is a wonderful person. “In the short time we shared together, he has helped us a lot, on a personal as well as a professional level. He always has advice to give, whoever he is. are talking, and the truth is very loud, blowing for all of us.

“For now, we hope he rests in peace. All our victories will go to him.”

Several Spurs players have raved about Ventrone since his death, but few embody the Italian ‘no limits’ philosophy quite like Bentancur’s relentless hard work.

Last season, in Tottenham’s thrilling 3-2 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, he became one of only three Premier League players, the other being teammate Kulusevski, to run more than 13km in one single match throughout the campaign.

Rodrigo Bentancur ran more than 13km in Tottenham's 3-2 win over Man City
Bentancur ran more than 13km in Tottenham’s 3-2 win over Man City

“I’m a player who likes to run more in games than in training,” he said with a smile, “but Gian Piero did an extraordinary job with us. We suffered. in pre-season, ran a lot, but now you can see the benefits of that work.”

Indeed, Bentancur and Kulusevski are not the only ones to have crossed great distances.

In fact, as a collective, Tottenham have covered more than any other team in the Premier League this season, crossing the 1,000km mark in a 1-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.

Bentancur added: “All of that is thanks to Gian Piero. “Now we enter the second half of the game and we always feel stronger. He is an outstanding person and he will always be in our hearts.”

Tottenham have risen from sixth to first for the distance covered this season
Tottenham have risen from sixth to first for the distance covered this season

Bentancur’s physical abilities are matched by impressive mental strength. Last season, Conte described his “winning mentality” as one of his best attributes. So, where does it come from?

“I think playing for a team like Boca Juniors, one of the best in South America, teaches you that,” he replied. “Then at Juventus I entered a club full of incredible players, legends, people who won everything and went on to win everything.

“But that’s also how we were raised from childhood as young players in South America. Football is the game they teach us to play, but above all, you have arrive Victory“So it’s more than a game?” That’s it,” he laughs. That’s the mentality we grew up with. “

It’s just one of many reasons why Bentancur is so important, so fast for Conte and Spurs. “I feel very good, I’m happy in my personal life and I think that shows on the pitch,” he said.

“Now, it’s just continuing the same way.”

Watch Tottenham vs Everton live on Sky Sports Premier League from 16:30 on Saturday; start at 5:30pm


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