Real Madrid's secret weapon that Mourinho hopes will bring down Manchester City… and it is designed by and Englishman
01:45 GMT, 21 November 2012
Aqua man: A mock up of Cristiano Ronaldo wearing the suit
Jose Mourinho calls it Real Madrid’s secret weapon, the Spanish press label it the club’s ‘fourth kit’
It will not be visible to the Manchester City players at the Etihad on Wednesday but Cristiano Ronaldo and co can attest to its effectiveness. What’s more, it’s been designed by an Englishman.
Terry Nelson, a youth player at Liverpool when the club were conquering Europe in the late 70s, has created a buoyancy suit which allows players to train in the water even when injuries have stopped them running on land.
The TNAR Mk X6 – to give its full title – is a body suit made from nylon, lycra and strategically-placed foam padding, which lifts the wearer into the necessary position for exercise in the swimming pool.
Users float, meaning there is no impact on the ground and pressure is relieved from aches and pains that might otherwise curtail a session on an unforgiving pitch.
‘I designed it for training in the water so your feet don’t touch the floor,’ Nelson, 50 told Sportsmail. ‘The suit keeps you upright in the correct biomechanical running position. Anyone who’s got an injury can now run and train and sprint and do all the things they can’t do on land.’
Nelson came up with the idea two years ago after growing tired of floatation bands he used when training with a broken metatarsal. He made contact with Real Madrid through the British Embassy in Spain 18 months ago and the club’s medical staff subsequently helped develop it.
Mourinho gave the thumbs up for players to use the suits in May and they have been worn since the start of the season.
‘I worked with the medical staff and the physios rather than the manager but the manager’s got to like the suits. Ronaldo and Kaka and all the players were there for my talks. You see them using the suits and you have a little chat.
‘Football players can be very particular. They want to play, they don’t really want to go in the pool. But the feedback we get from the manager is that they like wearing the suits, it gives them a feel good factor.’
He added: ‘It brings the players back quicker from injury. They don’t have to rest, they can run very early in their recovery. If you think of Ronaldo, for example, he’s on 300,000 a week. If he comes back two weeks earlier then that’s a lot of money saved by the club.
How it works: The suit helps players train in the water
‘The suit is nylon on lycra with foam pads inside. We call it an exosuit. It’s an extension of muscles groups in your body. It’s like a six pack at the front. On the back, the pads are placed to represent muscle groups in your back, giving support. It’s bigger surface are rather than weight, so that makes it harder to run in the pool but it doesn’t injure you.
‘When Wayne Rooney broke his metatarsal, he wouldn’t have been able to put anything on that foot. Now Wayne could take that cast off his leg, get off his crutches and run. That’s what Real Madrid do.’
Diego Maradona was given a training session by Nelson in Dubai before he lost his job and the Argentinian was so enamoured he wrote a letter of endorsement to Liverpool, who have now also ordered the kit.
‘He’s got very bad knees, he waddles when he walks,’ said Nelson. ‘But in the pool he was sprinting like he did for Argentina. It took him back 20 years. It changed his life.’
Fan: Former Argentina manager Diego Maradona is a fan of the suit
The next time an injured England player joins up with the squad at Burton he will be given a suit to train in too as the Football Association have bought 25.
TERRY NELSON’S UPLIFTING STORY IN HIS OWN WORDS
The suit comes from a lot of illness and injury. I played for Liverpool for three and a half years between 1977 and 1981. But that ended through a groin injury.
After a couple of years I went into the Paratroopers but that was ended by kidney failure. My military career was over. I had a transplant and entered the British athletics championships for people with transplants in 1993 and won gold for the 5000m.
Before the following world championships I broke my foot badly with a metatarsal injury so I couldn’t train. But I ordered these floatation belts from the United States and ran in the pool for six weeks. My foot healed and I went to Canada and won gold again.
Then I fell ill, my transplant failed. I spent 12 years in hospital six days a week on kidney dialysis. In those six days to keep myself well, my heart good, I was in a wheelchair I used to go to the pool and jog in the water. It was like groundhog day.
I had my second transplant and I’m really well now. I spent two years in the United States learning technical skills then came back but the belt wasn’t enough. That’s when I developed the suit.
I had my leg amputated below the knee in December last year – it was connected to the kidney failure – so I’ve got a carbon fibre leg now and I still run in the pool. It hasn’t stopped me.
All my experience I pass on to the players – don’t get down, you can train.
Bizarrely, Hollywood has called as well. A boxing connection put Mickey Rourke in touch and he is having one made so he can train for an upcoming movie role, with Nelson flying out to Bel Air to assist.
Nelson designed the suit after a lifetime of injuries and illness. He had to quit Liverpool and say goodbye to fellow youth-team members Sammy Lee and Dave Watson in 1981 after sustaining a groin injury.
He joined the paratroopers but was forced to end his career after being diagnosed with kidney failure. After a transplant he won gold at world championships open specifically for those in his situation and during this time discovered the US-manufactured floatation bands.
But his transplant failed and he spent 12 years in hospital on dialysis before having a second successful operation. His son would push his wheelchair to the pool so he could keep his heart in check.
Once out and healthy, he determined to make a product which could not only enable footballers to keep training when injured but also lift their spirits.
‘They have a freedom,’ said Nelson. ‘It rejuvenates their mind as well, because players can get very down if they can’t run.
‘But the suit’s not just for injuries, it can be used when fit. It’s a conditioning suit too.
‘Let’s say we have a player coming to the end of their career – rather than going out on a wet windy training ground, a couple of sessions in the pool helps keep the player’s knees in better condition. And the career could last longer as there’s no impact.’
Roberto Mancini might feel the last thing Madrid’s galaxy of stars need is a special suit of armour.
P.S. At least one Manchester City player owns a suit. Diego Maradona is a big fan and he ordered a dozen for friends and family, including son-in-law Sergio Aguero.