Q&A with Sport Careers Agency Client Juan Jose Jimenez Barroca - Head of Medical Staff at Shanghai Greenland Shenhua
- UEFA Europa League winner on his time working in Spain with Sevilla
- Head of Medical Staff at Shanghai Greenland Shenhua provides insight into the football culture in China
- With advances in sports medicine being made at an ever increasing rate, how has it impacted elite level football
You were part of a hugely successful Sevilla team as Head of Medical Staff / First Team Doctor when they won the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League and 2009/10 Copa del Rey. What was it like at the club during this period?
For me, it was very special being part of finals in European and Spanish competition and actually winning some of them. I began at Sevilla in 2007, so after more than seven seasons it was more than a football club for me.
After winning the UEFA Europe League I received an offer from a Chinese club - an ambitious project and exciting experience. With the respect of Sevilla, I decided to go for a new target in my life and in these two years I've tried to show here everything that I learned at Sevilla.
That club is obviously your current one - Shanghai Greenland Shenhua. How have you found the transition to China and its developing league since moving to Shanghai?
Competition in Chinese football is developing step by step. In the last two years the investment made by clubs is bigger than a lot of leagues in Europe, and several foreign players have joined in the prime of their careers.
The medical staff try to combine Chinese traditional medicine with cutting edge sports medicine, and that concept need more years of growth and refinement. We are improving the medical conditions every day though and we are very happy with the results.
The growth of football in China is obviously a huge point of interest now with clubs rivalling traditional European giants for players. What though have you found to be the biggest differences in football culture between China and Spain?
In Spain football is inside the culture of the country. Every child has played football and has their favourite football team. Here in China football has begun to play more of an important cultural role over the past three or four years, but it will be many more years until it is as connected as in Spain.
The structure of the clubs is another difference. To reach the order and professionalism of the best football clubs in Europe, the Chinese clubs have to work hard for the next few years as they have done over the last three.
You've mentioned how Chinese clubs are attempting to combine different approaches to medicine. How do you think the advances in sports medicine have impacted football at the highest level?
It wasn't long ago that the club's investment was principally on signing players, but now directors understand the significance of having a highly qualified staff.
The medical staff must be as professional as possible because it's become clear to everyone that the players must be at 100% in terms of their conditioning to help their teams reach their targets.
Players cost millions and millions of pounds to the clubs, and to maximise the value and return on this investment the medical staff need to take professional care of them.
We are improving our methods and knowledge each season because elite sports - not just football - demand this. The contribution of medical staff is really important nowadays at the highest level and it will only continue increasing.
I think you're definitely seeing the impact that sports science and medical support plays on team performance more and more. The aspect that most people probably don't appreciate is keeping the players motivated through any injuries or medically based training. How much importance do you place on your relationships with players, and how have you managed this with an international group?
There are two critical factors: confidence and being true with your information.
The player has to receive from true information clearly from their doctors, and if you have his confidence in you then the player will work hard to return in the dates that you have estimated.
Being open and honest is always the best way, however you don't have to use this confidence for over-protection.
The player will demand to play football and the team needs performance, so you have to prepare the player during the rehabilitation process for the rigours of competition, instead of just getting rid of their pain.
In an international group you have to break down the language barriers. Here in China we have personal translators and that makes it easier, but we have to learn the Chinese language and customs to show them that we are adapting, as this will build their confidence in us.
Getting players back when the team really needs them must be a constant pressure. How do you balance the needs of the team with the needs of the individual player?
This is the most difficult part of my job. You must have the full confidence of not only the player, but also the coaching staff. If they trust you, you can balance this fluently.
If the coaching staff appreciate how hard the medical staff are working with the player and the sacrifice that he is making each day, then they understand that you don't need additional pressure to reach club objectives because all the hard work that the player is putting in is to try and help the team.
In order to help you get players back fully fit and ready to play, I know you have worked pro-actively to network with other doctors and sports medicine experts across the world. How have you been able to build this global network of contacts in the industry, and how has this helped in supporting your teams?
Working at Sevilla has opened many doors to me. When you work in this kind of club you have to visit some of the best clinics of the world and I've learned from some of the best professionals in sport medicine, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, and then put this in practice.
I've used all the knowledge available to me to help achieve the best performance of my clubs, and when any player needs a specific specialist or test my global network has been decisive for his health.
What are your future ambitions in the game?
This year Shenhua have reached the AFC Champions League for the first time in nine years, so initially I want to help build on this success.
I want to continue for several years exploring new cultures and countries within ambitious football projects before returning home and the football league in Spain. Asia, Europe, America...I will explore any option to gain experience in new competitions and help new teams reach their targets.