Football writer Lee Price has been inside the highly secretive facility at Dortmund’s training ground, and reports back.
Liverpool have a new secret weapon – although everyone seems to know about it.
Trawling through the oceans of coverage devoted to Jürgen Klopp’s appointment at Anfield turns up various mentions of the mysterious tool the German is supposedly set to revolutionise the Reds with.
The futuristic-sounding footbonaut facility was one the keys of Dortmund’s success under Klopp, as they had just one of two in the world – the other belonging to Bundesliga rivals Hoffenheim.
But what exactly is it, and what does it do?
It doesn’t look like much from the outside – like a nondescript admin block on a university campus – but the €1.5million facility was crucial in Dortmund’s, and Germany’s, recent success.
Inside, it’s one large dark room, with a separate booth from which analysts watch on through a glass window.
In their eyeline is a turfed stage section, where players step up to be scientifically analysed as balls are fired at them from four different directions, at eight different heights, at varying speeds.
A sound effect indicates where your pass will arrive from, before a wall panel lights up for the player to shoot through.
In the background, realistic crowd sound effects are played to make it harder to hear audio cues, with the intention of replicating the match-day experience as closely as possible.
As the player goes through their drills, a coach watches on, iPad in hand, ready to offer immediate feedback.
Each performance is stored for future reference, and as a way to illustrate improvement.
Dortmund’s footbonaut, it is claimed, is where Germany’s World Cup winning goal last summer was developed – Dortmund academy product Mario Götze’s athletic volley against Argentina a carbon copy of what he refined in the facility.
When I went, I was shown by youth co-ordinator Eddy Boekamp, who told me: “Götze was the best at this – you could say that his goal in the World Cup final was made here. It was exactly the same.
“A ball coming in high, from an angle, and having to put it in a very precise position. He’s been training his whole life for that moment.”
It’s quite an incredible claim, but Boekamp has a point.
It may not be the literal nature of the control and pass repetition of the player so much as the attention to detail behind the scenes that is telling in the footbonaut’s benefits.
On a basic level, it can obviously improve technique, awareness, and accuracy – and it provides the next level of the visualisation process so favoured by top level footballers.
Perhaps surprisingly, although less so for those that know him, Wayne Rooney is amongst the highest profile advocates of daydreaming about his on-pitch exploits in the build-up to a game.
And, with the help of the footbonaut, Klopp may well be similarly keen for his players to think outside the box.
Lee’s book, The Bundelisga Blueprint, on the resurrection of German football, is available here: http://t.co/f2sWo5a5iK
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