The goalkeeper highlights the training regime under Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff, particularly through goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez, as the reason behind why he’s flourishing as he approaches his 34th birthday in October.
Michel was back for day one of pre-season 2017-18 on Monday knowing six weeks of hard work and he'll be in peak condition for day one of the Premier League. Just turn the clock back a year for the reason why – 35 minutes into our first game at Everton and he came off the bench for Hugo Lloris, who had suffered a hamstring injury. He started the next two games and went on to make 11 appearances last term.
Pre-season has changed dramatically during Michel’s career. Born in Nieuwegein, Holland, he signed his first professional contract at nearby FC Utrecht aged 17 in 2000.
“At that time in Utrecht, of course we had a goalkeeping coach and we did our bit, but we were also involved a lot with the outfield players, so when we went on a training camp and they were up at 7am to run, we had to run as well,” he recalled.
“That was a bit old school and I was struggling! One of the reasons I became a goalkeeper was not having to run as much!
“The game has changed over the years. This is my fourth pre-season at Tottenham, the work is detailed to what we need as goalkeepers. We do our running as well, just smaller distances. I know my body very well and every time you come back from holiday, you know what is ahead, especially with this manager and staff.
“It’s tough, but we know what’s coming. We need it. You only have to look at the amount of games we play and we have to be ready. I have to be ready if I’m called on as well and that happened a few times last season.
“It’s the same for the whole squad, everyone played a part last season and we’re one of the fittest teams in the Premier League. Pre-season is tough but it’s what we need because of the way we play and that starts on the training pitch."
Below: Taking the strain - Michel at work back at Hotspur Way
So was he finally starting to actually enjoy pre-season? Did he love it or hate it now?
“Love it? That’s never going to happen!” he smiled.
“After a few weeks of holiday you starting thinking ‘I need to do something’ and I did my bits and pieces over the last two weeks. That makes it easier. Everyone does that now, you have to. It’s a long and intense season and after a few weeks of rest, you need to start over again.
“That’s why I don’t say I love it, but I know I need this. Back in the day it would be more like...(sighs)...I’d be complaining, and now it’s more ‘let’s do it’ because it’s for our benefit.
“At times as a goalkeeper you can play games and you won’t have a lot to do, but here you always need to be ready, to be switched on. The way we play, we have to be alert all the time. It’s a challenge, especially mentally and even though I’m turning 34 in October, I’m still learning. It keeps you sharp. I’ve never been as fit as this in my whole career and that’s down to the manager and the coaching staff.
“Sometimes people don’t believe me, they say ‘are you 26, 27?’ but that’s how I feel. In the past I had a few injuries and I was thinking ‘come on, I’m only 26’ but now I’m almost 34 and I feel great. That’s down to the work we’ve done in the last few years. As I said, I don’t say I love it, but I need it and it’s certainly easier for me than when I was younger!”