Antonio Conte mourns passing of Gian Piero Ventrone
Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has opened up on the sudden passing of fitness coach and close friend Gian Piero Ventrone.
Spurs announced on Friday morning that Ventrone, nicknamed 'The Marine', had passed away at the age of 61 following a short illness.
Ventrone was a beloved member of the club's backroom staff and was close with several first-team players - Son Heung-min notably ran to him in celebration after scoring a hat-trick against Leicester last month.
Speaking after Spurs' hard-fought 1-0 win at Brighton on Saturday, Conte revealed Ventrone was concerned more about any absence harming the team rather than his own health.
"This is how he was. He was more worried about missing training than anything," Conte said.
"It was really difficult for everybody when I communicated the bad news to the players. We didn’t have a training session on Thursday because everybody was so emotional."
A first-half header from Harry Kane saw Spurs end Brighton's seven-match unbeaten run at the Amex Stadium - a streak which started off the back of Tottenham's triumph on the south coast back in March.
Conte added that he was full of admiration for his players for stepping up in such difficult conditions.
"I’m really proud about my players," he said. "I have said many times the most important thing in a player is that he is a good person. I think in this circumstance they showed themselves to be really a good person. I am proud to be the coach of this team. They are top men.
"I have to be honest, it was really difficult for us to be focused on the game. The situation hurt me a lot, the players were devastated. In only ten months I think Gian Piero really got to their heart. Life sometimes is not good.
"Gian Piero was a really strong person, with a strong character. He doesn’t want to see us not happy. But it is difficult to make him happy because we are devastated by the pain."
Conte and his Spurs players will attend Ventrone's funeral in Naples on Sunday. The club are planning further tributes to him ahead of their Champions League clash at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.