If Kevin de Bruyne and Vincent Kompany play for Manchester City on Wednesday night at the Nou Camp, they will owe a debt to one of Barcelona’s most famous sons. Not just Pep Guardiola, their manager, but Dr Ramon Cugat, the orthopaedic surgeon and arguably the most in-demand doctor in European football.
Dr Cugat grew up in Barcelona, briefly played for the football team in his youth before studying at the medical school in the city. He is now based at Barcelona’s Quironsalud hospital. That is where Guardiola sent De Bruyne and Kompany in September, trying to get them ready in time for the game in the Nou Camp tonight.
It was no surprise at all that Guardiola sent two of his best players to the man he has described as “the best doctor in the world”. Back in June, when Guardiola was between jobs, Dr Cugat was inducted into the prestigious Real Academia Europea de Doctores at an event in Barcelona. Guardiola was there at the ceremony, along with Barcelona legend Xavi, former Brighton and Watford manager Oscar Garcia, and another City player, Pablo Zabaleta.
The event was star-studded enough, but if every player with a debt to Dr Cugat had attended, it would have been even more so. Almost every big Spanish or Spanish-based player with knee or muscle problems has sought out his help, including, but certainly not limited to, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres.
His most famous and most important client, though, is Guardiola. In the late 1990s, Guardiola, who should have been at the peak of his powers, was let down by repeated hamstring problems. The doctors at Barcelona could not solve the problem, and Guardiola missed more than one year of football, including the 1998 World Cup. There was no obvious solution so Guardiola went over the heads of club staff and coach Louis van Gaal to Dr Cugat, who solved the problem with his biceps femoris muscle.
From that point on the two have been very close, and Barcelona players were often sent to Dr Cugat when Guardiola became coach in 2008. There were moves to appoint Dr Cugat as the official doctor of the club he played for almost 40 years before, but he always insisted that he wanted to keep his independence.
Through Pep Guardiola, his brother Pere came to know Dr Cugat too. When clients of his have problems, they are often sent to the same man. So it was with Jon Toral, the midfielder who arrived at Arsenal from Barcelona aged 16 in 2011, with a problem in his knee. The lateral meniscus was too lax in Toral’s right knee and he needed four operations between the ages of 16 and 18 to solve the problem. He has now been playing injury-free for the last few years, and this year is on loan to Granada.
Then last November when Arsenal team-mate Santi Cazorla ruptured his knee ligaments facing Norwich City, he was sent to Dr Cugat for the operation. He is now back at his best.
Loyalty to his favoured doctor is not always easy for Guardiola. At Bayern Munich he wanted Thiago Alcantara to see Dr Cugat given his long-standing knee problem. Bayern staff wanted Thiago to see their own man Dr Hans Muller-Wohlfahrt instead. There will be no such disputes at City, where Guardiola already has his friends in high places. Dr Cugat’s friend and colleague Dr Eduardo Mauri is joining the club’s staff.Reuse content