Julian Nagelsmann: 10 things on Hoffenheim’s prodigious young coach
Despite earning the nickname ‘Baby Mourinho’ early on in his coaching career, Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann has shown he’s very much his own man since taking over the reins at the Sinsheim club in 2016.
Having celebrated his two-year anniversary at the helm with a 4-2 victory over Mainz on Matchday 22 of 2017/18, bundesliga.com shines the spotlight on the coaching prodigy…
1) Record breaker
Nagelsmann was just 28 when he was appointed as head coach of Hoffenheim in February 2016, taking over from veteran tactician Huub Stevens, who resigned due to health reasons. Nagelsmann was already scheduled to take charge later that summer, but brought forward his arrival to fill the void. The club were in 17th place and seemingly set to go down at the time, but he lifted them to safety by the end of the campaign.
Although Nagelsmann is the youngest permanent head coach in Bundesliga history, he is not the youngest ever to oversee a Bundesliga match. On 23 October 1976, Bernd Stöber took charge of Saarbrücken in an interim capacity for their trip to Cologne, aged 24. Die Molschder lost the game 5-1.
2) Injury heartache
Born in the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, Nagelsmann played for 1860 Munich’s youth sides. While former team-mates Christian Träsch and Fabian Johnson went on to establish themselves in the Bundesliga, a knee injury sustained shortly after he had joined Augsburg cruelly ended Nagelsmann’s ambitions of joining them, aged just 20. “At first, I didn’t want anything more to do with football,” Nagelsmann, a defender in his playing days, said. “It was very sad for me that I had to end my career so young.”
3) Training-ground innovator
Hoffenheim are already one of the few clubs in the world to use the ‘Footbonaut‘ to fine-tune their players’ touch and control, but Nagelsmann has taken the use of technology in training even further. As well as using drones to film his squad’s movement, he had a giant videowall installed on the halfway line of their main training pitch.
The system works with four cameras, two from a tower high above the halfway line and one behind each goal. The feed from each camera can be shown on the screen at any time and the cameras are controlled by the training staff, giving them the opportunity to stop, rewind or fast-forward the footage to show the players particular points of interest. It gives Nagelsmann the chance to explain situations in far more detail with four angles at his disposal.
4) Famous role models
Those triumphs may in part be down to his admiration for some illustrious coaching colleagues. Though Nagelsmann cites former Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola as a source of inspiration, he acknowledges erstwhile Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel as having the biggest influence on him. While Augsburg reserve team coach during the 2007/08 season, Tuchel gave Nagelsmann the task of scouting upcoming opponents. “That was my way into coaching,” Nagelsmann explained. “I learned a lot from him.”
Tuchel was equally complimentary of his young protege. “He’s a very inquisitive and very hardworking young coach,” he said at the time of Nagelsmann’s appointment. “He enjoyed exceptional successes in youth football. I’m very happy for him and I believe in him.”
5) Social media abstinence
Unlike most people of his generation, Nagelsmann has no social media presence. That is not to say he hasn’t dabbled with accounts on various platforms, though. Shortly after being named Hoffenheim boss he opened official profiles on Instagram and Facebook, quickly amassing over 42,000 followers before shutting them down.
“As a coach, I don’t think you need to do social media,” said Nagelsmann’s agent Marc Kosiscke – who is incidentally also Jürgen Klopp’s advisor – in an interview with Die Welt. “Julian tried it for a bit because he wanted to see what the interaction was like. I didn’t think it was a bad idea because he’s part of a generation that uses it. But for him, you have to ask, what was the point?”
Unsurprisingly, there are shades of Tuchel, among others, in Nagelsmann’s rationale. “I like to attack the opponents near their own goal because your own way to the goal is not as long if you get the ball higher up,” he said. “I like the way Villarreal play and they have a great way of coaching young players. I also like Barcelona and Arsenal as well as the work of Arsene Wenger.”
Nagelsmann has long been a deep thinker. He started studying a business degree but dropped out before completing his bachelor’s degree in sports and training science instead. As if that were not enough, he was awarded an A grade in is professional coaching license, finishing second in his class behind current Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco. Furthermore, Nagelsmann’s know-how in the Hoffenheim dugout impressed Germany’s football community to such an extent that he was voted Coach of the Year for 2016.
7) ‘Du’ or ‘Sie’?
Finding the correct form of address for the word ‘you’ is always a bit of a conundrum in German given the social minefield of choosing between the informal ‘Du’ and the more respectful ‘Sie’. Keen to foster a strong collective and close-knit team spirit – as well as perhaps being aware that he is of the same generation as his players – Nagelsmann instructs his squad to use the former with him. He has also encouraged his men to take more responsibility, leaving it up to them to choose a club captain and set the club’s objectives at the start of the 2017/18 season.
In a telling sign of his growing standing in the game, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes gave Nagelsmann permission to use the ‘Du’ form with him in January 2018 in the wake of Bayern’s 5-2 win over Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena. Praise indeed from the usually reserved veteran Bayern strategist.
8) Family man
In the little free time his job affords him, Nagelsmann likes to unwind at home with his family: his long-term girlfriend Verena, with whom he has a young son called Maximilian. “It helps a lot when you come home at night and you’ve got a partner and a son,” he told German newspaper Bild. “Because the football of football often doesn’t feel real. Verena supports me a great deal and I can focus completely on my job.” As Nagelsmann comes from the area surrounding Munich he recently started building a house in the region, and the plan is for Verena and Maximilian to move in soon.
9) The Nagelsmann table
Such was the fascination with the young, rookie coach in the first year of his tenure that German media began keeping a ‘Nagelsmann table’, highlighting how his record stacked up against those of other clubs. While most outlets have long since given up keeping score, it still makes for impressive reading.
Over the course of 70 games between his debut on Matchday 21 in February 2016 and the fixture that marked his two-year anniversary in charge (a win over Mainz on Matchday 22), Hoffenheim have earned 116 points. To put that into context, only Bayern (173), and Dortmund (134) have won more over the same period, with big teams such as Bayer Leverkusen (104), Borussia Mönchengladbach (99) and Schalke (96) some way behind.
Watch: A closer look at Nagelsmann’s recent tactical wizardry
Nagelsmann’s success has not gone to his head, however. Quite the opposite in fact. In October 2017 he became the first head coach in world football to sign up to the Common Goal initiative, a project in which footballers pledge at least one per cent of their wages to a collective fund managed by Berlin-based non-governmental organisation streetfootballworld. He joins fellow Bundesliga representatives Mats Hummels, Serge Gnabry and Shinji Kagawa, among others, in signing up to the worthwhile cause.