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The extraordinary rise of Julian Nagelsmann; the 29-year-old German coach of the year

Thursday 23rd March 2017

The appointment of Julian Nagelsmann as head coach of Bundesliga side, TSG Hoffenheim, undoubtedly unravelled another era in the beautiful game of football. Now in his second season at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, the 29-year-old has graduated from being the youngest coach in the history of the German league to the best in his country. 

Football management as we all know is a ruthless profession. The prerequisites for managing a professional team in Germany, a country known for producing excellent football players, coaches and systems, require individuals to undergo and complete a formal education in the game that usually harks back to a respectable career as a professional player. This plot, however, didn't play out in the case of Nagelsmann, who despite a failed playing career is now the finest manager in his country. We take a look at his remarkable journey to the summit of German football.

Early days

Julian Nagelsmann was born in 1987, a year after Sir Alex Ferguson was appointed coach of Manchester United and almost the same time Arsene Wenger took charge of Monaco. Just like many young lads from the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, Nagelsmann dreamt of becoming a footballer; and he did get his opportunity in the late 90's with FC Augsburg.

Brief playing career

Nagelsmann played as a centre-back for Augsburg and 1860 Munich at youth levels before persistent knee injuries cruelly ended his career in 2006. He retired from the game aged 19 without making a single senior club appearance. This was a bitter pill for him to swallow. He recalled his experience saying "at first, I didn't want anything more to do with football. It was very sad for me that I had to end my career so young".

Route to management

Nagelsmann seemingly didn't quit the game as intended and instead ventured into coaching. He returned to his former club, Augsburg, as reserve team coach in 2007 where he was given the task of scouting opponents by now Borussia Dortmund boss, Thomas Tuchel. This was subsequently followed by separate spells at 1860 München and Hoffenheim where he served as assistant and head coach of their U17 and U19 teams.

Success at youth level

As surprising as Hoffenheim's decision may appear at face value, it is based on football's undeniable proof of ability: silverware. After taking charge of the Sinsheim club's U19 side, Nagelsmann led them to the national title in his first season and finished runners-up at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.

Major Breakthrough

Nagelsmann exploits with the youth teams triggered his appointment as head coach of Hoffenheim in October 2015 and was due to begin his tenure at the beginning of the 2016/17 season. However, the resignation of Huub Stevens brought forward his tenure by almost six months with the club languishing in 17th position.

Extraordinary touch

Many had already written off Hoffenheim immediately when Nagelsmann was confirmed to be their next coach; owing to his inexperience at the highest level. But the gaffer, who was just 28 at that time, stunned them all by winning seven of their remaining 14 matches to finish a point above the relegation playoff spot. He achieved this in fascinating fashion; exhibiting beautiful attacking football to a very great extent. The young manager has obviously continued to impress this season with his team placed fourth in the Bundesliga, which would be enough to secure a play-off for the Champions League if they can remain there until the end of the season.

Coaching philosophy

Beyond his youthful grin and side-swept blonde hair, Julian Nagelsmann is a true student of the game. Defying doubters and proving himself week in and week out. For a manager who cites Arsène Wenger, Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho, and the great Johan Cruyff as his influential manager models, Nagelsmann's tactics suggest he is a lithe blend of them all in the making.

Nagelsmann said: "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 FC Barcelona and Arsenal as well as the work of Arsene Wenger."

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 


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