NAGELSMANN THE PICK

‘Mini Mour­inho’ named Ger­many coach of year

New Straits Times - - Sport - HORST HRUBESCH

BER­LIN

HOFFENHEIM’S Ju­lian Nagelsmann, 29, the youngest head coach in Bun­desliga his­tory, has been named coach of 2016 in Ger­many.

The Ger­man FA (DFB) award is just deserts for the work Nagelsmann did by keep­ing Hoffenheim up last sea­son, then turn­ing them into ti­tle chal­lengers.

He joins the likes of Borus­sia Dort­mund’s Thomas Tuchel and Bay­ern Mu­nich’s as­sis­tant coach Hermann Ger­land, who were named Ger­many’s coach of the year in times gone by.

“This has come quickly, but that’s typ­i­cal of him,” said Horst Hrubesch, the DFB’s di­rec­tor of sport.

“Ju­lian Nagelsmann is a great ex­am­ple of some of the tal­ented young coaches we have in Ger­many.”

Hoffenheim were the last team, in any of Europe’s top leagues, to be beaten this sea­son and un­der Nagelsmann’s steer­age they cur­rently sit fourth and are chal­leng­ing for a Cham­pi­ons League place for 2017/18.

Eye­brows were raised in Fe­bru­ary 2016 when Nagelsmann, then aged just 28, was made head coach of Hoffenheim.

The ap­point­ment was a “a crazy idea“, mused the Frank­furter Rund­schau daily, while Hoffenheim’s lo­cal pa­per branded it a “PR gag.”

His only pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence as a head coach had been of the club’s Un­der-19 side, whom he led to the 2014 Ger­man age-group ti­tle, even though he was less than 10 years older than his play­ers.

But af­ter pre­de­ces­sor Huub Stevens walked away due to heart prob­lems, a dras­tic rem­edy was needed for Hoffenheim’s po­si­tion in Ger­many’s top flight — 17th and sec­ond from bot­tom.

Nagelsmann se­cured a point in his first game with a 1-1 draw at Bre­men and kept Hoffenheim up by the skin of their col­lec­tive teeth last sea­son.

They have been a rev­e­la­tion this cam­paign and man­aged a 1-1 draw at run­away league lead­ers Bay­ern Mu­nich last Novem­ber.

Nagelsmann has demon­strated a ma­tu­rity be­yond his years.

When Bayer Lev­erkusen’s coach Roger Sch­midt, 49, be­rated him dur­ing Hoffenheim’s 3-0 last Oc­to­ber, the younger man kept his head while the el­der one lost his — and was sub­se­quently fined by the DFB.

“Kiss my a**e. Do you think you in­vented foot­ball?” bel­lowed Sch­midt in Nagelsmann’s di­rec­tion on the side­lines.

What Nagelsmann has in­vented is a win­ning for­mula for Hoffenheim.

He does not shy from tak­ing risks.

With Hoffenheim lead­ing 1-0 against Hertha Ber­lin in Oc­to­ber, Nagelsmann turned to his bench in the last five min­utes.

He opted not to pro­tect the slen­der lead, but to try to dou­ble it with a three-man at­tack, swap­ping striker Adam Sza­lai for a mid­fielder.

The gam­ble paid off, Hoffenheim won 1-0 to leapfrog Hertha in the ta­ble.

A knee in­jury in 2008 while play­ing for Augs­burg’s re­serves ended Nagelsmann’s play­ing ca­reer aged 20 be­fore it re­ally got go­ing.

Dort­mund’s Tuchel, who trained Augs­burg’s ju­nior side at the time, saw his po­ten­tial and had Nagelsmann scout op­pos­ing teams be­fore giv­ing him a job as as­sis­tant coach to the youth team.

Stints coach­ing the youth teams at 1860 Mu­nich and Hoffenheim fol­lowed.

Nagelsmann led Hoffenheim’s Un­der-19s to the 2013-14 Ger­man cham­pi­onship ti­tle, and the fi­nal the fol­low­ing year, which put him on Bay­ern Mu­nich’s radar.

Bay­ern made him an of­fer to coach one of their ju­nior teams, but he turned them down, pre­fer­ring

Ju­lian Nagelsmann is a great ex­am­ple of some of the tal­ented young coaches we have in Ger­many.

to con­tinue learn­ing at Hoffenheim rather than the pres­surised en­vi­ron­ment of Bay­ern, who de­mand suc­cess.

Com­par­isons have been made to Jose Mour­inho, who re­ceived his first break aged 29, work­ing with en-Eng­land coach Bobby Rob­son at Sport­ing Lis­bon, and it was ex-Ger­many goal­keeper Tim Wiese who nick­named Nagelsmann “Mini Mour­inho” when they worked to­gether in Hoffenheim’s re­serves.

Hav­ing stud­ied busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore switch­ing to grad­u­ate with a de­gree in sports sci­ence, Nagelsmann qual­i­fied with the high­est pos­si­ble mark when earn­ing his Ger­man FA (DFB) coach­ing li­cence.

His suc­cess this sea­son has come with a squad which lost Ger­many’s Kevin Vol­land to Lev­erkusen, but signed Darm­stadt’s proven goal-scorer San­dro Wanger, who is knock­ing on the door of a Ger­many call-up, and un­com­pro­mis­ing mid­fielder Kerem Demir­bay from Dues­sel­dorf.

“There’s a hint of Cham­pi­ons League in the air,” mag­a­zine Kicker has com­mented.

Nagelsmann has man­aged to bring sus­tained suc­cess to Hoffenheim, who fin­ished the first half of the 2008/09 sea­son top of the ta­ble — their high­est plac­ing to date — only to fin­ish seventh.

And club backer Di­et­mar Hopp is aware Hoffenheim may not keep Nagelsmann past 2019, when his con­tract ex­pires.

“It looks as, for such a huge coach­ing tal­ent, the time will come when Hoffenheim will be­come too small for him,” said the 76-year-old bil­lion­aire soft­ware en­trepeneur. AFP

Hoffenheim coach Ju­lian Nagelsmann is the youngest in Bun­desliga his­tory to be named coach of the year.

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