Lothar Matthaus on coaches

English man­agers of­ten strug­gle for op­por­tu­ni­ties, but things are dif­fer­ent in Ger­many. FFT’S colum­nist ex­plains why young coaches have be­come a fash­ion state­ment in the Bun­desliga

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When I first started as a coach, my aim was to work in the Bun­desliga. Coach­ing wasn’t too easy at first. As a player I worked with Franz Beck­en­bauer and he ex­pected that we would be as good as he’d been as a player. Maybe some­times he ex­pected too much. At the be­gin­ning of my coach­ing ca­reer, maybe it was the same. I was think­ing: ‘For me ev­ery­thing was easy, why can’t my play­ers do it as well?’ You re­alise that you have to help them get to that level. That’s your job.

In the end I never had the chance to coach at a big club or in the Bun­desliga, but I’m not un­happy with my time as a man­ager. Sure, maybe I ex­pected a lit­tle bit more, and maybe ev­ery­body ex­pected the same be­cause of my name. But when you don’t have the play­ers or the money, it’s dif­fi­cult. I al­ways gave my best.

I worked at clubs with good names like Rapid Vi­enna and Par­ti­zan Bel­grade, as well as the Hun­gar­ian na­tional team. I’ve never heard a bad word from for­mer play­ers from any of the teams I man­aged. Ev­ery­where I worked, I am wel­comed back – OK, maybe not by the club but by the city. When I go back to Bel­grade, for in­stance, they’re all happy to see me. We reached the Cham­pi­ons League there and won the league, so I had my re­sults as a man­ager, if not at the high­est level. But it’s not just about ti­tles: it’s about teach­ing young play­ers and mak­ing them bet­ter.

That’s some­thing a lot of young Ger­man man­agers are do­ing very well at the mo­ment. Ju­lian Nagels­mann is the best ex­am­ple: he was 28 when Hof­fen­heim be­lieved in him and made him man­ager and he’s done a fan­tas­tic job – tak­ing the club from re­ally close to rel­e­ga­tion, all the way to Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion. Hof­fen­heim’s strat­egy is mostly fo­cused on young play­ers, and maybe a younger coach un­der­stands young play­ers bet­ter than a coach who could be their fa­ther or grand­fa­ther.

Nagels­mann had coached the club’s youth sides for five or six years be­fore he took charge of the first team, and in Ger­many there’s a sys­tem now where they be­lieve in younger coaches. Due to Nagels­mann’s suc­cess, it’s the fash­ion now and other clubs are fol­low­ing suit: Schalke ap­pointed Domenico Tedesco, who’s 32 and had been a youth coach; Werder Bre­men hired Alexan­der Nouri, who’s 38 and had been coach­ing the sec­ond team. We have got a lot of man­agers now who are un­der 40.

There are pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives to that: th­ese man­agers aren’t only work­ing with young play­ers. Some are su­per­stars and if the team is strug­gling, they might say: ‘Two years ago he was coach­ing the youth team, now he’s telling me what to do?’ But now you are see­ing man­agers who did well with the youth team and are start­ing to work with those same play­ers in the first team. That man­ager knows the men­tal­ity and strat­egy of the club. They have the feel­ing for what the club is about. In that way, the sys­tem can be an ad­van­tage. In Eng­land the sys­tem is dif­fer­ent, and at the top clubs there are only for­eign­ers! That’s strange, be­cause I’m sure Eng­land has good coaches, but the peo­ple who man­age the big­ger clubs have all had high-level re­sults pre­vi­ously. You can’t be the man­ager at a big club in Eng­land with­out big re­sults that get the at­ten­tion of the own­ers. That’s not quite the same in Ger­many: Borus­sia Dort­mund gave an op­por­tu­nity to Pe­ter Bosz af­ter he did a good job at Ajax for one sea­son. RB Leipzig have Ralph Hasen­huttl, a boss who fol­lowed the men­tal­ity of the club – fo­cus­ing on young play­ers, like Hof­fen­heim. With that phi­los­o­phy, they’ve been do­ing very well. Hav­ing said that, Bosz is Dutch, Hasen­huttl is Aus­trian and Carlo Ancelotti at Bay­ern Mu­nich is Ital­ian, so the only Ger­man man­ager in the Cham­pi­ons League is Jur­gen Klopp. Liver­pool have done well un­der Klopp – they can’t get a bet­ter coach than him. And David Wag­ner has also done a great job with Hud­der­s­field. For me, Hud­der­s­field go­ing up to the Pre­mier League was prob­a­bly the sec­ond big­gest sur­prise in the his­tory of English foot­ball, af­ter Le­ices­ter win­ning the ti­tle.

The sta­tus of Ger­man coaches is high out­side Ger­many right now – even higher than in­side Ger­many. Of­ten you’re noth­ing in your home coun­try. Boris Becker is a le­gend in Eng­land and I am a hero in Italy, but in Ger­many it’s dif­fer­ent. We have good coaches in Ger­many and the way we teach them is good – many coun­tries look to Ger­many. They visit and want to learn from us. I see a lot of great po­ten­tial in Ger­man coach­ing right now.


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