If one believes the scuttlebutt, Hamburg are going all out to attract coach Thomas Tuchel. But would one of Germany's best young football minds want to subject himself to such a dysfunctional club?
A four-year contract, 3.2 million euros in annual salary and 25 million to spend on transfers. Those are the conditions, according to a report in the Bild newspaper, of the offer Hamburg have made to Tuchel.
Not everything printed in Germany's leading tabloid is true, of course, but in this case the rumors seem to have substance. A number of HSV bosses have confirmed that the club is interested in the 41-year-old and although Hamburg are cash-strapped, they have the backing of powerful investors who could indeed pony up the dosh to do a deal that would make the former Mainz man the highest-paid coach in the Bundesliga.
"The sponsors are tremendously loyal to the club…and are prepared to put a significant sum on the table without demanding anything in return," Hamburg supervisory board chairman Karl Gernandt told Northern German television on Monday.
Perhaps the clearest indication that Tuchel is in the picture is the fact that Hamburg chose to replace coach Joe Zinnbauer,fired two weeks ago
, with sports director Peter Knäbel - a move that screams temporary.
Tuchel shot to prominence in 2009 when he was lifted from the Mainz youth ranks to coach the first-team. The newly promoted club was tipped as a relegation candidate, but Tuchel established Mainz in the Bundesliga with an attractive brand of attacking football. In 2010, Tuchel equaled the then-record of seven victories to start a season. He abruptly resigned in June 2014, fuelling speculation he wanted to move to a bigger club.
On paper, Hamburg and Tuchel would seem to be a good fit. But much still needs to happen for their relationship to be consummated.
First things first
The first piece that needs to fall into place is Hamburg staying in the first division - not a given despite the fact that HSV is the only team to be part of the Bundesliga every year since its inception. Last year, the northern Germans only avoided the drop thanks to one away goal in the relegation playoff, and they're currently third-bottom in the league.
Hamburg are light years away from playing attacking Tuchel-style football at the moment, having the most toothless offense in the league. They have eight rounds to scrape through, but Knäbel has scant coaching experience, and Hamburg's remaining tests include Wolfsburg, Schalke, Leverkusen and - ironically - Mainz.
Hamburg are not set up for a relegation dogfight. The club's bosses made clear over the weekend that veterans like Rafael van der Vaart and Marcell Jansen will not be offered new contracts when their current deals expire at the end of the season, yet these are precisely the players who will be called upon to save HSV's bacon.
If Hamburg go down, Tuchel will go elsewhere, even if a second-division HSV could somehow afford his wages.
A match made in heaven - or hell?
Assuming Hamburg do beat the drop again, Tuchel will have to consider whether the potential of Germany's second-largest market outweighs the negatives of working for what is arguably the worst-run club in the Bundesliga.
Fans in the wealthy and cosmopolitan northern German city expect success, even though HSV have given them little of it in recent seasons. And rich investors, despite what they say publicly, mean influence and interference. Just ask any one of the nine non-interim coaches who have tried their luck - and failed - in Hamburg since 2007.
In Hamburg chairman Dietmar Beiersdorfer, Tuchel would have a proven football executive at his side. Hamburg's youth program continues to produce players, Heung-Min Son and Shkodran Mustafi being two recent examples. That combined with money for transfers could lay the basis for a Hamburg renaissance, presuming that HSV turn round their absurdly horrific sense for non-bargains of the past few years.
On the other hand, Hamburg have perennially been a club with too many generals and not enough foot-soldiers, which could create personality conflicts. Former Mainz goalkeeper Heinz Müller accused Tuchel of being a "dictator" at the beginning of this week in Bild. Even if that depiction is exaggerated or untrue, the sideline-pacing, referee-excoriating Tuchel is anything but the cool-and-collected personality a chaotic club like HSV would seem to require.
Hamburg could represent the big pay-day and step up in status Tuchel has likely been angling for since he quit the Mainz job. Conversely, Tuchel could be the dynamic mastermind who succeeds in finally restoring Hamburg's footballing identity and stopping the coaching merry-go-round.
Equally possibly, he could become the latest in a long-line of expensive Hamburg flops.