Marco Rose? Domenico Tedesco? Or promotion from within? Hoffenheim have taken their time appointing a successor to Julian Nagelsmann and have opted for a relative unknown. So who is Alfred Schreuder?
Dutch side Ajax shocked world football two weeks ago when they won 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to knock reigning champions Real Madrid out of the Champions League. Coach Erik ten Hag took huge credit, as did his young team – the latest collection of products from the Amsterdam side's famed academy system.
But playing an equally important role on the sideline was ten Hag's assistant coach, Alfred Schreuder, the former assistant to Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim who is now set to return to the Bundesliga club as Nagelsmann's successor next season.
After leading Hoffenheim to fourth and third placed finishes in the Bundesliga, Nagelsmann has already agreed to join RB Leipzig in the summer where he will take over from another former Hoffenheim coach and sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.
Given the similar operating structures at SAP-backed Hoffenheim and within the collection of Red Bull franchises, many had considered Red Bull Salzburg coach Marco Rose a likely successor to Nagelsmann, with whom he shares a high-energy, high-pressing philosophy inherited from Rangnick.
Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann (r) will take over from Ralf Rangnick (l) at RB Leipzig next season.
Instead, Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp, who has financed Hoffenheim's rise to the Bundesliga to the tune of over €350m, has opted for 46-year-old Schreuder, who worked at the Kraichgau club between October 2015 and January 2018.
"Alfred Schreuder has already done excellent work in Hoffenheim and left a personal impression on us all, too," said Hopp, who holds a 96%-stake in the Bundesliga club after being granted an exemption from the 50+1 rule in 2015. "He has already proven that he stands for the same style of football as TSG Hoffenheim: brave, fresh and offensive."
Indeed, Schreuder himself makes so secret of the fact that his time spent working with Nagelsmann has shaped his subsequent career.
"I learnt an enormous amount from Julian," he told German tabloid BILD, "At Ajax, we try and set up our training sessions the way Julian does. Every week, we have a specific focus."
Alfred Schreuder was Julian Nagelsmann's assistant at Hoffenheim between February 2016 and January 2018.
A familiar face
Director of football Alexander Rosen said the early announcement of Nagelsmann's departure had given the club time and space to appoint a successor. Like Hopp, he said that Schreuder's familiarity with Hoffenheim was a deciding factor in offering the Dutchman a three-year contract.
"Alfred knows out structures and most of the team," said Rosen. "With his outstanding expertise and his strategic, clear and communicative style, he has also contributed greatly to the success of the club in recent years."
For Schreuder, a former midfielder who spent his playing career in the Netherlands, it will only be his second posting as head coach. He previously spent one season as head coach of Dutch side FC Twente but has otherwise been an assistant coach at Vitesse Arnhem as well as Hoffenheim and, this season, Ajax.
"During my first spell here, the whole region really grew on me, not just TSG," he said. "So I'm happy to be returning there with my family."