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Julian Nagelsmann
Julian Nagelsmann has enjoyed a meteoric riseImage: Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

Nagelsmann to replace Flick at Bayern

Max Merrill
April 27, 2021

Julian Nagelsmann has been named as the man to replace Hansi Flick's as Bayern Munich coach. Can Bayern justify a €30 million fee for the young RB Leipzig coach? And what can the champions expect?

https://p.dw.com/p/3saSh

With Hansi Flick pulling the plug on his outrageously successful tenure, Bayern Munich have appointed Julian Nagelsmann as his successor, after perusing a rather thin market of suitable coaches.

The Bundesliga's record champions have repeatedly insisted they prefer German-speaking coaches and also seem keen to steer clear of anyone capable of causing even the slightest bit of controversy, meaning Nagelsmann was the outstanding candidate.

"FC Bayern have appointed Julian Nagelsmann as their new head coach. The Bavarian-born 33-year-old will move to Munich from RB Leipzig on 1 July 2021 ahead of the new season, signing a five-year-contract with the German record champions until 30 June 2026," read the club statement.

"This comes after FC Bayern agreed to current head coach Hansi Flick’s request to have his contract terminated on 30 June 2021, two years earlier than its original expiry date."

However, Bayern's main title rivals this season reportedly didn't let Nagelsmann leave on the cheap. So why are Bayern convinced he's a coach worth the hassle? And what challenges will Nagelsmann face in his new job? 

Bayern's weak negotiating position 

Nagelsmann's contract with RB Leipzig ran until 2023 and, in contrast to many Bundesliga bosses, he did not have a release clause. German media outlets agree the potential transfer fee will likely be well over €15 million ($18 million), with some suggesting a whopping €30 million was required to seal the deal.

Julian Nagelsmann and Hans Dieter Flick
Hansi Flick (left) will be a tough act to follow at BayernImage: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture alliance

Nagelsmann had reportedly asked to leave but previously stated "I’m not going to start a war with my employer." Bayern's new appointment also means the DFB (German football association) will not have to pay a fee for their next coach, almost certain to be Flick,. The organization had previously said they would not pay for a coach contracted elsewhere.

Lack of alternatives 

The most Bayern had previously forked out for a coach is the €2.2 million they paid Eintracht Frankfurt to get Niko Kovac in 2018. It was his sacking after just over a year in charge which paved the way for Flick to take the reins in November 2019.

When Bayern promoted him from an assistant coach position, the decision had plenty to do with convenience and perhaps less to do with an impressive track record or coaching ethos. With Nagelsmann newly-installed at Leipzig at the time of Kovac's departure, names like Arsene Wenger and Jupp Heynckes were being touted. The field was even narrower this time.

Ajax coach Erik ten Hag was linked with the Bayern job during the last vacancy and, in addition to speaking German, actually coached the club's second team from 2013 to 2015. Despite seeming like the tailormade option and recently making it clear that he aims to coach in the Bundesliga soon, Bayern's bosses had their sights firmly set on Nagelsmann.

A cautionary tale

The closest thing to a precedent for this situation can be found in Andre Villas-Boas, the current world record-holder for biggest coaching transfer fee. Chelsea spent €15 million to bring him from Porto in 2011.

Aged 33 at the time, the same age as Nagelsmann is now, Villas-Boas lasted just 40 games until he was sacked, costing the club a grand total of over €55 million in fees and wages. The Portuguese coach had struggled to impose himself and his ideas on a Chelsea squad full of experienced players, many of whom were his senior.

Senior players tend to have a lot of power at Bayern
Senior players tend to have a lot of power at BayernImage: picture-alliance/SvenSimon/F. Hoermann

Nagelsmann could run into a similar problem at Bayern. His Hoffenheim and Leipzig sides were full of young, inexperienced players who were eager to improve and learn. Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez, two of the old guard, will be departing in the summer, but Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski remain and could present him with the type of resistance he has yet to face in his young managerial career. Nagelsmann has coached players who are older than him before, but none as established and authoritative as the aforementioned trio.  

Track record 

The highest accolade of Nagelsmann's young coaching career is the Under-19s Bundesliga title. His biggest achievement? Take your pick between leading RB Leipzig to a Champions League semifinal or guiding his previous club Hoffenheim to their first ever Champions League qualification.

While significant, such achievements pale in comparison to those of Müller, Neuer and co. However, Nagelsmann has upped his game each time he has performed on a bigger stage and has so far been able to adapt and grow in new situations.  

Tactical fit 

Nagelsmann has favored playing three-at-the-back but has also shown himself to be tactically versatile. In fact, in his first season in charge at Leipzig, he largely stuck to the narrow 4-2-2-2 employed by his predecessors Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhüttl, only starting to tinker after the first half of the season had come to an end.

This campaign, RB have mostly lined up in a 3-4-3, due in large part to it suiting the personnel he has available to him. Bayern do not have the type of attack-minded wing-backs he's currently coaching, with the exception of Alphonso Davies, so it looks more convenient for Nagelsmann to adapt to the 4-2-3-1 that Hansi Flick has favored— something he has demonstrably been capable of before.  

Squad balance

One area in which Nagelsmann is well-placed to succeed where other Bayern coaches have failed is getting the best out of the club's youth products. Louis van Gaal was the last man in charge to really help establish academy players as firm fixtures in the starting 11, the likes of David Alaba, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber all getting big breaks under the Dutchman.

Nagelsmann has never seen age as an issue, frequently fielding the league's youngest starting 11s. This should see him get on better with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic than Hansi Flick, who demanded more established signings.

Dayot Upamecano
Dayot Upamecano has already agreed to join Bayern at the end of the seasonImage: Sascha Steinbach/Pool/Getty Images

At both of Nagelsmann's previous employers, Hoffenheim and Leipzig, finished articles were rarely signed. Instead, Nagelsmann has had to make do with raw youngsters and often got the best out of them fairly quickly. With Jamal Musiala getting more first team football and Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano about to move to Bayern in the summer, Nagelsmann could look to herald in a new era, building a squad out of a mixture of homegrown stars and young, talented signings. That seems to be Bayern president Herbert Hainer's plan, who stated "Julian Nagelsmann represents a new generation of coaches. Despite his young age, he already has an impressive CV. We are convinced that with Julian Nagelsmann, we can continue the magnificent successes of recent years." Success he'll have to replicate with a more youth-oriented transfer policy. 

Familiar formula

Bayern presumably hoped Flick would see them through to 2023, by which time Nagelsmann would have been out of contract, ready for a new challenge and perfectly primed to take over in Munich. At this point in his career, he may not be ideally placed to take the reins at Säbener Strasse but he is unlikely to fall short of expectations, unless he faces a dressing room revolt.

All signs point to Nagelsmann's meteoric rise continuing. The deal also means the Bundesliga will fall back on two favored formulas: Bayern sign their competition's best asset and RB Leipzig snap up the best that Red Bull Salzburg have to offer. In this case coach Jesse Marsch. 

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