Thomas Tuchel: brilliant tactician with challenging streak
Welcomed with fanfare by Chelsea but then sacked just over a year later, Thomas Tuchel, who is returning to Germany as Bayern Munich’s new coach, is one of Europe’s most sought-after bosses but is not without controversy. The 49-year-old former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain coach has a reputation as a brilliant tactician who is not afraid to overhaul his side constantly.
But he also has a streak of sackings behind him — with a bad-tempered exit at Borussia Dortmund in 2017 followed by an acrimonious parting from PSG in December 2020, and most recently in September, a tumultous departure from Chelsea. Yet Tuchel’s turbulent CV has also shown that he has the capacity to bounce back to lead subsequent top-flight clubs.
The announcement Friday that he is taking over the reins at Bayern, Germany’s most successful club, from Julian Nagelsmann is yet another testimony of Tuchel’s employability. Tuchel is not interested in marketing, in his image. He is interested by his work, he just wants to be judged by his work and only that,” said Daniel Meuren, who wrote a biography on the German coach.
On the field, the verdict so far is unanimous — every club that Tuchel has handled has obtained results and play attractive football. He led Chelsea to Champions League glory, won two French titles with PSG and lifted the German Cup with Dortmund.
At once charismatic and prickly, Tuchel, by his own admission, can be a challenging personality. I wasn’t easy to deal with as a player,” he admitted in a 2009 interview. A knee injury cut short Tuchel’s playing career as a defender at third-division Ulm in 1998 and he turned his hand to coaching.
He cut his coaching teeth in the youth academies at VfB Stuttgart and Augsburg but his career took off at Mainz where he was promoted from Under-19s boss to first-team head coach two days before the start of the 2009-2010 season despite having no Bundesliga experience.
Like his role model, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Tuchel is not afraid to switch formation or tactics two or three times during a game, making it impossible for opposing coaches to second-guess him.
But he is also not shy about picking fights with club management. After a bomb attack that rocked Dortmund’s team ahead of a semi-final Champions League game in Madrid, Tuchel lashed out at the Bundesliga’s side’s bosses for agreeing to play the game a day later rather than give players more time to recover from the shock.
At Qatar-owned PSG, the central issue for Tuchel was his relationship with sporting director Leonardo, with whom he did not see eye to eye and who was eager to bring in his own man.
Tuchel was eventually pushed out, despite having won the Ligue 1 title in his first season and then, in 2019/20, he secured a clean sweep of domestic honours before reaching the Champions League final in Lisbon, where PSG lost narrowly to Bayern Munich.
Given his record, his relationship with Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and outspoken chairman and former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn will be closely scrutinised. After all, it was also Salihamidzic and Hansi Flick’s tense relationship that eventually led the former coach to leave Bayern to become Germany’s national coach in the summer of 2021.
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