Bayern Munich’s shock decision to fire Julian Nagelsmann for Thomas Tuchel was made squarely with Borussia Dortmund, their opponents on Saturday, in mind.
Dortmund head to Munich one point clear of Bayern, with the visitors’ former manager Tuchel making his debut in the Bayern dugout.
Bayern pulled the trigger in the middle of the season in the hope of replicating their stunning success of 2019-20, when they did the same.
Hansi Flick, brought in to replace Niko Kovac with the club still fighting on three fronts, took Bayern to a memorable treble, while playing some of the most exciting football in the club’s history.
‘It’s a shame’
After punching above his weight at Mainz, Tuchel made his name as a top-level coach at Dortmund, following the path of his predecessor Jurgen Klopp.
Like at Chelsea, where he took a spluttering side to a Champions League final victory just four months after taking over, Tuchel had an immediate effect at Dortmund.
Winning his first five matches, Tuchel helped Dortmund push a Pep Guardiola-led Bayern all the way in 2015-16, chalking up 78 points, still the highest ever tally for a team in second.
Tuchel had Dortmund playing exciting and expansive football while remaining defensively stable.
Despite being Dortmund’s best coach in the post-Klopp era, Tuchel’s prickly nature and penchant for sparring with club bosses saw him out the door.
The break-up was as public as it was bitter.
Three days after coaching Dortmund to victory in the 2016-17 German Cup final, Tuchel, who had joined Twitter just hours earlier, tweeted “it’s a shame it won’t go any further.”
Just half an hour later, the club confirmed the worst-kept secret in German football. Tuchel would be let go from the club, with immediate effect.
After his dismissal, stories circulated of Tuchel butting heads with club bosses, upsetting the carefully constructed hierarchy which underpins German clubs with complaints about recruitment and player sales.
While little concrete has been established about his Dortmund exit — club boss Hans-Joachim Watzke said “welcome back to the Bundesliga, Thomas” immediately after news broke of his Bayern appointment — there is no dispute over Tuchel’s coaching prowess.
‘Not playing against Tuchel’
Costing Bayern a 25 million euro transfer fee, Nagelsmann arrived with the promise of “starting a new era” at the club, a rare long-term appointment at a club with a history of short-term managerial stints.
Less than two years later, Nagelsmann was sacked despite having a five-year deal, with club chiefs convinced the 35-year-old was not the right man for the job.
Dortmund Sporting Director Sebastian Kehl on Tuesday doubted the appointment would have much of an impact, telling German media “It’s not a game against Thomas Tuchel”.
“I don’t know if Bayern will be better on Saturday under Thomas Tuchel than with Julian Nagelsmann,” he said.
“Changing coaches is part of football.”
Pushing for their 11th straight Bundesliga title, Bayern will hope Tuchel’s record of having an immediate impact will ring true in the Bavarian capital, starting with a win over their rivals and a return to the Bundesliga summit.
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