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Bayern Munich: The silent triumph of Julian Nagelsmann

  • April 13, 2023

Clearly, Julian Nagelsmann doesn’t feel the need to say anything.

His last public pronouncement on Twitter remains a post from March 9: three photographs of the aftermath of the Champions League last-16 second leg win over Paris Saint-Germain the day before; one of his Bayern Munich players, one of the fans, one of himself, posted without comment.

Two weeks later, he was out of a job and replaced by Thomas Tuchel. The reason, according to his superiors on Säbener Strasse, was that Bayern were in danger of failing to meet their season aims.

Another fortnight later, Tuchel’s Bayern are out of the German Cup and as good as out of the Champions League. Still, Nagelsmann is saying nothing. But others are talking about him.

‘A penny for Nagelsmann’s thoughts …’

“A penny for Julian Nagelsmann’s thoughts…” quipped the author of UEFA’s live ticker in the 82nd minute of Bayern’s quarterfinal first leg away at Manchester City, at which point the German champions were already 3-0 down. The author, a freelancer, now reportedly find himself in the same position as Nagelsmann: sacked.

Because, just as European football’s governing body seemingly tolerates no humor and no personality on its official channels, lest it be interpreted as bias one way of the other, so Bayern Munich don’t tolerate failure.

“I’ve experienced some unbelievable things in football,” said chief executive Oliver Kahn at the Bayern delegation’s post-match meal at Manchester’s luxury Kimpton Clocktower Hotel. And the former Bayern goalkeeper should know: it was his net into which Manchester United scored twice in injury time to dramatically win the 1999 Champions League final.

“We now have a responsibility to throw everything we have at the return leg.”

Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel: “The mountain isn’t too high. But it is high.”Image: Sascha Walther/Eibner-Pressefoto/picture alliance

Would Nagelsmann really have done any worse?

If Kahn’s words had an air of obligatory motivation in what is likely a hopeless situation, Tuchel himself sounded genuinely optimistic, saying he was “proud” of his players, “in love” with his team, after matching City for 60 minutes.

“It’s football, we have a home game, we’re a German team,” he grinned in a post-match interview. “We won’t give up until we’re under the shower after the game. I won’t have anyone tell me the mountain is too high. But it is high.”

It all begs the question: would Nagelsmann, with a 100% Champions League this season, second in the Bundesliga, and still in the German Cup, really have done any worse?

“That debate could be explosive,” admitted substitute Thomas Müller, who Tuchel had regularly consulted on the touchline in Manchester, before referring the question to the board.

Having only been in the job for two weeks, Tuchel’s own reputation will not have been unduly damaged by the baptism of fire in Munich.

But neither will that of Nagelsmann, still sat watching, silently.

This article was originally written in German and adapted by Matt Ford

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