Julian Nagelsmann claimed he wanted “Maximum success” at Bayern Munich this season, at his official unveiling in June: a rather robotic ambition. Like PSG, league glory is merely considered par for the 34-time German champions – performing well in the Champions League is what matters.
To make things even trickier for Nagelsmann, however, the former RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim coach has the unenviable task of following Hansi Flick into the Allianz Arena dugout. The new Germany boss won five major trophies in just 19 months, including two Bundesligas, the Champions League, DFB-Pokal and Club World Cup.
Yet there’s a suspicion that if anyone can take this team up a level, it’s Nagelsmann.
The 34-year-old’s – yep, he’s still only 34 – tactical flexibility and development of young players have been widely lauded; Timo Werner and Serge Gnabry, for example, greatly improved under his guidance at Leipzig and Hoffenheim respectively.
His teams regularly shift systems, while he deployed an unorthodox (but highly effective) 4-2-2-2 in Europe at Leipzig on numerous occasions. His players have spoken of his meticulous preparation: Nagelsmann had enormous screens erected around both sides’ training pitches so he could record sessions and stop play, to show his players where they needed to improve positionally.
While the Bavarian failed to mount a genuine title challenge during his two years in Leipzig, he did take the underdogs to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019/20. Nagelsmann’s reputation as one of the brightest young coaches in world football meant Bayern had to cough up serious cash to pinch him this summer: €25m according to some reports, though the club dispute that figure.
And yet this still feels like a period of vulnerable transition for Bayern. There’s a new CEO in former keeper Oliver Kahn, plus changes among the playing personnel – Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Javi Martinez, defensive stalwarts who racked up more than 1,000 appearances in a glittering decade for the club, are all gone.
Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano has been signed in their place for €42.5m, with the 22-year-old Frenchman boasting bags of potential but also mighty boots to fill. Meanwhile, Englishman Omar Richards is a likely understudy to Alphonso Davies at left-back after joining from Reading with no previous top-flight experience.
Getting those new arrivals up to speed, rewiring Leroy Sané into the free-spirited force he was at Manchester City, and continuing to fuel the sensational Thomas Muller-Robert Lewandowski frontline could be the key factors to success in Nagelsmann’s debut campaign.
It won’t be easy – but then neither should “maximum success” be...
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