Okay, okay, I know what you are about to say: slow your roll, jabroni!
Hear me out though before trying to burn me at the stake. Besides, I’m not even the first one to say it.
So! Let me present to you my reasons for why Domenico Tedesco, the new Schalke boss, is Julian Nagelsmann 2.0.
First, let us look at how we got here.
The trend with football managers is reduce, reuse, recycle:
Reduce the amount of time you are without a coach. Reuse the same techniques that found you managers in the past. Recycle coaches that have been around and see if they can resurrect your club.
The idea of looking at a young manager with little to no experience is largely frowned upon — it is seen as taboo, and barely anyone at boardroom level has the cojones to take the plunge on a younger manager, fearful that their own jobs will be on the line for sticking their neck out on an unknown.
Unlike young players, young managers are seen as risky ventures, not ones for the future.
Still, more and more teams – especially those not as blessed in the fortune department – have had to be resourceful, not only with the players they recruit, but also with their front office.
1899 Hoffenheim are the prime example.
Hoffenheim saw in young Julian Nagelsmann the potential to be great. What experience did Nagelsmann have prior to becoming Hoffenheim manager, you ask?
His playing career was cut short due to a persistent knee injury which forced him to retire after the 2007/08 season. Later that summer, he joined 1860 Munich as assistant to their U17 side, where he would remain through the 2010 season. He then moved to Hoffenheim to take up a similar role, doing well enough in his first two seasons that he was promoted to U17 manager for the 2011/12.
The Hoffenheim brass saw enough promise in Nagelsmann to promoted him to assistant manager of the senior squad for the 2012/13 season.
Several senior players were impressed with Nagelsmann’s work ethic and tactical wherewithal, including goalkeeper Tim Wiese, who nicknamed him “Mini-Mourinho”.
Following 2012/13, Nagelsmann was appointed manager of the U19 team and lead Hoffenheim to the 2014 title. Hoffenheim were so impressed with his progression that, in October 2015, he was given a three year extension and anointed the successor to then senior manager Huub Stevens.
Stevens ended up resigning from the Hoffenheim job just four months later, and on February 10th 2016, Nagelsmann was officially introduced as Hoffenheim’s new manager — the youngest in Bundesliga history.
Nagelsmann rescued Hoffenheim from relegation that season, but it wasn’t until 2016/17 that the world really took notice of him.
He lead Hoffenheim to an astonishing 4th placed finish in the Bundesliga, ahead of notorious heavy hitters Borussia Monchengladbach, Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04. Not bad for someone who, just a few years prior, could easily have been known as a failure in professional football.
Hoffenheim broke the mold, and a number of teams began re-evaluating how they conducted the business of finding a manager.
Teams like Schalke.
To say Die Knappen have had a rough couple of seasons would be an understatement.
The Gelsenkirchen club have failed to win any silverware since 2011, where they won the DFB-Pokal. That same summer, Manuel Neuer made his big money move to FC Bayern Munich.
The loss of Neuer not only signalled the loss of a great goalkeeper, but the move took a toll on Schalke for many years to come: in the years prior to his sale, Schalke were a fixture in the top three in the Bundesliga; in the years after, they’ve gone through five managers, and have not achieved a top three finish since the 2013-14 season.
Last season was a prime example of just some of the misery Schalke fans have had to endure.
Let us begin with the appointment of Markus Weinzierl.
When hired, many fans were left scratching their heads. Schalke have attracted some outstanding managers in the past, but in the last few seasons, the people upstairs have seemingly to pulled names out of their hats.
Weinzierl, before joining Schalke, had managed Augsburg to a twelfth-placed finish. The problem was that the little club from Bavaria had finished twice in the top ten in the seasons prior, so the Austrian manager was not what you would call a standout choice.
His Augsburg teams did not play attractive football, and they conceded too many goals.
Though a head-scratcher, the Schalke fans remained hopeful.
That hope lasted all of five weeks as they got off to the worst start in their history.
Die Knappen would drop towards the bottom half of the Bundesliga table for most of the season, and inconsistency plagued the team, to the extent that, while capable of scoring four goals against Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Levekusen, they would lose matches against lowly Darmstadt, as well as drawing countless others against the Bundesliga’s bottom-feeders.
Many called for him to be sacked after a month, and finally, on June 9th 2017, Markus Weinzierl was officially sacked. That same day, Schalke inked their new man, 31-year-old Domenico Tedesco, to a two-year deal.
Domenico Tedesco is an Italian-German born in Rossano, Italy.
Situated on the Ionian Sea, the city has a mere 32,000 inhabitants, and is located on the sole of the Italian boot — sixty miles from Crotone, if you were wondering.
The main industry in Rossano, other than agriculture, is liquorice.
Tedesco is also a Juventus fan, but we won’t hold that against him.
His surname in Italian means “German”, so it is fitting that his family moved to Germany when he was just two years old.
The young Tedesco grew up in Stuttgart, where he did play football, but only at the county level.
He went on to study Business Engineering, and in July 2008, he began working in the youth department of Stuttgart’s U8 squad as an assistant. He quickly realized, not only was coaching football fun, but he also this was something he could really do.
Domenico Tedesco was not an overnight success.
He spent the next five years crafting his managerial skills, and in 2013, he was promoted to assistant coach of the U17 squad at Stuttgart.
During that 2013 season he would become manager of the U17s, and in the fifty games in charge as manager, his team won an impressive thirty-two games, losing only eleven.
His U17 squad was also a high-scoring one, netting 115 goals in total.
Despite the success, he and Rainer Adrion clashed egos. Adrion did not seem to respect the younger man, nor did he treat him fairly.
It was time for Tedesco to move on.
He decided to try his hand at 1899 Hoffenheim, working with another up-and-coming manager that was making his own waves — a certain Julian Nagelsmann.
Tedesco would work under Nagelsmann with the U19 squad for just twenty games, yet they formed a strong bond.
It is obvious that Nagelsmann had an effect on Tedesco, as the latter’s management style had started emulating the former.
Not only did the young Italian-German benefit tactically from Nagelsmann, but also from Nagelmann’s success, which helped him become more noticed as well.
Despite this, after one season as U19 coach, Tedesco’s progression was stalled at Hoffenheim, due to the great work of Nagelsmann and his assistants, Alfred Schreuder and Matthias Kaltenbach
Meanwhile, FC Erzgebirge Aue were struggling at the foot of 2.Bundesliga, with only eleven games to save themselves from relegation.
Their president, Helge Leonhardt, saw the success of Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim and took a sharp notice on the young Tedesco.
Leonhardt smelled a chance at mimicking the success of Hoffenheim and duly signed Tedesco to be Erzgebirge Aue’s senior manager on March 8th, 2017.
Tedesco revolutionized Aue’s football and lead Die Veilchen to safety.
In his eleven games in charge, Tedesco brought not onlyl an acute eye for detail to Aue, but also a winning mentality from Hoffenheim that his new players bought into.
He trained the team with new techniques, such as using a rugby ball, and he used technology to get an upper hand on the opponent, studying the opposition to the point of exhaustion to find a weakness.
“He’s very meticulous,” explained 27-year-old Aue forward Dimitrij Nazarov. “He has all the information on the opposition. Some details even surprised me, and I’ve been around a good while. We always played attacking football, too. The coach stuck by that, regardless of the opposition. It’s great fun for every footballer who plays under him.”
Under Tedesco, Aue earned twenty points from a possible thirty-three. They even managed a couple of surprises, beating Union Berlin and drawing with Hannover 96.
The success in saving Aue brought Tedesco even further into the limelight; teams started to take notice, in particular FC Schalke 04.
Die Knappen have taken a chance on the young Italian-German, and like Aue before them, they hope to equal the success of Hoffenheim by putting their trust in a young manager.
So what can Schalke expect from their new man?
For starters, Tedesco is hungry and ambitious.
He will do what he has to for his team to succeed. He embodies the utmost flexibility and the willingness to compromise. He does not portray himself as above his players; his success comes from being relatable, and speaking with his squad on terms they will understand.
“It is very important for me to put the team and the players in the foreground,” he said.
“Having a clear idea is nice and good for morale. It is important that we position ourselves strategically because of the quality of the players, how the players can play football, how they want to play football. This is one of my main points of emphasis. The second point of emphasis is always play the opponent.”
He also demands discipline: he respects everyone and expects others to treat him the way he treats them.
“Education is important. To say hello to each other, please and thank you. Those are the little things that can take you a long way.”
After Aue beat TSV 1860 3-0, his opposite number, Vitor Pereira, told Tedesco that his team had actually been much better and that the final result was only because of a referee’s decision in the 42nd minute. Instead of stooping to Pereira’s level, he politely thanked the Portuguese… in Portuguese. And then he agreed with him on all points.
He was respectful and realistic. He gave his opponent his opinion, but left only a single possible conclusion: Tedesco went off as the winner.
Tactically, he sets his teams up similarly to Nagelsmann.
His teams play attacking, direct football, and he keeps his teams compact.
His teams are flexible and multidimensional. They seemingly adapt to any situation that is presented to them.
That comes from coaching.
Like Hoffenheim, Tedesco’s teams play something like a 3-6-1 formation in attack, but switch to a 5-4-1 without the ball.
He was once asked if he preferred a 4-3 win or a 1-0 win. He replied, “I’d take 4-0.”
But Domenico is not all about the attack. His Aue side kept five clean sheets in the eleven games he was in charge, and Schalke could use some of that structure in their life, and he should suit the talented Gelsenkirchen squad quite nicely.
Both Nagelsmann and Tedesco joined the Hennes-Weisweiler-Akademie in 2016.
Nagelsmann passed his exam and received his pro license before going on to win the German FA’s Coach of 2016 award with Hoffenheim.
But how did Tedesco fair?
Well, he finished top of the class, well ahead of Nagelsmann.
He also he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Engineering and a Masters in Innovation Management.
Tedesco looks every bit the talented manager as Julian Nagelsmann, maybe even more so.
Schalke may have just hired the best young manager in Germany, and that includes his friend from Hoffenheim.