At 33 years old, Julian Nagelsmann is so young that logic would suggest he should be taking on Atletico Madrid as a player. But the RB Leipzig coach will be watching on from the bench in Thursday’s Champions League quarter-final and already has years of experience behind him as a coach. Nagelsmann, who turned down Real Madrid in 2018, has spoken with MARCA ahead of this week’s match against Spanish opposition, discussing this fixture and his own career.
How did you manage to become the Bundesliga’s youngest ever coach at just 28?”
I found people at Hoffenheim who trusted me. The believed I could do it. You always need people around you who believe in you. I also had success relatively early. My Hoffenheim team played good football and were hungry for success. I had been a champion with the Under-19s and if you’re successful then a coach’s journey moves fast. My players were willing to listen to a very young coach and that sped things up.”
Do you think you would have made it as a professional if you hadn’t had injuries?
”I think so. I was confident. If I evaluate myself as a player from a coach’s perspective, I don’t think I’d have been a top player, but I had enough to play professional football.”
You’ve been compared to a lot of coaches – from Jose Mourinho to Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Which do you feel the most like?”
I don’t know. You’d have to look at it in a lot of detail, what they do in training, what they say to their players and the tactics they use. I think I’ve developed my own style, we play the football I like and that I want to play. I wouldn’t compare myself with those coaches because I’ve only won an Under-19 title, nothing remarkable. My ambition is for people who come to the stadium to find it entertaining.”
What do you think is your greatest skill?
”I think it’s the ability to make decisions during a game, to change things and notice details. I think I do well during matches.”
You joined a team who had just avoided relegation and led them to the Champions League places two years in a row. Weren’t you worried?
”They announced me when they were fighting against relegation, so thank God they survived. Then we enjoyed two great successes by qualifying for Europe.”