Times are changing in Westphalia.
After Hans Joachim Watze’s explosive interview with Funke Medien last week, Thomas Tuchel’s future looks less than certain. What had for so long seemed a natural progression from Jürgen Klopp has now disintegrated, a power struggle in the Signal Iduna boardroom meaning that something has to give in the summer.
With Tuchel’s tenure coming to an end, the rumour mill has cranked, spun and spluttered into action, as both Bild and RMC link Lucien Favre with the soon-to-be-vacant post.
The Schwarzgelben could do worse. It has been a glittering 12 months for Favre, who arrived at the Allianz arena under pressure to progress a team that Claude Puel had built. Without Hatem Ben Arfa and Nampalys Mendy, Nice fans went in to this season hoping for stability but expecting the worst.
They needn’’t have worried. A month ago, les Aiglons effectively sealed third place in Ligue 1, and with it their first taste of European football in almost 40 years. Led by the impulsive bravado of Mario Balotelli and the dynamism of Jean-Michaël Seri, Nice’s impressive young squad have been the story of the year in France, their attacking potency even consigning Lyon to the Europa League places.
Much of their success can be attributed to the unassuming Swiss coach, a man who quietly revived Borussia Mönchengladbach’s fortunes in the Bundesliga before departing under a cloud in 2015.
In a sumptuous four year stay, Favre had taken die Folen from the relegation places to the Champions League, before a run of defeats saw him resign hastily from his post. He arrived in Nice with a reputation slightly dented, eager for the chance to make amends. Boy, has he done it.
Unluckily for Nice fans, however, no success in 21st century football goes unnoticed. As Dortmund circle, could he be a success at the Signal Iduna?
The answer is a resounding yes. Favre has proven ability in the Bundesliga, having established both Hertha Berlin and Mönchengladbach as durable forces in the league. At die Folen in particular, Favre’s high-energy 4-4-2 was a joy to behold, with artistes like Juan Arango and Marco Reus’ dovetailing superbly with the more robust Tony Janchstke and Roel Brouwers.
This is music to the ears of Dortmund’s fans, who have been spoiled in recent seasons with a breaktaking brand of attacking football. Favre won’t fix what isn’t broken, but merely tinker with a working system to iron out its chinks and splutters.
He isn’t afraid to blood young players either. After watching videos of Malang Sarr playing for the under-19s, the Swiss put him straight into the Nice starting squad. The result was one of the best defensive records in the league and a player worth tens of millions. Granit Xhaka has been a flop for Arsenal this year, but the Basel boy is testament to Favre’s ability to find and hone promising young talents, the midfielder arriving for peanuts and departing for millions. All of this bodes well for the likes of Alexander Isak and Emre Mor, who will be looking for more playing team next season as they try to solder potential with results.
The question, of course, is whether Favre would even want to move. According to various media reports, he is certainly “thinking about it.” But Nice are already in the Champions League, and Favre is the sole architect of their success. Leaving now would feel like an abandonment, a departure from a project only half-finished.
Moreover, Favre will have noted with alarm the blatant politicking and manoeuvring by the Borussia board. Having enjoyed a note-perfect relationship with sporting director Max Eberl at Gladbach, Favre may baulk at a position where many think the real power lies behind the throne. Not to mention the fact that the team is sure to be without their star player Piere-Emerick Aubameyang, who has made his desire to move in the summer all too apparent.
If Dortmund are looking for serenity after Tuchel’s highly-strung tenure, then Favre may not be the best option. His obsessive attention to detail and strive towards perfectionism is famous at Mönchengladbach, whom he led to the Champions League without significant investment due mainly to his tenaciously intricate coaching sessions.
In any case, Dortmund will have to fork out for Favre’s services, with the Swiss’ contract tied up until 2019.
By Christopher Weir.