Get German Football News looks at the expectations for Julian Nagelsmann in his new job at RB Leipzig, as well as the optimistic targets the German could set during his first season in charge.
In June 2018, it was announced that managing prodigy Julian Nagelsmann would leave his post as TSG Hoffenheim head coach at the end of the 2018/2019 season, for RasenBallsport Leipzig.
Although on face value, it sounds like a well thought out plan – putting a young fresh face in charge at the club, in reality it was on the back of Ralph Hasenhüttl and RB Leipzig being unable to agree terms on a long-term deal. In the aftermath, it was announced that Nagelsmann would take charge as head coach for the 2019/20 season, and Ralf Rangnick would come back in the interim for another season-long stint in charge. Rangnick enjoyed a fantastic season with Leipzig, achieving third place in the Bundesliga, and the club conceded the fewest number of goals.
Rangnick has certainly laid down the foundations for Nagelsmann, who has quite the story, considering he is just 31-years-old. Nagelsmann had the same start to his career that most footballers have, rising through the junior levels of football. He played briefly at FC Augsburg before playing at 1860 Munich. Unfortunately, he was plagued with repeat knee injuries and had to give up on his dream of being a professional footballer but make no mistake, this is very common in the youth levels of football. The difference is that we know who Nagelsmann is due to his rapid rise to success in the managerial scene. The Bavarian had gone to university, before making the transition to football management.
Up to now, his entire managing career has been with Hoffenheim. The club took a risk with him back in October of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, following a fiasco with Huub Stevens and Markus Gisdol. Nagelsmann saved Hoffenheim from impending relegation, and the club has not looked back since then. The season after that Nagelsmann propelled Hoffenheim to fourth place in the Bundesliga, securing a UEFA Champions League spot. A feat which the club, who are situated in the Baden-Wurttemberg region of Germany, had never achieved before.
A lot of credit must go to Nagelsmann for the way in which he has extracted the very best out of relatively unknown players, and those which have not achieved much elsewhere. A prime example of this is Andrej Kramaric. The Croatian had an impressive youth career in his home country with Dinamo Zagreb and Rijeka, before making the move to the English Premier League in 2015, joining Leicester City in their title winning season. After an unsuccessful spell with the club, only making 15 appearances, he made his move back to continental Europe. Kramaric joined Hoffenheim under Nagelsmann, initially on a loan spell before becoming a permanent signing in the summer of 2016. The forward has since become the club’s all-time top goalscorer in the Bundesliga. This has all been achieved under the reign of Julian Nagelsmann.
Nagelsmann will have more at his disposal at RB Leipzig, and will have the opportunity to work with some really exciting young players. The likes of Lukas Klostermann, Timo Werner, Matheus Cunha and Yussuf Poulsen all have amazing capabilities. Nagelsmann will get another shot at the Champions League this season, and this time he will arguably have more firepower than he did at Hoffenheim, and with more financial backing.
Even though it will take Nagelsmann time to get settled in and find his feet at Leipzig, there will still be expectations from the board for him to fulfil in his first season. The key expectation will no doubt be keeping RB Leipzig a top four Bundesliga team, and maintain their UEFA Champions League status. Another expectation, and an ambition too for Nagelsmann, will be to keep some of Leipzig’s best players who have been linked with moves away from the club. Dayot Upamecano is one player in the carnival of transfer rumours, the Frenchman being linked with Serie A giants AC Milan. Another is Timo Werner, who is once again linked with a move to Bayern Munich. Keeping the players that have been rocks in building Leipzig up to the status they are currently at will be a mammoth task, but one I am sure Nagelsmann will seize.
Looking beyond the expectations Julian Nagelsmann will likely face, he could be more ambitious and try to guide Leipzig to bigger and better things. In the UEFA Champions League, RB Leipzig are unlikely to get out of their respective group. They will face at least one Spanish, Italian or English team, possibly two. The Saxon team are going to be in pot 3 or pot 4, meaning they are perceived to be third or fourth best. So they have a mountain to climb, especially given the limited European football experience they have to date. But Nagelsmann is the type of manager who can do great things, very quickly, as we saw at Hoffenheim. If he could get Leipzig to the UCL knockouts, it would really put the club on the map.
Furthermore, now, I do bang on about it, but, RB Leipzig conceded the fewest goals last season in the Bundesliga which is a fantastic achievement, given how much youth and inexperience there is in that team. If Nagelsmann can keep such a low goals against figure and turn some of their draws into wins, there is not really any reason why he can’t try and push for the title. A bold statement, but considering how shaky Bayern Munich were at times last season, I do not think it is unattainable for Leipzig. Now is probably the best opportunity any club has had in a long time to dethrone Munich.
The foundations left by Ralf Rangnick and the transition to Julian Nagelsmann could have come at the perfect time for Leipzig. The club can achieve a lot next season under Nagelsmann, if he can keep his best men, defensive stability, and maybe make a few midfield additions. Nevertheless, reasons to be cheerful for RB Leipzig fans, exciting times lie ahead.
By Cameron O’Mara.