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Thomas Tuchel: in the mind of someone obsessed with the winning touch

C Christian Heidel laughs as he recalls a story that sums up Thomas Tuchel's obsessive attention to detail. “We were at a training camp in Austria and played against Olympiacos,” says Mainz's sports director. Thomas was looking closely at the grass. He was measuring the height by sniffing the grass. This field excited me so much that it asked me to transfer the field officer to Mainz. The next day the field officer called me and said 'I heard we were talking about a contract. There was no deal, but it shows how perfectionist she is. "

In Heidel, who gave Tuchel a break when he became head of Mainz's first team, 2008 is not the first to admire the Chelsea manager's pursuit of excellence. Hans Komm, who taught physical education at the German Simpert-Kraemer high school, recalls a teenager a talented athlete with a surprisingly brilliant tactical mind.

“You can see him swap players on his team during a volleyball lesson. Kazan, ”says Komm. “He showed great discipline when there was an important goal to be achieved. I've never seen him drink alcohol. He was very friendly. But sometimes he would talk to his friends in the last row, or he had to give up when he played volleyball with his foot. "

Growing up in the small Bavarian town of Krumbach, Tuchel was the best footballer in his class and helped his team win the German Schools Championship in Berlin 1987.He starred for TSV Krumbach and was seen on the right track after joining FC Augsburg in 1988.

Still, difficulties were coming. A slow but clever defender, Tuchel is by Augsburg and Stuttgart Kickers. The side joined SSV Ulm, appointing Ralf Rangnick as coach three years later.

thomas tuchel (circled) after helping his team to win the german schools championship in berlin in 1987.
1987 in Berlin after Thomas Tuchel (circled) helped his team win the German Schools Championship. Photo: Hans Komm

Rangnick is described as the father of modern German football, which opened Tuchel's eyes to positional play. Still Ulm. knee injury that forced him to retire at age.

The man who took Chelsea to the Champions League final against Manchester City on Saturday had to adjust his ambitions to get a business administration diploma and work. As a bartender in Stuttgart.

It will never take long. Heidel describes Tuchel as a "football lover" and says he doesn't know anyone who understands the game better. Andreas Rettig, Augsburg's sporting director, told Tuchel Under their Under – coach 2004 a demanding individual was “100% convinced by the rate” of their ideas.

“He thinks about football 24 - 7,” Heidel says. “Every training has to be perfect. He plays the game in his head beforehand. Everything has to go according to plan, especially tactical discipline - where the players stand, where they should go. This makes it very difficult to play against the teams Thomas employs. "

thomas tuchel at training with mainz in 2009.
Thomas Tuchel with Mainz 2009. “Every training should be perfect,” says a former colleague of mine. Photo: Frederik von Erichsen / EPA

When Rangnick, Stuttgart's manager, asked him to lead Under, Tuchel was offered to return to football - 15 p. "He was the first coach I had in a professional club," says Andreas Beck, former international player of Germany. "It was another level."

Beck is not surprised to see Tuchel explode during Chelsea's matches. Being 47-years old can be tiring and working with it difficult. Before coming to Chelsea in January, Tuchel was known for his flammability. Although he succeeded Borussia Dortmund in 2014 - 2017 and Paris Saint-Germain, despite winning a domestic high-pitched last season, he was fired after the hiatus for his transfer policy with sports director Leonardo on Christmas Eve.

“It's important for Thomas to be part of all decisions,” Heidel says. “It's not the type of coach you can give him to players 10-12 and say“ Play with him ”. Everyone is lucky to win more games than they usually lose. If there is a loss, it is almost like physical pain. He's very emotional. He can blow up players because he is so eager to win. But also someone to hug them later. "

thomas tuchel celebrates with andreas christensen after chelsea reached the champions league final.
Thomas Tuchel celebrated with Andreas Christensen after reaching the Chelsea Champions League final. Photo: Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images

The moments when Tuchel reaches the end of the road in Mainz, although Heidel says there are some strange things happening, the two are on good terms. “Thomas is a nice guy, believe me,” says Beck.

Tuchel, who was the mentor to the late Hermann Badstuber, re-coached Beck after moving to Under in Stuttgart - 19days 2004. “He built a very close relationship with the players,” says Beck. “This wasn't just a player-coach relationship. We were like brothers. Other players felt it - Mario Gómez, Sami Khedira, Adam Szalai.

“He appreciates people willing to suffer. Then it nourishes you with knowledge and energy. You can't get sugar from him because you're good. You have to do something to compliment. He once said: 'The moment I don't criticize you, you know something is wrong. "

Although Tuchel took Stuttgart to the Alt - title 19 2005, he was tired of the club personality and chose to renew his contract and opened the door for Augsburg to hire him. Rettig was smart enough to say, "I'll do this for low money, but you should support me as a coach in my training," says Rettig. “It didn't have the full Uefa license. We made a deal. It was six and a half months in Cologne. This was very demanding for him, but he wanted to invest in his education. "

Tuchel was taught by Erich Rutemöller, former head of training for aspiring coaches at the German Football Association. Rutemöller says “He understood educational science, sports medicine, physiology and psychology”. He was already a very good student. It was pretty quiet. He was watching and listening. And he was clever. He knew what to do and how to deal with different participants. But he was not the big man in the classes. "

Still, Tuchel made his presence felt in Augsburg. “They had problems with the referees,” says Rettig. “After receiving penalties from the Bavarian Football Association for his behavior, I said he had to pay the penalties himself. He said, 'Okay, I'm responsible for my behavior. It wasn't a matter of money for him. It was a matter of ambition. He wanted to win. He didn't think to calm down and save a few Euros. "

Tuchel wanted to learn. “When I was in Hoffenheim with Rangnick, Thomas invited me to Augsburg,” says Beck. He asked for information about Rangnick. He wanted to know everything about our innovations. "

An identity was formed. Tuchel was promoted to Augsburg II's first team coach and played some cool football. Still, Rettig felt disappointed. “At this level, there was a gap between the actors' ideas and their quality,” he says.

Interested in a new challenge, Tuchel became Under Mainz – 2008. Seeing Jürgen Klopp inspiring Mainz before joining Dortmund, Heidel has never met such an interesting coach. He took note when he won the Mainz Under – 19 Tuchel's first season, beating Dortmund in the decisive match for the title. “I watched it with Jürgen,” Heidel says. “After Jürgen said: 'There were 10 better players for Dortmund but they lost against a better team. ”

Heidel gambled, asking 34 - a newbie who would initially become Mainz's manager in 2009 - 10 seasons. Tuchel was shocked. Mainz had just been promoted to the Bundesliga, but the effect was immediate. His team took his breath away: tactically flexible, fast and organized. “You felt stressed because of the actors,” says Beck. You didn't know how to play against them. They were very sharp. You couldn't predict which team would play. He always had a new plan. "

thomas tuchel celebrates with andreas christensen after chelsea reached the champions league final.

thomas tuchel after being appointed as mainz's manager in 2009.
Thomas Tuchel, Mainz thomas tuchel (circled) after helping his team to win the german schools championship in berlin in 1987. after being appointed as their manager. Photo: Thomas Lohnes / DDP / AFP / Getty Images

Tuchel was an innovator who inspired Andre Schürrle and Lewis Holtby in Mainz. He cut corners of the training ground to improve pass and movement. He decided that the players would stop grappling with their opponents if they got hold of the tennis ball.

It is not surprising that Tuchel, who has two younger daughters with his wife Sissi, is known as a football professor. Mainz was a small club, but it caused a sensation by winning at Bayern Munich in September 2010. “For years I have used this as an example of tactical thinking in my class,” Rutemöller says. “It was kind of 4-3-1-2 and it was very interesting. He had a plan for offense and defense. "

Mainz punched above their weight and qualified for the Europa League. and beat Bayern again that year. Tuchel's staff scanned the press and came across Spielverlagerung, a tactics blog. Two of the young bloggers were Rene Maric, who is currently assistant manager at Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Martin Rafelt, who recently became assistant manager at Hajduk Split. They were thrilled when Tuchel's video analyst Benjamin Weber invited them to a meeting with Mainz's manager. Maric and Rafelt were occasionally asked to provide reconnaissance reports on Mainz's rivals.

“Thomas was very obvious,” Rafelt says. He took care of us. He wanted us to write down all our ideas on how to improve football. He said it could be crazy or stupid - just put everything aside.

“They asked about an article I wrote about Swansea. This was Swansea's first season in the Premier League and they beat Man City. The article was about winning by playing as an inferior team. Mainz was still counterattack oriented. It was interesting for them that they were inferior, but they could still do something by owning it. Thomas is curious and wants to find things he doesn't understand. "

Mainz was one of the few teams that could break Pep Guardiola's Bayern. “We were on the bus once and there was a documentary about Guardiola,” Heidel says. “They showed a map that looked like some kind of knitting pattern. However, this was the transition model for Guardiola's players, and Thomas studied it for two hours. He was obsessed with learning this pattern. "

Tuchel needed more. He left Mainz on a leave of absence seven years ago, during which time he had an intense tactical conversation with Guardiola over dinner at a restaurant in Munich. Klopp's 2014. Tuchel was an energizing asset, and Dortmund played brilliant football in its first season and made Guardiola's hard work for his final title at Bayern before joining City.

thomas tuchel and pep guardiola before borussia dortmund's game against bayern munich in march 2016.
Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola before Borussia Dortmund's match against Bayern Munich in March 2016. Photo: Boris Streubel / Getty Images

It won't take long though. Compared to Klopp, Tuchel seemed distant. Tensions regarding hierarchy grew. Dortmund could not retain their best players and Tuchel could not hide his disappointment and exhausted his players. The mood went dark when a man named Sergei Wenergold tried to blow up Borussia Dortmund's team bus before the Champions League quarter-final against Monaco in April. .

Relations with the board became more strained after the attack, and the victory over Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal final was not enough to prevent Tuchel from leaving at the end of his second season. Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has since described the manager as a "difficult man".

“Thomas has a hilarious side to it,” says Beck. “He's a family man and he has a warm side. He is very clever. But when something very hot happens inside you, something very cold also happens. You need both sides. "

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Tuchel, who turned down Bayern before joining PSG

knows how to connect with people. He motivated Neymar and Kylian Mbappé in Paris. PSG reached the Champions League final last season before losing to Bayern.

PSG's loss was Chelsea's gain. Tuchel has been impressed by his warmth and tactical acumen since he took over Frank Lampard. He transformed Chelsea into a cohesive unit and carried them inside, while spectacular for 90 minutes, the victory over the City will depend on Tuchel's solving Guardiola's death patterns. He'll need the perfect plan.

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