Julian Nagelsmann made bad career decision to join RB Leipzig
There have been a few shocks at the World Cup in Russia. Mexico crashing Germany's welcome party and Die Mannschaft stealing from Sweden both stand out. Meanwhile, back home in Deutschland, a silent spark occurred. Julian Nagelsmann ditched Hoffenheim for RB Leipzig.
German football has had a revolution. Such that even the conservative Bayern Munich couldn't resist. Youth has hijacked Bundesliga dugouts. Age is almost as essential as expertise. 'Laptop coaches' are all the rage these days.
Of the current crop, Werder Bremen's Florian Kohfeldt is 35. Hannes Wolf, who led Stuttgart to promotion, is a year older. Sandro Schwarz of Mainz and Augsburg's Manuel Baum are both 38. The two most extreme examples, however, are Nagelsmann and Schalke's, Domenico Tedesco.
The pair passed their coaching qualifications at the Hannes Weisweiler Academy, just south of Cologne, two years ago. Though Tedesco finished atop the class, Nagelsmann was the first trusted with a managerial role. He was appointed at Hoffenheim in 2015, aged only 28.
His impact was immediate. From striving to retain top-flight status, the village team qualified for Europe's premier club competition. Even more impressive was how that feat occurred in Nagelsmann's first full rendition: with beautiful attacking football. His widely admired system earned him Bundesliga Coach of the Year.
Nagelsmann extended his improbable career this campaign. Hoffenheim finished third, above two perennial titans in Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. Leipzig, meanwhile, which caused Bayern serious trouble the season before, capitulated to sixth.
Having secured back-to-back Champions League tickets, Nagelsmann's portfolio clearly gained more weight than the club and its mascot, Hoffi the Moose.
It was a matter of time before Nagelsmann took that next career step. Bayern, Arsenal and Real Madrid all reportedly offered such a platform. Surprisingly, though, he decided on the easiest route, north to Saxony.
No disrespect to Leipzig's achievements within such short time. Climbing through German football to mount a frightful scare on Bayern's domestic hegemony, all in less than a decade, is a notable feat. Doing so with cheap buys and inexperienced players even more commendable.
On the surface, Nagelsmann's appointment is a major coup. Die Kraichgauer, Bundesliga's most youthful side, will join forces with the top-flight's youngest-ever head coach. There's also the reunion with mentor Ralf Rangnick, the club's sporting director.
However, the switch represents several steps backwards for Nagelsmann. Leipzig is no longer the same exciting prospect. They are on a dreadful downward spiral since peaking to finish as league runners-up in 2016/17. Die Bullen have failed to keep up with the hype and new status. With a very thin squad, they couldn't balance a three-pronged chase.
With the squad's average age only 24, the Red Bull franchise is a top target of bigger clubs. Naby Keita's departure to Liverpool could potentially begin a mass exodus. Both Emil Forsberg and Timo Werner are highly-tipped to follow suit. Although Leipzig builds for the future, they are susceptible to big-money offers. Naggelsmann may be the herder until wealthy clients come to town.
Assuming the speculation about other interested clubs was all false, Nagelsmann would still have received better offers from elsewhere. Why the rush then? Moreover, he isn't leaving Hoffenheim until summer 2019. One year is ample time to find a more fulfilling career move.