Bayern Munich have made a good habit of getting their house in order promptly, and 2021 would seem to be no different.
Having already agreed a deal to sign centre-back Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig, the Bundesliga leaders have followed up with an agreement to make Julian Nagelsmann their next head coach.
The Leipzig boss, a boyhood Bayern fan from Bavaria who is still attempting to stop his new club win the title this season, will take over from Hansi Flick on July 1.
A five-year contract and a reported fee of €20million – the most ever paid for a coach – represent a significant investment on Bayern’s part and show just how highly they regard Nagelsmann.
The 33-year-old is not exactly taking the wheel of a sinking ship, either: Bayern won six trophies in under two years under Flick and look set to be crowned German champions again.
However, the Bundesliga’s youngest ever coach will still face a few crucial tasks upon his appointment that could go a long way towards making or breaking his first term in charge…
130 – Since Julian Nagelsmann took charge in 2019, @RBLeipzig_EN gathered 130 points in the @Bundesliga_EN – only @FCBayernEN collected more points (153) in that period. Transfer. pic.twitter.com/s4oc8RjDxV
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) April 27, 2021
Get on with the board
Flick had few serious problems during a remarkably successful spell at the helm, but one notable issue lately has been his relationship with the club’s hierarchy.
His decision to announce in public this month that he would be leaving at the end of the season enraged those in charge given they had agreed to keep the news quiet. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, one of Flick’s biggest allies, even saw fit to issue a statement criticising the coach.
Flick is said to have got on poorly with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, with disagreements over transfer targets and a general mistrust turning the relationship volatile. Salihamidzic himself has come under scrutiny, with plenty of fans unhappy to see the coach being the one to depart.
Having landed Bayern’s top target through a not-insignificant outlay, Salihamidzic will be almost as desperate to see Nagelsmann succeed as the new man himself. A better working relationship between coach and superiors would be a positive way to start.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 27, 2021
Fix the defence
Flick has spent much of this campaign trying to solidify a Bayern defence that has conceded 40 Bundesliga goals this term, already eight more than in the whole of 2019-20.
Frailties at the back were exposed in a DFB-Pokal loss at the hands of second-tier Holstein Kiel and more brutally in the Champions League quarter-final exit to Paris Saint-Germain.
Bayern’s defence could look very different next season. Upamecano is arriving from Leipzig but David Alaba is expected to sign for Real Madrid, Jerome Boateng is leaving after a decade in Munich and there is still uncertainty around Niklas Sule’s future.
With Bayern said to be pursuing a new right-back, there could well be a new-look backline in front of Manuel Neuer next season – one that Nagelsmann will need to hone quickly in pre-season.
As talk of Nagelsmann continued on Monday, Sky Sport reported “several” European clubs had made enquiries over the possibility of signing Robert Lewandowski.
Europe’s leading marksman in 2020-21 with 43 goals in all competitions, Lewandowski needs four more in the final three games to equal Gerd Muller’s record of 40 in a single Bundesliga season.
Should he match or surpass that milestone, and having finally got his hands on the Champions League last season, the Poland star could be tempted to try his hand elsewhere – and has made clear previously that Bayern may not be his final club.
Signing a replacement would be no easy task, particularly in the coronavirus landscape, so Nagelsmann would be wise to make sure Lewandowski feels Bayern’s objectives match his own moving forward.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) December 17, 2020
Ignore the noise
For a coach, learning to deal with critics is part of the territory at Bayern Munich, more so than at any club in Germany.
With famous ex-players in positions of power at the Allianz Arena and others prominent figures in the media – former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus chief among them – Bayern coaches will never be far from an opinion or two, whether successful or not (just ask Pep Guardiola).
Matthaus was even rebuked by former team-mate Stefan Effenberg this month for encouraging talk of Nagelsmann replacing Flick, suggesting such comments simply placed further pressure on coaches “that is no longer okay”.
Flick had actually handled the persistent Bayern background noise rather well, and Nagelsmann will need to do likewise: the scrutiny on his performance as the world’s most expensive coach – at such a young age – will be intense.
Blood the youngsters
Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff specifically praised Nagelsmann for improving individuals and strengthening the collective in his time at the club.
The progress of players such as Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, Dominik Szoboszlai and captain Marcel Sabitzer highlights the positive impact Nagelsmann’s methods can have on young talent.
He will be under pressure to produce similar results at Bayern. Alphonso Davies is already an elite left-back at 20, Jamal Musiala is established in the senior squad at 18 and there are high hopes for young centre-back Tanguy Nianzou.
Given Bayern’s pedigree for developing global stars, Nagelsmann will be under pressure to keep the production line going at full speed.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) February 23, 2021
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