Who is Thomas Tuchel? On January 18th, 2021, Thomas Tuchel signed an 18-month contract with Chelsea Football Club, making him yet another coach in a long line of coaches ever since Roman Abramovic took over. This man is something else though. His lifestory almost reads like a book. Welcome to the life of Thomas Tuchel.
Our story, however, begins some three 4 years prior, with an interview Tuchel gave back in 2017 to German magazine ZEITmagazin MANN. The German discussed his life in football: from early beginnings at TSV Krumbach as a youth prospect, to the injury which cut his career short at 25, how he gave up and worked as a bartender, and then came back full-circle to become one of the most sought-after coaches in the modern game.
Born in Krumbach, West Germany in 1973, Thomas Tuchel had one dream: to become a professional footballer. After his journey with local side TSV Krumbach in 1979 he moved to FC Augsburg in 1988, where failing to make the grade he was released by the club as a 19-year old in 1992. Undeterred, Tuchel dropped down a division to 2.Bundesliga with Stuttgarter Kickers to keep his dreams alive, and then again to the Regionlliga Süd to play for SSV Ulm. At 25 his dreams of becoming a professional footballer came to an abrupt end, crippled by a knee cartilage injury, Tuchel was forced to retire.
With the goal of becoming a footballer now behind him and no money in the bank, Tuchel took up a job at the infamous “Radio Bar” in Stuttgart.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to drink the cocktails I mixed in the beginning,” laughs Tuchel, he recalls how working at the bar helped him disconnect from football, but also pushed him to come out of his shell, “I slowly developed a new sense of self-confidence, in the bar. I overcame my inhibitions of strangers. And all of a sudden I had the impression, ‘The colleagues just like you for your manner, they don’t know that you used to be a professional footballer, they accept you as you are.”
It was while working at the bar the news that SSV Ulm had been promoted to the Bundesliga reached Tuchel. The news had lit a new fire under him, “I was really pissed. And angry. I thought: now they’re living my dream. Bundesliga! Where I always wanted to be.” Tuchel finished his shift and told his colleagues, “I have to go now.”
Hungry to prove himself, Tuchel was first hired by German visionary Ralf Ragnick as the coach of VfB Stuttgart U14s in 2000. Under the mentorship of Hermann Badstuber, Tuchel rose to become the assistant coach of the U19 team; his methods soon proved successful as VfB Stuttgart won the U19 Bundesliga in 2005. After completing his coaching badges Tuchel took up the job at Mainz 05, leading the U19 team to yet another Bundesliga title. His success propelled him to the first-team manager’s hot-seat left vacant by Jurgen Klopp. The comeback was complete! Within a decade of stepping into management Tuchel was the manager of one of Germany’s top-flight clubs.
Tuchel’s innovative methods and eccentric approach to football drove Mainz to a top 10 finish in his first season as manager; the following season he would better it but helping the team qualify for the UEFA Europa League with a fifth placed finish. The mainstream German media had to take notice. Now one of the hottest properties in football, Tuchel was installed as the head coach of Borrusia Dortmund in 2015. Dortmund finished runner-up behind champions Bayern Munich in Tuchel’s first season in charge, but the brilliant coach wouldn’t be denied in his second season, beating the mighty Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final. However, strenuous relationship with the club’s higher-ups saw Tuchel eventually sacked come the end of the campaign.
What followed next is perhaps the biggest job in football. In 2018 the 47-year old was put in charge of managing a PSG side brimming with the world’s most elite footballers, the biggest names in the game, the likes of Neymar Jr. and Kyllian Mbappe. Tuchel won back-to-back league championships in France and led Paris to their first ever UEFA Champions League final, finishing runner-up to a familiar foe – FC Bayern Munich. Tuchel for all his brilliance would clash once again with the higher-ups, a public spat with PSG’s technical director Leonardo would see Tuchel get the sack.
Tuchel is uncompromising in his vision, as he explains to Ferdinand “The most important thing is not the formation. It is how we live it, how everybody respects principles, how we attack, how we defend, in the formation we play. This is much more important than any formation.”
When asked about how he feels about the short-term contract Tuchel replied, “I didn’t like it at first; I thought, they don’t trust me or what? I have to leave my country, my family behind; they (Chelsea) are many points behind fourth place, and it is possible we don’t make it, and then it is easy to sack me. But after some minutes, I realized, what does it change anyway? If I’m good, if they like what I’m doing, they will make me stay. If I’m not good, if I don’t have results, they don’t like me, they will sack me anyway! So why worry about it?”
It is clear from the onset that Thomas Tuchel will not change his ways for anybody, and perhaps it will end like it always does at Chelsea, but Blues fans can rest easy knowing that they have one of the brightest minds in the game at the helm, and it’s sure to be a rollercoaster ride!