The German, nicknamed ‘Baby Mourinho’, says the Tottenham boss proved an inspiration during his formative years as a coach
RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann says Jose Mourinho played a key role in shaping his management style as he prepares to face the Tottenham boss in the Champions League.
Nagelsmann takes his Leipzig side to north London for a last-16 first-leg tie on Wednesday evening.
He is often compared to the Portuguese and was even given the nickname “Mini-Mourinho” during his time as Hoffenheim assistant coach, with many seeing similarities in their rapid rise to managerial prominence from a young age.
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Nagelsmann was still a teenager when Mourinho won his first Champions League title with Porto in 2004. But, speaking exclusively to DAZN and Goal, the 32-year-old he says his achievements with the Portuguese side had a huge impact on him.
“During his time at Porto, he really shaped me,” he said. “He let Deco and Co. play exceptionally good football.
“How he won the UEFA Cup and the Champions League a year later against Monaco with a team that is big in Portugal but not the biggest club in Europe, was very impressive.
“At that time he was also a very young coach who was not a big player himself before and had a similar career like myself. It was exciting for me to see and I also copied a few things.
“After that he was internationally successful in all of his clubs. You noticed in all the games that he just knows how to win these knockout games. The winning goal was scored in the 93rd minute and you had the feeling that it was somehow planned.
“For me, Mourinho is an extreme coach with focus on results who is not very concerned with glamour on the pitch. He puts the result above everything and if you get so many titles doing that, it is certainly not a wrong way.”
After being forced to retire from football at youth level due to a persistent knee injury, Nagelsmann soon moved into coaching with Augsburg, where he briefly worked under Thomas Tuchel.
Nagelsmann says Tuchel, who went on to manage Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and now Paris Saint-Germain, is the man who has had the biggest impact on his career to date.
“Who shaped me the most was Thomas Tuchel,” he said. “For the simple reason that he was my own trainer and the exchange was so much more intense. I can rate how he really thinks. But there are certainly great parallels to Pep Guardiola’s football idea.
“Dominance in all phases of the game – that would be the big headline for it. To put it more simply, it is about awareness that football is not just about conquering the ball, not just about possession. It is about a holistic approach and about developing solutions in all phases. I personally experienced which exercises Tuchel did in training – that shaped me. I also have a similar approach.
“For me there are also various complicated exercises and I do not follow the classic training theory and its linear structure. Warm up, passing game, shots on goal, a game. Tuchel did it completely differently. I also want to map a game in training. And in the game it just doesn’t work that you can easily get into it first. It may be that you are totally challenged in the first minute.”
Nagelsmann became the youngest coach in Bundesliga history when he was appointed Hoffenheim boss aged just 28 in 2016, taking them from the foot of the table to Champions League qualification in the space of a year.
Hoffenheim even managed to fend off interest from Real Madrid for Nagelsmann before he eventually joined Leipzig last summer, the German later explaining that it was not the right move for his career after he was approached by the Spanish giants in 2018 following Zinedine Zidane’s departure.
His decision to stay in Germany looks a wise decision, with Leipzig currently second in Bundelsiga, just a point behind Bayern Munich.
So does Nagelsmann consider himself already a top-class coach?
“I would call myself a good manager,” he replied. “For me, being a top coach means more than just teaching football. That includes empathy, it means that you can speak to a group, that you can deal with the media – you have to be able to do all of that. I would not describe myself as blind in this regard, but a top coach also includes titles.
“And I don’t have that to show yet – except for the U19 championship title with Hoffenheim! I don’t see myself on a par with Klopp, Guardiola or Mourinho. But I’m also a young coach. My goal is to become a very good coach and win titles.
“And as for Pep: Of course that’s honourable of him [that he said he only wins because of his team]. The question would be whether he would have become a master with Hoffenheim? It would be interesting to see in any case.”
Though he doesn’t consider himself on a par with Klopp and Pep, he still studies their work intently and is impressed with how their tactical approach has altered the face of the modern game.
“Klopp has also developed enormously,” he said. “There is still the raid-like football that distinguishes his style, but now it comes from possession of the ball. The pure changeover football a la Klopp no longer exists because so many opponents sit 20 metres in front of their own goal.
“When Pep played this incredibly attractive and multifaceted football in Barcelona, a lot was written and said about Barca’s playing with the ball. But the real madness was counter-pressing.
“Most opponents never had the ball for longer than five seconds before they got smashed by this machine. Then it was, of course, outstanding in terms of football, but the key was counter-pressing.”