Berlin (AFP) – The new Bundesliga season starts on Friday with new Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann under pressure to deliver a tenth straight league title for the Bavarian giants in his first year at the helm.
With predecessor Hansi Flick having left to take charge of Germany, 34-year-old Nagelsmann now faces the biggest challenge of his young coaching career.
He proved his impressive ability with stints at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, who he guided to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019/20.
But keeping the egos in Bayern’s star-studded squad in check, while maintaining the club’s insatiable thirst for success, will test him fully.
“If I don’t win anything here, it’s down to me,” he bluntly told the club’s magazine.
His first competitive game is at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday to kick off the new league campaign.
Nagelsmann is still chasing his first win with Bayern after three defeats and a draw from four pre-season friendlies.
A 2-2 draw against Ajax came amid losses to Cologne, Moenchengladbach and Napoli, who won 3-0 in Munich against a near full-strength Bayern side.
Having only celebrated his birthday las month, Nagelsmann is a year younger than club captain Manuel Neuer and only 13 months older than star striker Robert Lewandowski.
He will be measured in terms of titles at Bayern, where Flick set the bar high by winning the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup in 2019/20.
Bayern showed their faith by giving Nagelsmann a five-year contract after reportedly paying Leipzig 25 million euros ($29 million) for his services.
His most pressing job is to rebuild Bayern’s back four after the departure of defenders David Alaba and Jerome Boateng.
He will have to quickly integrate new signings like France centre-back Dayot Upamecano and England under-21 left-back Omar Richards.
Bayern have won the Bundesliga every year since 2012/13 and landing a tenth straight German league title is mandatory for the fans and the board.
– High demands –
“At Bayern, success has to come very quickly,” insisted Oliver Khan, the club’s new CEO.
“Our rivals are going to hunt us like never before, so we’ve got to be ready for that.
“We want to continue to belong to the top three in Europe,” he added, even though Bayern went out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season.
Nagelsmann knows he will only be established “when I win titles. Only then will I have really arrived at Bayern”.
He is still waiting for the first major trophy as a coach after his Leipzig side lost last season’s German Cup final to Borussia Dortmund.
However, Nagelsmann has a fierce desire to win everything — even down to a round of the family board game Ludo.
“I can accept that I lose sometimes. But when I start to be able to lose, I’m no longer a winner,” he explained.
– Childhood dream –
Nagelsmann hails from the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, 60km west of Munich, and slept under a Bayern duvet as a child.
He dreamt of playing in the famous red shirt until injury curtailed his career prematurely, so coaching the club is “very close to my lifelong dream”.
He has already begun winning over Bayern’s stars.
“Nagelsmann can build something here,” insisted Germany forward Thomas Mueller.
Nagelsmann has a talent for nurturing talent, like Bayern midfielder Jamal Musiala, who only turns 19 in February.
Musiala received a “nice, motivating message” from Nagelsmann after Germany were knocked out of the Euro 2020 finals at the last 16 stage.
The teenager says Nagelsmann has already “done a lot of work” improving his “first touch, my vision and co-ordination”.