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Klopp clone? From a German bar to the top of world football... the rise and rise of Thomas Tuchel

New Chelsea boss's talent was developed by Ralf Rangnick


Thomas Tuchel is the new man at the helm at Stamford Bridge (Martin Rickett/PA)

Thomas Tuchel is the new man at the helm at Stamford Bridge (Martin Rickett/PA)

Thomas Tuchel is the new man at the helm at Stamford Bridge (Martin Rickett/PA)

He was working as a waiter in a German bar, yet Thomas Tuchel was destined for so much more.

With his hopes of a career in football crushed by a knee injury after he failed to make the grade with lower-level German clubs, it seemed as if an alternative career lay in wait for Tuchel.

Tuchel was just 25 when his playing career ended in 1998, with his decision to enrol for a business administration course at university forcing him to subsidise his studies with work in a local bar.

Yet little did he know then that his football story was only just beginning.

Every young manager needs a mentor to take them under his wing and for Tuchel, experienced coach Ralf Rangnick gave him his passport to a new life in football.

Something of a guru for the current generation of German coaching talent, Rangnick himself has taken charge of over 700 games in a coaching career that included spells with Stuttgart, Hannover, Schalke (two terms), Hoffenheim and most recently RB Leipzig.

Tuchel worked under Rangnick when he was a player at SSV Ulm and when the youngster got in touch about a move into coaching, he offered him a chance to work with the Stuttgart U-15 side back in 2000.

It proved to be a big break for Tuchel who thrived in Rangnick's stable of coaches, who all followed his Gegenpressing (counter-pressing) coaching blueprint.

German football is known for its efficiency and clinical approach to winning, but Rangnick's more progressive philosophy changed perceptions of how the game could be played at the start of the century.


He was, in many ways, the revolutionary who started the ball rolling for Jurgen Klopp, Tuchel and latterly RB Leipzig man Julian Nagelsmann, who is currently viewed as the most sought after coach in world football.

It's quite a tale of success for Rangnick (below), who intriguingly claimed he turned down an offer to take over at Chelsea on a temporary basis before they turned to Tuchel to succeed Frank Lampard last month.


Ralf Rangnick had a stable of young coaches.

Ralf Rangnick had a stable of young coaches.

Ralf Rangnick had a stable of young coaches.

The rise and rise of Tuchel is one of the more remarkable stories in European football over the last decade, as he followed in the footsteps of tacticians who have reached the top of the coaching game after failed playing careers.

His early success story at Stuttgart saw him mould the young careers of Mario Gomez and Holger Badstuber, who both went on to play for Germany.

Then he quickly began to establish himself as a coach who had an ability to tap into players at both a professional and personal level, helping them to change their outlook on life and football in equal measure.

Therein lies a hallmark of a coaching career that developed at an impressive pace, as Tuchel caught the eye coaching the reserve team of FC Augsburg before he landed his first big break as a coach with Mainz, where Klopp had been head coach a year before.

Just nine years had passed between Tuchel losing faith in his football dream and his arrival as a top-tier coach in Germany's Bundesliga, with his football philosophy quickly allowing him to develop a reputation as a star in the making.

His route to the top may not have been conventional, but the time he had working with Rangnick and observing how footballers tick, appear to have put Tuchel and his ilk a step ahead of managers who have spent the first half of their working life playing football at the highest level.


His lack of playing experience at the top level may explain why Tuchel has been noted for his quirkiness as a coach and that side of his nature was in evidence in his first few weeks as Chelsea boss.

In his first training session after replacing Lampard at Chelsea, Tuchel got his players to work with miniature footballs in drills designed to improve their ball control and accuracy.

When the players then reverted to using full-sized footballs, Tuchel and his coaching staff brought out smaller goals in a bid to challenge them to improve their finishing touch.

It's all part of the somewhat unconditioned Tuchel approach that also includes tapping into the mind of the footballers he works with.


Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Tuchel has often given his players a book from him entitled: The Inner Game of Tennis: The Ultimate Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey.

The book investigates how to train the unconscious mind, with former Manchester United and Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan suggesting the advice contained on those pages changed the way he thought about life and football.

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was with Tuchel at Dortmund and called him "one of the best coaches I've had, but he had something a bit crazy, a little like me", and that is the perception he has always had


Many have portrayed Tuchel as something of a mad professor, with some suggesting he didn't smile enough to engage with an audience in a manner Klopp has perfected.

That was a problem when he succeeded Klopp at Dortmund in 2015, but he did enough to earn a crack at the Paris Saint-Germain job and took the French club to within one game of their ultimate dream by reaching last season's Champions League final.


Thomas Tuchel. Pic: Getty

Thomas Tuchel. Pic: Getty

Thomas Tuchel. Pic: Getty

As he found to his cost, nothing less than the ultimate glory will do for PSG and now he has walked into a similar set of demands at Chelsea.

His arrival at Stamford Bridge sparked an instant improvement in results that suggests the Tuchel approach honed over 20 years observing, analysing and defining his ethos.

After coming so close to Champions League glory last season, Tuchel will be back on the biggest European stage of them all as Chelsea take on Atletico Madrid in Bucharest on Tuesday night.

He would like to believe that the football fates will decree he will take on former club PSG in the final in Istanbul this May.

Atletico Madrid. v Chelsea, Champions League Round-of-16, Tues., 8.0pm on Virgin Media Sport


  • Date of Birth: August 29 1973
  • His playing career ended early as a knee injury forced him to quit at the age of 25.
  • Tuchel got his big break in coaching from Ralf Rangnick as he gave him a chance to coach Stuttgart's U-15 side.
  • He followed Jurgen Klopp and managed at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
  • After winning the German Cup with Dortmund in 2017, he was named Paris Saint-Germain coach in 2018.
  • Tuchel won two French titles, the French Cup and led PSG to last season's Champions League final, losing to Bayern Munich.

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