For a few days at least it seemed as though Thomas Tuchel was a shoe-in to become the next trainer of FC Bayern Munich following their sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. Photos appeared of him apparently boarding a Munich-bound plane, the rumours in the press all pointed towards the appointment of the former Borussia Dortmund boss and it all seemed to be going swimmingly.
Then came the turnaround and the tide turned against Tuchel, he was out of the equation and Bayern instead turned to 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes to see them through to the end of the season, when it is presumed they will make a move for Hoffenheim’s young coach Julian Nagelsmann.
If reports are to be believed, discussions did take place between Tuchel and the triumvirate of power at the Sabener Strasse –Uli Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hasan Salihamidzic — but the 44-year-old didn’t get to the stage where he was offered the job.
Why that is remains unclear, but it has been speculated that while Rummenigge was convinced, Uli Hoeness was not. Could it have anything to do with Hoeness sounding out Michael Zorc and Mats Hummels about their dealings with Tuchel? Or is there a power play going on behind the scenes between traditionalist Hoeness and progressive Rummenigge?
There is no question that Tuchel is tactically astute, but he was clearly a divisive figure at Dortmund and that was probably feared a bit by Hoeness even if a strong-willed character is something Bayern desperately need right now.
So what next for Thomas Tuchel?
It seems clear that a sabbatical until the end of the season is in the cards, but it also seems unlikely he will be out of a job beyond the summer. A top Champions League club will be his next destination which now makes a move outside Germany all the more likely.
Option A- England
Tuchel’s name came up last season when Arsenal were coming under increasing pressure to part company with Arsene Wenger. That the Frenchman ultimately survived and signed a new two-year contract should not however rule out Tuchel from the Emirates post.
Should Arsenal struggle again this year, under-perform and miss out once more on the Champions League, the calls for him to go will return and the former Dortmund coach’s name will be thrown into the ring again.
There are also rumours in England that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is homesick and wants to return to Italy when he has achieved what he wants at Stamford Bridge. Tuchel could therefore have another option open to him in London. Mauricio Pochettino and Jürgen Klopp seem firmly entrenched at their clubs, but football is a fickle business (especially in the Premier League) and Tuchel would certainly be a candidate at either Spurs or Liverpool should the situation arise.
Option B- Paris
Unai Emery’s performance management targets at Paris St Germain are simple but highly ambitious. The winning of the Champions League is a minimum requirement of the Qatari backers, who have delivered him such gems as Neymar and Kylian Mbappé to help him achieve that. Should he fail, he will in all likelihood pay with his job and another coach will be parachuted in. Cue Thomas Tuchel?
Option C- Bayern Munich
Bayern could still be a realistic option for Tuchel at the end of the season. There are many reasons why he would be an ideal fit at the Allianz Arena — not just the fact that he a born and bred Bavarian.
Julian Nagelsmann is not the dead-cert many are making him out to be. Hoffenheim would be within their rights to demand up to €50 million in compensation for their under-contract coach- a figure even Bayern may balk at paying.
Plus, would Bayern be prepared to take such a risk on an untested coach? In only his second season, Nagelsmann was found wanting in the Champions League qualifier against Liverpool and would find the difference between Hoffenheim and Bayern a huge jump.
Tuchel has shown at Dortmund he can cope at a big club, he won the DFB Pokal and showed in clashes with Bayern that he had the tactical nous to match the Bavarians. Last season saw BVB beat Bayern at the Signal Iduna Park in the league and knock them out at the semi-final stage of the Pokal.
Jupp Heynckes is only a short-term solution for Bayern and they will need to start planning for his successor next season sooner rather than later. Tuchel should not be ruled out of the equation just because he wasn’t appointed this week.
Interesting times ahead.