The Blues boss talks about his transformation from retired player to successful coach…
He is not the only example, in fact they seem to be an increasing number, but Thomas Tuchel is clear proof that someone can make it to the very top of the football tree as a coach without having spent time in its upper branches as a player.
A Champions League winner back in May and the current UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year, Tuchel’s credentials in his current line of work are unquestionable. As a player, he casts doubt on the idea he could have risen higher had a knee injury not brought to an end his career as a sweeper at the age of 24, and when the current Chelsea boss started out on the coaching road, he only had with him experience on the pitch in the lower divisions in Germany.
His transformation into his new role in football is a subject he has talked about recently.
‘Only injuries could prevent me from having a career…in the second division!’ Tuchel said with a smile.
‘It is a bit hard to talk about my [playing] career because it ended before it even started, with some games in the second and third division. That was pretty much it.
‘I was not bad throughout the youth stages and I tried to fulfil my dream to become a professional player, but it was different times. There were no cameras in the second division in Germany when I played some games.
‘Then I got injured and had to refocus which was pretty hard. It was a dream that crashed and I did not know what to do. It was even painful to go into a stadium and watch games because it did not feel right to not be a part of it.’
At that point, Tuchel began and completed a business degree - ‘to calm my mum down more than satisfy my own needs and expectations of what I want from life’ – and it was while he was studying that the renowned Ralf Rangnick, who had coached him in his early years, persuaded him to also try youth league coaching at Stuttgart.
‘From there the story went very well for me because I found the passion again and instantly found the joy to be on the pitch out there,’ Tuchel recalled.
Although acknowledging it felt like a second chance at football, he explained he never thought about being a professional coach at that stage.
‘That’s because when I started coaching, I think 100 per cent of coaches in the first division in Germany had played in the first division. There was no example of someone who had made it through the academy and ended up in a professional coaching position.
‘It was also important to me to finish studying, to make a point to myself that I can finish something that I don’t really like, just for pure rational reasons.
‘But when I experienced again the feeling to be on the pitch and to have the chance to be the head coach of the Under-14s and the Under-15s in the Stuttgart academy, that really made me happy.
‘Even if there was not a lot of money involved, it was enough just to do this because it made me happy and I felt like I am in the right place, and I got a lot of support from many people on my way and without that it is not possible.
‘With every licence I did I got more support and I was a bit more experienced, and I got this gift from life to be promoted and promoted and promoted, and that is why I am very grateful.’
Reflecting on the wider question of whether having a second chance to make it in football gives a coach who has come up that way something extra, Tuchel is unsure, but he is certain that dreams can be fulfilled whether you have played at a high level or have not.
‘There are now more examples that it is not a given that you have to play in the Premier League or in the Bundesliga to be a coach there,’ he adds, ‘so it is nice that is possible. I am just grateful to have the chance to do this as a job.’