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Making sense of Bayern Munich’s decision to axe Julian Nagelsmann for Thomas Tuchel

So long, long-term vision. Hello, treble?

Enter Thomas Tuchel.
Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

How did it come to this? Bayern Munich paid a record transfer fee to secure Julian Nagelsmann not two seasons ago, and talked a lot of talk about shaping an entire era with the tactically exciting young manager. Now, despite a fantastic string of Champions League results, Nagelsmann is gone — tearing it up and starting anew having been determined the best way to secure this year’s sporting goals.

When Bayern signed Nagelsmann, it marked a shift out of an era of manager churn, where coaches had only the job to wring results out of one of Europe’s most expensively-assembled rosters. A prudent nod to the emerging realities of the market, with fees rising every transfer window: Bayern had cash, but also discipline. If they could not out-muscle state-backed clubs like Manchester City, they would have to out-savvy them — smart, calculated signings, and what was hoped to be an era-defining coach.

Now, that project is in tatters. The record fee paid for Nagelsmann? Down the drain. The spending bonanza from last summer? Players that new coach Thomas Tuchel may or may not consider a system fit. Firing Nagelsmann less than two years into a five-year deal will presumably cost a pretty penny, too. Spendthrift, this was not.

But in Thomas Tuchel, Bayern have secured one of the profession’s most well-respected names. The 49-year-old is a seasoned coach with experience managing big names and big rosters from his stints at PSG and Chelsea. It’s clear that the Bavarians aren’t messing around. And Tuchel won’t, either. The last time the German took over a coach mid-season, he led Chelsea to a Champions League Final victory over Pep Guardiola and Man City.

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund Photo by Bernd Thissen/picture alliance via Getty Images

It’s City and his former club, current league leaders Borussia Dortmund, where Tuchel will find his first tests. Should he pass, or at least not fall on his face, he’ll likely have a strong say in Bayern’s transfer activity this summer. That activity may also determine the futures of players such as Ryan Gravenberch, Benjamin Pavard, Konrad Laimer, and João Cancelo.

After that? If he doesn’t keep delivering? Tuchel’s reported 2.5-year contract — half the length of Nagelsmann’s — signals a significant philosophical shift. Win now, not hope to build for later. Spend, and spend again when it doesn’t work. If Tuchel doesn’t pan out, ring up the next top name available, and churn out players that don’t fit, again. In many ways, this is merely a reversion to the standard for FC Hollywood.

That brings us back to the crux of the matter. Why did the current board abandon their professed long-term vision so quickly? Can Bayern stay competitive with the high-stakes churn of short-term projects? If these next steps start to look less like strokes of genius and more like stumbles, expect the heat to be turned on the decision-makers next.

Can’t get enough of this story? Then check out our reaction podcast! It gets pretty spicy at times. Listen to it below or at this link.

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