A $36 Million Gamble Worth The Risk?

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Hansi Flick is still the coach; Bayern Munich has not even wrapped up their ninth title in a row yet. But at this point, it seemed certain that Flick, who has won six titles in his short time at the Rekordmeister, is going to leave at the end of the season. His potential replacement? Julian Nagelsmann. 

The RB Leipzig head coach has been linked to Bayern Munich for some time. The 33-year-old was born in Landsberg, not far from Munich, and played for 1860 Munich before a nasty knee injury ended his career. Instead, Nagelsmann became the youngest head coach in Bundesliga and the Champions League history while in charge of Hoffenheim from 2016-2019. 

While at Hoffenheim, Leipzig was already linked with the Bayern job. But in 2018, he opted to join Leipzig instead—he remained in Hoffenheim until the end of the 2018/19 season. Bayern signed Niko Kovač from Frankfurt instead, an experiment that went sideways in Nov. 2019 and led to Flick’s appointment.

As Flick won title after title, the 56-year-old was supposed to become Bayern’s long-term solution, giving Nagelsmann the necessary time to gain experience within the Red Bull setup. But behind closed doors, there were frequent clashes between sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and Flick. When Joachim Löw stepped down from the national team, there was an opportunity for Flick to escape the clashes and move on. 

That left Bayern in a difficult position to find a replacement; the most obvious choice is Nagelsmann. Despite Nagelsmann’s statements that there has been no direct contact with him, Bayern has spoken to the head coach’s representatives. Nagelsmann, too wants the job. 

With all this in mind, the momentum is now clearly moving towards Nagelsmann moving to Bayern. Leipzig, in turn, will move for Red Bull Salzburg head coach Jesse Marsch. “Julian Nagelsmann is doing a great job, and Leipzig has no reason to look for a new coach,” Marsch said on Sunday aired Sky documentary Meine Geschichte (cited via Transfermarkt). “But if there is ever a possibility to return to Leipzig, then that would be a great idea for me.”

In so many ways, it would be the natural progression that is being criticized by Bundesliga observes. Bayern plugs the very best from their opponents, and Leipzig once again takes the very best from their farm team in Salzburg. Matters will be made worse, in the minds of many pundits, by the fact that Bayern has also signed Dayot Upamecano from Leipzig

Things, however, are often more nuanced and complicated than made out by journalists looking in from the outside. First of all, Nagelsmann moving to Bayern, despite the mutual interest by both parties, is not straightforward. Nagelsmann is under contract until 2023 and has no exit clause

RB Leipzig is somewhat reluctant to let Nagelsmann go. Still, multiple reports on Sunday suggested that the Red Bull-operated club could soften their stance for a fee in the region of €30 million ($36 million). That is a significant fee for a head coach and would not just constitute a new record in Germany—the current record is held by Adi Hütter, who will join Gladbach from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer for €7.5 million ($9m).

That is a significant fee for a head coach, and because of COVID-19, Bayern will be a somewhat reluctant spender this summer. “COVID harmed us all, some more, some less,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag on Sunday when asked about cost-cutting in European football. 

“We have to draw the conclusions from this,” Rummenigge said about financial problems and other clubs trying to address them by creating a European Super League. “We now have to start a joint initiative in Europe, which should read: Do not inflate the costs even further, but reduce them!” 

With those statements in mind, it is difficult to imagine that the club would spend a world-record fee for a head coach, especially as coaches are not players. The moment the club signs Nagelsmann, the fee will be a sunken cost. Coaches are not resold; when fired, they have to be paid out of their contract, and there is a good chance, Nagelsmann’s style of football is not a perfect fit in Munich—it is a significant risk overall for the Rekordmeister. 

Not surprisingly, Bayern hopes to get some fee for their current head coach Hansi Flick from the German football federation (DFB) once he becomes the new national team head coach. That, however, was shut down on Sunday by DFB vice-president Rainer Koch in an interview with BR Sports.

“The DFB will not pay a fee for a coach because we’ve never done that before,” Koch said when asked about paying a fee for Flick. “The DFB doesn’t have infinite money.” 

Neither does Bayern or any other club in Europe at the moment. With Flick seemingly set to leave Bayern and Nagelsmann wanting the Bayern job, those pieces seem to fall into place. But in times of COVID and financial uncertainty, nothing seems for certain. 

Manuel Veth is the editor-in-chief of the Futbolgrad Network and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth 

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