Julian Nagelsmann is the youngest person ever to sit on the bench of a Bundesliga club as their head coach. - © Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Julian Nagelsmann is the youngest person ever to sit on the bench of a Bundesliga club as their head coach. - © Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Julian Nagelsmann and the Bundesliga's bright young minds

Not only is the Bundesliga the place to be for talented young footballers, it is also becoming a home for young coaches to cut their teeth with only three technicians currently over the age of 50.

With Florian Kohfeldt, 39, returning to take charge of Wolfsburg as replacement for the 44-year-old Mark van Bommel, the average age of coaches on the touchline in the Bundesliga has dropped even further, from 45.9 to 45.6.

Only Freiburg's Christian Streich, Union Berlin's Urs Fischer and Borussia Mönchengladbach's Adi Hütter have already celebrated their 50th birthdays, with Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann - 22 years Streich's junior - still the youngest coach in the league.

Together with Kohfeldt and Hoffenheim's Sebastian Hoeneß, the youngest coach ever to have sat in the hotseat for a Bundesliga fixture – Nagelsmann was 28 when he first took charge of Hoffenheim – has yet to turn 40. Yet what they may lack in years, they make up for in enthusiasm and innovation, with Nagelsmann renowned for his unorthodox yet successful coaching style.

Watch: Bayern Munich's tactical transformation under Nagelsmann

He developed that working with youngsters, testing and tinkering in less stressful surroundings where unsuccessful experimentation does not so often lead to immediate dismissal. Rather, it is encouraged and often leads to promotion to the very top, rather than the ready-made, oven-baked 'big-name' appointments many other of Europe's biggest clubs favour.

Mainz are a case in point. Bo Svensson, 42, was appointed in January to replace Jan-Moritz Lichte, who was the same age as his successor when he took the reins in September 2020. Prior to him, the 05ers had broken with tradition briefly with the appointment of 52-year-old Achim Beierlorzer, but previously gave Sandro Schwartz (38) his break with the first team after being so impressed with the job he had done for their reserves and youth teams.

Ring a bell? It is the same path taken by Thomas Tuchel, who was just 35 when he became their head coach for five seasons in 2009, and Martin Schmidt, the club's current sporting director who was also promoted from the reserve team in 2015. Both followed in the footsteps of Jürgen Klopp – a sprightly 33-year-old when he initially became their player-coach in 2001 before spending seven and a half seasons in their hotseat.

Nagelsmann (l.) is 22 years younger than the league's longest-serving coach Christian Streich (r.), who completes a decade of uninterrupted service for Freiburg at the end of 2021. - JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

Tuchel and Klopp have since gone on to lift the UEFA Champions League, in addition to collecting domestic trophies almost at will in Germany, England and France. Both learned their craft in the Bundesliga, and the former had a major influence over Nagelsmann making an important career choice. In fact, it was Tuchel who gave Nagelsmann a route back into the game after a serious knee injury had cut short his playing career at the age of 20. Nagelsmann had enrolled for a business administration course at university and appeared lost to the game when Tuchel asked him if he could do some scouting for him at Augsburg.

The rest, as they say, is history – although only insofar as the Bundesliga, and specifically Hoffenheim in this case, allowed it to be. When veteran Dutch coach Huub Stevens stepped down, Nagelsmann was thrust into the limelight, promoted from his position as coach of their U19s and tasked with saving the club from relegation, a challenge he accepted and mastered magnificently. He remained in charge of the Sinsheim club for 136 games, averaging 1.53 points per game before moving to RB Leipzig, where he boosted that average to 1.94 per game from 95 matches.

After taking the Hoffenheim reins earlier than expected, Nagelsmann swiftly completed a coaching course, actually finishing with the second-highest grade to a certain Domenico Tedesco, who had also impressed with the Hoffenheim U19s and was given his big break in the Bundesliga with Schalke at the age of 31. He guided the Royal Blues to a second-place finish in his first full season in charge of a club from Germany's top flight, justifying their gamble on a man who had shown his credentials coaching youngsters.

American Jesse Marsch is RB Leipzig's fourth head coach of the Bundesliga era, and third under the age of 50. - Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

What Mainz, Hoffenheim and Schalke did was place their faith in up-and-coming coaches who had shown promising results working with young players within their clubs' own youth development structure, and the knock-on effect is that they have all shown a greater tendency to give young players a shot in the first team.

With many young coaches calling the shots, their preference for giving youth a chance, and braveness to take a gamble on such players, is leading to the league becoming the most fertile of grounds for fresh, new talent. The Bundesliga is the only big-five league where the players' average age has dropped since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, going down by over a year to 25.4 years.

Since 2005/06, the average age of players in the Bundesliga has been dropping constantly. From being the league with the second-highest average age behind Italy, it now has the second-youngest average age of Europe's big five leagues, only marginally above France's Ligue 1 (25.3). By comparison, the English Premier League and Serie A's averages are both 26.8, with LaLiga the 'oldest' at 27.5.

The likes of Jude Bellingham, Erling Haaland and Jamal Musiala are thriving thanks to the presence of coaches like Nagelsmann who are anything but afraid of giving them opportunities to showcase their talent at the highest level, and the Bundesliga clubs are not afraid to give young coaches a chance, and the results are there for all to see.