RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann says he feels vindicated by his decision to turn down an offer from Real Madrid, as he prepares to lead the Bundesliga side into the final eight of the UEFA Champions League.
Madrid president Florentino Perez contacted Nagelsmann in 2018, when Zinedine Zidane surprisingly announced he was stepping down after leading Los Merengues to a third straight Champions League title.
The German coach had initially guided Hoffenheim to their first ever qualification for Europe in 2017. He then took the Sinsheim club even higher, however, with a third-place finish in the Bundesliga and guaranteed Champions League football catapulting him to the top of the Spanish club's list of targets.
"I believed that it was still not the right step to go to Real Madrid," Nagelsmann told Spanish media. "I was one of the candidates and the list was not very long. For me, it was very important."
Watch: How Nagelsmann has improved Leipzig
Although he was flattered by Real's approach, Nagelsmann did not feel he was at the right stage in his career to make a move abroad to the defending European champions. "We had phone calls, but in the end the one who decided was me," the 33-year-old explained.
"I had a good chat with Jose Angel Sanchez [Real's managing director] and we decided that it was still not the right step. Leipzig went to great lengths to sign me. That was the most important thing.
"I had an offer on the table relatively quickly. We had good conversations and I saw that it was a good next step: a bigger club than Hoffenheim which would allow me to continue developing. They've also given me a free hand to introduce my ideas. I don't have to justify what I do permanently, but I have the possibility to evolve and transfer my ideas to the field of play. It was a good next step in my career."
It proved to be a wise choice. After just one year in the Leipzig hotseat, Nagelsmann is now into the quarter-finals of the Champions League - while Real were eliminated by Manchester City at the last-16 stage.
Atletico Madrid stand between Leipzig and a place in the semi-finals of Europe's ultimate club competition, and Nagelsmann is just three wins away from confirming beyond any doubt that choosing Leipzig over Madrid was a wise decision.