Jürgen Klopp, Hansi Flick, and now Thomas Tuchel. The three most recent coaches to get their hands on the iconic big ears of the UEFA Champions League trophy are all German and were all made in the Bundesliga.
Former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund boss Tuchel became the latest to lift the Champions League as Chelsea overcame former Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola in this year’s final. The Bavarian follows in the footsteps of Klopp and Flick to be crowned European club champions.
Fellow ex-Mainz and Dortmund chief Klopp led Liverpool to glory in 2018/19, while Flick famously collected the UCL as part of Bayern’s historic sextuple in 2019/20.
Their glories mean there have now been five Champions League-winning German coaches since the old European Cup was rebranded in 1992. They join two-time victors Jupp Heynckes (1997/98 - Real Madrid, 2012/13 - Bayern) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (1996/97 – Dortmund, 2000/01 - Bayern) on the list.
And the latest trio of European conquerors go one better than the successive successes of Hitzfeld and Heynckes in 1997 and 1998 by making it three seasons on the spin that a German tactician has raised continental club football’s most prestigious prize above their head.
Between them, Klopp and Tuchel have ensured that a former Mainz and Dortmund representative has been in the technical area of a Champions League final in each of the past four finals, and both have immediately followed up the disappointment of defeat in the UCL showpiece one season, with success the next.
Having represented Mainz 340 times as a player, Klopp’s Bundesliga journey began with promotion to the top-flight for the first time in the club’s history in 2003/04 – an achievement the 53-year-old later described as “my greatest success as a coach”.
After seven years at the helm of the 05ers, Klopp took his “heavy-metal” football to Dortmund in 2008, where he lifted back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12, as well claiming a league and cup double in the latter campaign.
His side went on to contest an all-German Champions League final in 2013 but eventually fell short to Heynckes’ Bayern, forcing Klopp to wait a further six years to finally collect his winner’s medal.
Tuchel also trod the Mainz-Dortmund-Champions League winner path of Klopp, taking the Carnival Club into Europe for the first time in their history before collecting DFB Cup glory in 2017 with BVB.
And it was Flick that denied Tuchel as Paris Saint-Germain boss in 2020, when Bayern ran roughshod over the tweaked UCL competition en route to becoming German, European and world champions.
Bayern’s sextuple under Flick – in his first season as head coach – included the Meisterschale, DFB Cup, Champions League, and FIFA Club World Cup, as well as both the German and European Supercups.
Flick backed that up by sealing a record-extending ninth Bundesliga title for Bayern in 2020/21, and his journey will continue with the national team once Joachim Löw steps aside at the conclusion of UEFA Euro 2020 this summer.
History would suggest that Flick – a former midfielder with Bayern, where he amassed 104 appearances and was German champion four times - will continue to horde trophies with Die Mannschaft also.
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Having begun his coaching career with local lower-league club Viktoria Bammental in 1996, Flick lifted Hoffenheim in to the third tier of German football before stepping down in 2005 and serving as assistant to Löw for eight years from 2006 to 2014.
During that period, Germany famously became FIFA World Cup winners with Flick at Löw’s side in 2014 and after respective spells as sporting director and managing director of the German Football Association (DFB) and back at Hoffenheim, Flick emphatically emerged in 2020 as one of the most exciting coaches in the game by overseeing the greatest year in Bayern’s illustrious history.
The triple-threat of Klopp, Flick and Tuchel clearly represent the pinnacle of a golden age of German coaching. Director of the German national team and DFB academy, Oliver Bierhoff, was right to describe this period as “a wonderful moment of success for German football” when Flick and Tuchel were joined by Bayern-bound Julian Nagelsmann as three of the four coaches contesting last year’s Champions League semi-finals.
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It is testament to the country’s Football Coaching Licence – or Fußball-Lehrer ("Football Teacher") and the equivalent of a UEFA Pro Licence – that are only attained at the prestigious Hennes-Weisweiler Academy in Cologne.
Any German coach wishing to cut his teeth in professional football within the country must pass the 11-month course, chalking up nearly 800 hours of work in the process compared to at least 240 hours of coaching on the UEFA Pro Licence equivalent.
The aim is to create the best coaches in world football and, on recent evidence, it appears to be working.