Pellegrino Matarazzo is back in the Bundesliga at Hoffenheim - where it all began for him - and is the only American coach in one of Europe's major leagues.
bundesliga.com provides the background on the American coach as he graces Germany's top flight again.
Born in New Jersey to Italian-immigrant parents back in 1977, Matarazzo has a degree in mathematics from the Ivy League University Columbia in New York, where he and his brothers - Leopoldo and Antonio - played college soccer and Pellegrino was a two-time all-Ivy League player.
The former midfielder moved to Germany in 2000 and spent the next nine years plying his trade in the lower divisions of German football, turning out for Bad Kreuznach, SV Wehen, Preußen Münster and Wattenscheid before hanging up his boots in Nuremberg’s second team in 2010 after a total of 142 appearances across the regional leagues that sit below the third tier in German football’s pyramid.
It was in Nuremberg that Matarazzo started earning his coaching stripes, serving as U23 assistant before heading both the U17s - whom he took to a third-place finish in their region of Bundesliga U17 in 2012/13 - and the U19s. Matarazzo eventually moved to Hoffenheim as head coach of the U17s before Nagelsmann promoted the American to his assistant in January 2018. With Matarazzo on board for the final five months of the season, Hoffenheim secured third place in the Bundesliga with the best league finish in the club's history.
Matarazzo stayed on under Alfred Schreuder once Nagelsmann departed for Leipzig in summer 2019, before VfB came calling at the end of December. It was only the second time in 42 years that Stuttgart were not in the Bundesliga, and at the time they were sitting third in the Bundesliga 2 standings, having won just three league games in the preceding three months. Second-place - and promotion - followed in 2019/20 before VfB finished in ninth- and 15th-place in the two following top-flight campaigns.
The American was in charge of Stuttgart for 100 matches in total, but left the club in October 2022 after a winless run of nine Bundesliga matches at the start of the 2022/23 campaign. Less than four months later, he was back in the top flight as Hoffenheim appointed Matarazzo as the successor to Andre Breitenreiter.
Coaches a bit like: Julian Nagelsmann
The comparisons were always hard to ignore, considering Matarazzo’s past spell at Hoffenheim while Nagelsmann was such an important figure, but they do hold weight. Like current Bayern boss Nagelsmann, his trust in youth is borne out of his service in the academies of both Nuremberg and Hoffenheim.
A focus on playing attractive, relentless football through each phase of the game is another approach they share. Stuttgart were great entertainers under Matarazzo, smashing 62 goals en route to promotion in the 2019/20 Bundesliga 2 and 56 goal in 2020/21 (the seventh most in the Bundesliga that season).
Matarazzo proved he offers plenty of grit too in guiding Stuttgart to a crucial and highly dramatic 2-1 win over Cologne on the final day of the 2021/22 season that saw them narrowly escape a relegation play-off.
Watch: Matarazzo looks back on his Stuttgart side's dramatic survival on the final day of 2021/22
Did you know?
The 45-year-old is currently the only US-born and raised head coach employed in one of Europe's top professional divisions.
What they’re saying
"I know Pellegrino very well, we shared a room on our football coaching course, and he was also my assistant coach. They're very tough opponents. Against Stuttgart's variability, you can really only get a result through being dominant. They're a very good team with a very good coach who will demand a lot of us." - Nagelsmann before his Bayern Munich team met Matarazzo's Stuttgart in 2021/22
“I am really impressed by the team's quality and will approach the job full of excitement and confidence. Hoffenheim are all about attacking, brave and sharp football. I would like to get the team quickly playing the kind of football they have been known for years for and have already shown in impressive fashion this season." - Matarazzo himself on his unveiling as Hoffenheim coach in February 2023
“We are convinced he is the right man for the head coach position. He not only led VfB Stuttgart to promotion, but showed his quality in their battle to avoid relegation. He knows how to cope with pressure and what is needed in this situation. With his playing philosophy, his concept of football and way of dealing with people, he is 100% suited to Hoffenheim and our style - both this season and way beyond." - Hoffenheim director of first-team football Alexander Rosen
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