Sandro Wagner might be as well known in Germany for his headline-grabbing soundbites as he is for his achievements during a journeyman playing career, but the former Bayern Munich forward has plenty of substance too.
Allow bundesliga.com to help you get to know Julian Nagelsmann's assistant in the Germany national team a little better…
1) Journeyman player
Born in Munich in November 1987, Wagner joined the Bayern youth academy at the age of eight. The striker progressed sufficiently well to make four first-team appearances in 2007/08, but with a lack of regular playing time forthcoming, he moved on to MSV Duisburg – the start of a meandering path that took him to eight clubs in the subsequent 12 years.
He had two decent seasons in Bundesliga 2, scoring 13 times in 36 appearances as a 21-year-old before moving to Werder Bremen. Stints at Kaiserslautern and Hertha Berlin followed, but it wasn't until a breakout Bundesliga campaign with Darmstadt in 2015/16 that Wagner truly established himself as a top-flight player, hitting 14 goals in 32 games to play a leading role in the team avoiding relegation.
Watch: Wagner's best Bundesliga goals
That earned him a move to Hoffenheim – under Nagelsmann, incidentally – and he confirmed his goalscoring prowess there with 15 in 42 league games between July 2016 and December 2017. It was during that time that Joachim Löw called him up to the senior Germany squad for the first time, and he would go on to score five goals in eight caps.
Wagner moved to Bayern in January 2018 as a back-up to Robert Lewandowski and registered 10 goals in 30 competitive games before heading to Chinese side Tianjin Tigers in January 2019. He eventually hung up his boots for good in July 2020 to return home and focus on a coaching career.
2) Early and late successes
Wagner earned Bundesliga and DFB Cup winners' medals as part of the Bayern squad in 2007/08, and followed that up with an U21 European Championship triumph in 2009.
He scored twice in the final, a 4-0 win over England, but unlike Germany team-mates Manuel Neuer, Jerome Baoteng, Benedikt Höwedes, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil, who all went on to win the 2014 World Cup with the seniors, Wagner wouldn't blossom until several years later (see above).
Still, when his time arrived, honours quickly followed. Wagner helped Germany win the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia and lifted two more Bundesliga titles with Bayern (2018, 2019), as well as the DFB Cup (2019) and DFL Supercup (2018).
It is perhaps for those very reasons that the famously goateed Wagner has never been short on confidence. "I made Hoffenheim a better team," he once said. "Before I was there they didn't have this success. That changed after I arrived."
That was by no means a one-off. While angling for a place in Germany's 2018 World Cup squad, he (repeatedly) claimed to be the nation's best forward. "In my eyes I'm the best German striker," he told bundesliga.com in early 2018. "Without relying on statistics, as I couldn't care less about those."
It should not be taken as arrogance, however. According to the man himself it is merely his "open, honest and direct way of talking about things".
Watch: Wagner: "I'm the best German striker"
4) Coaching career
Soon after returning to Germany from China in 2020, Wagner took up a position as attacking coach for the youth teams in the national set-up. He was only there for a few months, however, before taking charge of the Unterhaching U19s – a team conveniently located in the Munich suburbs – in March 2021.
By July that same year he had done enough to convince the club bosses to appoint him as first-team coach. A fourth-place finish in the Bavarian regional league (fourth tier) ensued in 2021/22, but the following campaign was a different story. With 27 wins, five draws and six defeats from 38 games, Unterhaching finished top of the division and made it through the play-offs to earn promotion to the third division.
Clearly, then, Wagner can not only talk the talk but also walk the walk – as a player and as a coach.
5) Germany involvement
The DFB (German FA) certainly seem to think so, as he was appointed assistant coach to Hannes Wolf for the U20s in summer 2023. They had not even overseen any games when they were drafted in as caretakers alongside Rudi Völler for the senior team's friendly against France in September 2023 following Hansi Flick's departure.
A 2-1 win over the 2022 World Cup runners-up was not a bad way of putting themselves in the shop window.
When Nagelsmann was confirmed as Flick's successor in the top job ahead of Germany hosting the 2024 European Championship, he was swift to praise Wagner upon naming him as his assistant.
"I know Sandro from my time at Hoffenheim, he's a very intelligent man," Nagelsmann said. "He was up for the task straight away and he'll be out visiting stadiums this weekend already." If history is anything to go by, Germany can look forward to a successful summer tournament with Wagner on board.
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