Huddersfield Town head coach and former USA international David Wagner has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight over the past two years, having performed wonders at the West Yorkshire club after a career spent honing his skills in the Bundesliga.
But how has he gone from being a previously unknown member of Jürgen Klopp's coaching staff at Borussia Dortmund to being linked to high-profile positions in the Premier League, Bundesliga and the vacant US National Team job? Allow bundesliga.com to fill in the gaps.
Born in Trebur, developed at Mainz
Wagner was born to an American father and German mother in the small town of Trebur, approximately eight miles outside of Mainz. His professional debut came as a teenager for Eintracht Frankfurt, making one Bundesliga appearance in 1990, but Wagner was unable to establish himself as a regular striker in the Eagles' squad and joined Mainz the following year.
Little did he know it at the time, but the move would go on to shape his later career as it was there that he met a certain team-mate called Klopp. The two instantly hit it off and developed a close relationship – so much so that Wagner was best man Klopp's wedding, while Klopp would become godfather to one of Wagner's two daughters.
Watch: David Wagner and his daughters starred in an amusing, homemade Christmas video in 2017!
"Somebody, I don't know how it happened, put us together in a room and that was the start of a lifelong friendship," Klopp said in a Sky Sports documentary. "It's like family, so we consider each other brothers and it also feels like we are because we've known each other so long."
On the field, Wagner enjoyed a relatively successful spell in the second division at Mainz, scoring 19 times in his four years at the club. "He wasn't very consistent, even if he does not want to hear it," said a typically forthright Klopp of his former team-mate's ability. "He was a big talent, but not every day. He was very a young player when he came from Eintracht Frankfurt to Mainz, a very skilled boy, very quick, a good striker."
Stars and Stripes come calling
Despite Klopp's reservations, Wagner's form nevertheless earned him a move back to the Bundesliga with Schalke, joining fellow American Thomas Dooley at the Royal Blues. He scored twice in 29 appearances across two largely unfulfilling years in Gelsenkirchen, but still picked up a winner's medal for the club's 1997 UEFA Cup triumph.
That was not the only souvenir from his time at Schalke, as fellow American Michael Mason – who was playing for Hamburg at the time – recommended him to USA head coach Steve Sampson. Wagner was subsequently called up to the national team and made eight appearances between 1996 and 1998, although he was ultimately left out of the country's squad at the World Cup in France.
First footsteps in coaching
Those two years proved to be the pinnacle of Wagner's playing days and after leaving Schalke in 1998 he stepped down a division to sign for FC Gutersloh. He would spend the rest of his career in Germany's second and third tiers before hanging up his boots for good in 2005.
He subsequently took his coaching badges but it was not until he assumed control of Dortmund's second team in 2011 that he returned to the professional game. Wagner went on a steep learning curve during this time, not only in terms of emulating Klopp's high-pressing style, but also demonstrating a discerning eye for identifying talented youngsters and developing them into budding professionals.
Watch: The 2011/12 season at Borussia Dortmund under Klopp was wildly successful!
Pioneer at Huddersfield
With a burgeoning reputation in the dugout and the coaching foundations duly laid, it was no surprise that Wagner was rumoured to be joining Klopp at Liverpool in late 2015. Tempting as that may have been, he opted to forge his own path and although he did move to the north of England, it was to Huddersfield instead.
At the time the Terriers were in the midst of a relegation battle in the Championship - England's second tier - and after sacking Chris Powell, they were looking to revolutionise their working model. "The first phone call I received was from [Huddersfield head of football] Stuart [Webber] and at the end of our conversation he said the club had to find a new way, that everybody wanted to go in a new direction, and were excited about what we did in Dortmund and how we tried to play," Wagner explained.
"He asked me: 'Is it possible to do this in England?' I said: ‘Why not?' It's possible to play this way anywhere in the world if you have open-minded players and an open-minded club."
Wagner found fertile ground in Huddersfield, and, after overhauling the team's style, he led them away from the relegation zone by the end of the campaign. In 2016/17, his first full season at the club, Wagner took a team with one of the smallest budgets in the English Championship and achieved promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.
A one-off success, perhaps? Far from it. Wagner diligently built on that achievement in 2017/18, a campaign in which the Terriers were initially widely considered to be relegation favourites, before proving their doubters wrong and securing safety with a game to spare. Not only that, but the manner in which they did so was also remarkable, recording draws away to Chelsea and Manchester City – Premier League champions past and present – in two of their last three fixtures.
So what happens next for this latest Bundesliga-educated rising star? On the evidence so far, the only way is up.