What is the difference between Julian Nagelsmann and Domenico Tedesco? "The biggest difference is that Julian won the German title with Hoffenheim's under-19s, whereas Domenico didn't," said Dirk Mack, a man who knows them both well.
The director of Hoffenheim's youth academy was only teasing The 49-year-old really only has warm words for both outstanding coaches, who emerged from Hoffenheim's youth set-up and are now plotting successful careers at the highest level.
This Saturday Hoffenheim face Schalke in the Bundesliga and on the touchline will be the two youngest coaches in the league. Julian Nagelsmann, 30, has been coach of Hoffenheim since February 2016, while Domenico Tedesco, 32, took the reins at Schalke in July. Both earned their stripes in Hoffenheim's youth set-up, with Tedesco taking Nagelsmann's place when he was promoted to the first team.
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The pair also gained their coaching badges together, with Tedesco finishing top of the class ahead of Nagelsmann. "I'm sure they've ribbed each other about that once or twice," Mack said, even if he does not feel there is much importance to who finished ahead of whom. Besides, as the course was drawing to its conclusion, Nagelsmann was right in the thick of a Bundesliga relegation battle.
"In the last month and a half, I think I only went to Hennef [sport school] three times," Nagelsmann recalls. "I had other problems to resolve." Often, the pair would drive from Baden to the Rhineland together, although "Domenico would sit in the back row and I'd be at the front," recalled Nagelsmann. "Not because I wanted to look swotty, but I always wanted to get there later." By which time, only the undesired pews were remaining.
Prior to the UEFA Champions League play-off against Liverpool in August, English journalists wanted to know whether Nagelsmann was leading a new generation of young, German coaches. The humble Hoffenheim coach simply replied that the story would have been completely different had he failed to save the club from relegation in 2016, adding that Hoffenheim had merely been courageous to give him a chance, and that all the other young coaches currently plying a trade in the Bundesliga have been chosen for their qualities – and not because it worked with Nagelsmann.
Mack does believe that "Julian opened the door for other young coaches in the Bundesliga," however. It is a trend that he sees continuing for a while to come too. "There is a tendency towards clubs now looking at younger coaches who has demonstrated they can be successful rather than just finding a former player who had a good career," he said. With the wealth of experience these new breed are gaining already at a young age, they are maturing much quicker.
"Their own expectations also grow quicker," Mack added. "These Nagelsmanns and Tedescos don't just come out of the blue. They are professionals." Tedesco joined Hoffenheim from Stuttgart and was there for two years before moving to Erzgebirge Aue and saving them from relegation into the third division. Then, the call from Schalke arrived – a call which would not have come had things not turned out the way they did in Aue.
That does not mean he does not harbour the same ambitions as Nagelsmann, or not share his drive and determination, for that matter. And Mack expects them both to go a long way. "They were both exceptionally talented youth team coaches," he said. "And I've seen plenty. They've both plotted a path and forced their way through, although you also need a bit of luck and the conditions have got to be right too."
The conditions certainly appear to suit both of the class of 2016, who will be on different benches again this Saturday: not one at the front and one at the back this time, but one on the left and the other on the right.