There is a 20-year age gap between Julian Nagelsmann and Jürgen Klopp, and the two coaches have never faced each other in competitive action, yet there is no denying the mutual respect between them
Monday’s press conference ahead of Hoffenheim’s UEFA Champions League play-off first leg with Liverpool revealed the mutual admiration and respect the two men have for the other, and while the two-legged tie will be fiercely contested, the effusive praise from either coach for his opposite number and compatriot has infused the tie with an added level of gentlemanly intrigue.
"Our hearts are racing! 24 hours to go!"
First up speaking to the media was Klopp. The 50-year-old departed the Bundesliga in May 2015 when he left Borussia Dortmund, almost a year before Nagelsmann took over at Hoffenheim. As they prepare to duel on the touchline for the first time, Klopp credited the preciously gifted coach as leading the way for up-and-coming coaches in Germany.
“[He is a] big, big, big coaching talent,” said the Stuttgart native. “We don't know each other very well because we didn't really have time - when I left Germany I think he was an U19 coach or something like this.
"But since then, we have written messages and things like this. I've really followed his way since then because I like good football and obviously his team is playing interesting and good football. He's not the only one but he's a good example for a lot of really good young managers in Germany. It's an interesting time on the manager market in Germany at this moment.”
Watch: Nagelsmann the touchline prodigy
Indeed he is. Nagelsmann, who is aiming to lead the club into the Champions League group stage for the first time, is one of six Bundesliga coaches still in their thirties – he is the youngest, it goes without saying – and he counts Klopp as one of his influences.
Hoffenheim’s style under Nagelsmann has incorporated elements of that popularised by Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, such as fierce pressing off the ball, and Nagelsmann credited his fellow tactician for developing such a trademark footballing identity.
Watch: Klopp's emotional farewell from Dortmund in 2015
“I like that he's stayed true to his principles,” Nagelsmann said in his press conference. “His team plays similar football to his Dortmund team and he doesn't lose sight of his way of doing things. He stands for something.
“On top of that, I rate him a lot because he's a completely normal guy and a very successful coach. He's not aloof or anything and he has a laugh and a joke. I love it when people remain completely normal like that.”