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Julian Nagelsmann: RB Leipzig manager on being courted by Real Madrid and facing Liverpool in the Champions League


RB Leipzig are Bayern Munich’s closest challengers again in Germany this season
Venue: Puskas Arena, Budapest Date: Tuesday 16 February (20:00 GMT)
Coverage: Full match commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, live text commentary and report on BBC Sport website and app

Julian Nagelsmann is younger than some of Jurgen Klopp’s players – but is aiming to mastermind Liverpool’s Champions League exit.

Klopp was at university and playing part-time football when Julian Nagelsmann, manager of Liverpool’s Champions League last-16 opponents RB Leipzig, was born in 1987.

At 33, Nagelsmann is younger than Liverpool players James Milner and Adrian and has already been courted by Real Madrid.

But what makes the young boss, who took Leipzig to the semi-finals last season, tick?

BBC Sport’s Guillem Balague found out.

‘I can be a crazy child’

Nagelsmann was just 28 years old when he was named as manager of Hoffenheim. In his first full season, they qualified for the Champions League – only to be eliminated in the play-off round by Klopp’s Liverpool.

“When you educate and develop your players, it is important they recognise you are sometimes crazy and a child and want to play football. Even though I am a manager, there will always be a good relationship with them.

“They know I am not only the guy who tells them ideas but that I can also be a crazy child as well – and that is important.

“I am nearly the same age as my players and knowing their trigger points and the most important topics off the pitch can be a big advantage.

“When I get a new player, we do tests about his character and personality because it is very important to find out about the things he loves to do on and off the pitch.

“It is important to have face-to-face meetings, so when the players have things on their mind we talk. It is important to have a good relationship with your players. If they like you and love you – and the other way around – you will be successful.

“When you get into their brains, sometimes they run more for you. If they like the manager, they will try to do more for you.”

‘It wasn’t easy to say no to Real’

Success with Hoffenheim led to a move to RB Leipzig in 2019 and that run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Incredibly, he was on the radar to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid even before that, in the summer of 2018.external-link

“It is important to have a career plan, to make the right steps. It is true I had a phone call from Real Madrid. I was not the only one they got in touch with.

“They wanted to talk to me and get to know me and get to know my philosophy. I made the right decision, it was not that easy because Real Madrid are one of the biggest clubs.

“If they call me in the future perhaps the decision would be different, but two years ago it was the right decision. I had no time for preparation, no time to learn the language. I did not have a great experience at international level.

“With Hoffenheim, we only won one continental game, so to be the next manager of Real Madrid was not the right next step. The step to go to Leipzig was better for my career.”

Julian Nagelsmann
‘Last time we played against Manchester United, I wore cool stuff and we lost. If we win the game everyone talks about how cool the jacket was, if we lose they don’t’

‘Even my hobbies are about action’

Nagelsmann’s sides – as Tottenham can testify after being knocked out at this stage last season – are known for playing a high-tempo, high-pressing style. So it’s no surprise that off the field the manager enjoys taking risks as well.

“My hobbies are linked to the way I want to play soccer. I want to do different action things, like kite surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, freeridingexternal-link with skis.

“I like these sports in my free time and it could be a big link with how I want to play soccer. It is always about offensive parts, always about action, trying to create chances and give fans in the stadium an emotional time.”

‘What Liverpool do is world class’

Liverpool have never played Leipzig before – but did beat Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim home and away in 2017.

“Liverpool have struggled at times this season but they will try to press us very high, attack us very high. Our build-up game has to be quick and we have to make the right decisions. We also have to play some long balls into the deep space.

“There will be big phases where we have to defend deep because what they do is world class. Their three forwards are very dangerous and very good.

“Our performance has to be very good to win the game. A very important part of being a manager is to study the opponents.”

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