Julian Nagelsmann's path to be next Bayern manager hits bumpy road
Touted as a future Bayern Munich coach following Carlo Ancelotti's exit, this weekend Hoffenheim's Julian Nagelsmann travels to the club with his stock continuing to fall and the German champions still facing a coaching conundrum.
With Bayern looking for a new coach at the end of September the links to local lad Nagelsmann, seen as the next big thing, were inevitable, especially with the 30-year-old basking in a second straight win over Ancelotti's Bayern earlier that month.
Furthermore, Nagelsmann didn't do much to quell the rumours, letting slip that it was his dream to coach Bayern and being pictured in a fetching red coat during a visit to the Allianz Arena.
Moving his wife and child to Munich was seen to be another pointer toward Nagelsmann's ascension to the Bayern coaching throne. He further fuelled speculation by commenting: "I am very, very happy in my life but Bayern Munich would make me a little bit happier" and "Bayern has always played a prominent role in my dreams."
Nagelsmann also revealed Uli Hoeness approached him to take over the club's youth team back in 2015, but Hoffenheim owner and investor Dietmar Hopp refused to let his much-coveted asset leave, claiming: "It's pleasing when a man like Uli Hoeness, who made Bayern great, rates you a little."
So with Bayern insisting on a German speaking coach this time around, Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel, a Pep Guardiola disciple, were the obvious contenders.
However, Hoeness reportedly has his reservations about hiring the ex-Borussia Dortmund coach, who is reportedly not high on Mats Hummels' Christmas card list either, with suggestions surfacing of a fractious relationship between the pair at BVB.
Meanwhile, Nagelsmann's stock has fallen appreciably this season on the back of a particularly woeful European campaign at Hoffenheim, when he failed both his Champions and Europa League auditions -- not quite leaving his reputation in tatters, but he would now appear better off trying to revitalise Borussia Dortmund if he gets the chance.
In the meantime, in a left-field appointment, Jupp Heynckes took over as Bayern's interim coach in October. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The 72-year-old has overseen a remarkable transformation in Bayern's fortunes in his fourth term in charge, leading the Bavarians to 17 wins in 18 games in all competitions -- including a DFB Pokal penalty shootout success against Leipzig.
That upturn in form has unsurprisingly prompted calls for Heynckes to stay on from all quarters. He has previously ruled out an extension beyond June, despite his close friend Hoeness' best efforts to twist his arm. But the Bayern hierarchy are not renowned for taking "nein" for an answer and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge vowed to step up their "charm offensive" to convince the magisterial Heynckes to give another year of dedicated service.
Understandably, Heynckes is refusing to broach the subject at his weekly news conferences, preferring to let his team to his talking on the pitch. However, the players have made no secret that they would like their beloved father figure to stay on.
While Nagelsmann has quickly slipped down the pecking order, Joachim Low is one name to watch. Bayern's free-transfer signing of Leon Goretzka this coming summer fits in nicely in with Hoeness' dream of having a team of Germany internationals -- "FC Deutschland." It's no coincidence that recent club transfer policy has seen the acquisition of a host of promising German talents -- adding Niklas Sule, Serge Gnabry and Sebastian Rudy to the existing talents of Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Hummels.
What better man to coach these stars than Low? Furthermore, Low might fancy another crack at club management, especially if he can defend the World Cup in Russia with Germany, giving him the opportunity to do a Philipp Lahm and retire from international football at the very top.
The effervescent Jurgen Klopp has been courted in the past and will always have his admirers at Bayern. With Klopp set to come under more scrutiny at Liverpool after spending £75 million on a central defender in Virgil van Dijk, it will be interesting to watch the manager's progress in the coming months on Merseyside. One thing is for sure: He will be keen to avoid any more defeats such as the Reds suffered at bottom-of-the-table Swansea on Monday.
However, with Bayern currently on course for another treble, ultimately, Heynckes' wife, Iris, and dog will play a major part in his "should I stay or should I go" decision.
Iris is recovering from a knee operation, while Heynckes joked at his unveiling that his dog Cando barked twice to officially seal his return to Bayern for a fourth spell. The Bayern hierarchy will hope for similar noises of approval from the faithful German shepherd this summer.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.