It is not even October. It was not even 10 games into his second season in charge. Yet the warning signs were apparent, the final domino fell in Paris, and all of a sudden, Carlo Ancelotti is out at Bayern Munich.
And all of a sudden, one of the 10 most attractive managerial positions in soccer is vacant.
It will be filled on an interim basis by 40-year-old Willy Sagnol, a former French international defender who joined Ancelotti’s staff this past summer as an assistant. But the German champions will surely be in the market for a permanent boss with a bit more experience. At the very least, they’ll assess their options.
In all likelihood, they will search for a middle ground between their last two leaders, Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola. The latter was detail-oriented and overbearing. The former was hands-off and lenient. The successor must be somewhere in between. And he or she must fit a host of other descriptions that catch Bayern’s attention.
So where does that leave the Bavarians? Who are their options?
There are two names that make a ton of sense. After that, there are many that will be mentioned, but few other possibilities that seem realistic. So let’s begin with the two favorites:
THE TWO LEADING CANDIDATES
1. Thomas Tuchel (unattached)
The most qualified German manager currently unemployed is former Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel. The 44-year-old took over for Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund in 2015 after five seasons at Mainz. His stint with BVB only lasted two years, but his departure was not solely related to on-field results.
Those on-field results were a mixed bag. Tuchel’s Dortmund finished second and third in his two Bundesliga seasons, and reached the Champions League quarterfinals in 2017. It also claimed the German Cup.
Tuchel is widely considered tactically astute, and his name has been floated around vacant Premier League jobs of varying levels of prestige. He overachieved with middling talent at Mainz, and introduced a defined style at Dortmund that steadied the club after a poor final year under Klopp. That defined style would be a departure from Ancelotti’s laisezze-faire approach.
Tuchel is perhaps slightly underqualified to take over a superclub like Bayern, and his falling outs with club management at both of his previous stops are small red flags. Bayern hasn’t held on to a manager for more than three seasons since Ottmar Hitzfeld in the late 1990s and early 2000s, so it likely craves some stability. That craving might keep Tuchel off the top of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s list. But as the top available German manager with both Bundesliga and Champions League experience, he’ll surely be somewhere on that list.
2. Julian Nagelsmann (Hoffenheim)
You’ll be hearing a lot about Nagelsmann over the next decade and beyond, whether he gets the Bayern job or not. He only just turned 30 in July, but has announced himself to the world with 18 brilliant months at Hoffenheim. He’s been labelled the managerial version of a wunderkind.
Nagelsmann was appointed as a 28-year-old more than halfway through the 2015-16 campaign with Hoffenheim deep in the relegation zone. He led the club to safety, then to fourth in the Bundesliga the following year. He’s younger than some of his players, but it didn’t take him long to earn their respect.
The drawbacks with Nagelsmann are twofold. First, there’s the obvious youth and lack of experience. Earning the respect of Hoffenheim’s veterans is one thing; earning the respect of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Robert Lewandowski, Arturo Vidal and other seasoned internationals is a completely different task. How would a player like Robben respond to being benched by a manager who is three years his junior?
Nagelsmann is also just unproven. One-and-a-half seasons – without European competition, until this autumn – is a small sample size. He would represent a massive risk.
And second, a move to Bayern might not be the right one for Nagelsmann’s nascent career. He can still benefit from learning at a club like Hoffenheim, without the immense pressure of a job like the Bayern one. He recently extended his contract through 2021. The Bayern vacancy might just have opened up a year or two too soon.
But he also has extensive ties to and love for Munich. He even spoke about the prospects of one day managing Bayern recently. “I have lived in Munich for many years,” he told Eurosport. “Originally I am from Landsberg am Lech which isn’t far away from Munich. My wife and my kid are going to move to Munich soon, we are building a house; therefore we do have a close bond to this area. It is our home.
“Even if I am not going to coach FC Bayern München I will still be a happy person. I am very, very happy with my life. FC Bayern might even make me a little happier, but that doesn’t say that my happiness depends on FC Bayern.”
Some see Nagelsmann as the leader in the clubhouse. And even if he’s not the ideal candidate, he might just be.
COULD SAGNOL GET THE JOB PERMANENTLY?
3. Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich, interim)
Sagnol had a rich playing career that concluded with nine years at Bayern. He featured in a World Cup final for France, and won 10 major trophies with the Bavarian club as a player.
But his managerial experience is very limited. His first (and only previous) club job was at Bordeaux from 2014-2016. He led the French side to sixth in Ligue 1 in year one, but was sacked before he could complete a second campaign. He joined the Munich staff this past June.
That’s hardly the résumé of a Bayern Munich managerial candidate. But Sagnol will get the unique opportunity to prove his worth on the job. He also has a genuine connection to executives and fans from his playing days. If results are flawless under his watch – and there’s no reason they can’t be – perhaps he will be seriously considered.
THE POPULAR MAINSTREAM CANDIDATE
4. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Klopp will surely be mentioned, even if mostly by British media, because he’s the most prominent German manager in club soccer, and because he is seemingly under pressure at Liverpool. But it’s unlikely he bails on his Anfield gig, and he’d be far from a home-run hire at Bayern anyway. His “heavy-metal football” only works at a certain type of club. Bayern probably isn’t that club.
THE HIPSTER CANDIDATES
5. Ralph Hasenhuttl (RB Leipzig)
Hasenhuttl wrote the Cinderella story of the 2016-17 Bundesliga season, taking Leipzig to second place in its first year in the top flight. While Leipzig was taking the league by storm, Bayern president Uli Hoeness even said nine months ago that Hasenhuttl would be one of three German-speaking managers he’d consider if Bayern were to make a change. But he would appear to be the third of three on a potential short list.
6. Leonardo Jardim (Monaco)
Jardim worked his way up through the Portuguese club ranks, then jetted off to Monaco, where he’s been in charge since 2014. His team was the toast of Europe last season as it reached the Champions League semis and pipped PSG for the Ligue 1 title, and his now-former players have been rewarded with big-money moves around Europe. Could the manager be next?
THE EXPERIENCED CANDIDATES
7. Manuel Pellegrini (Habei China Fortune)
Pellegrini had a successful, even if slightly disappointing, three-year stint at Manchester City. He also spent a season at Real Madrid, was brilliant afterward at Malaga, and has plenty of wide-ranging experience. He’s currently managing in China, so you’d think he’d be available. But he’s 64, and probably not an attractive enough candidate to compel Bayern to move for him.
8. Luis Enrique (unattached)
Enrique left Barcelona at the end of last season, and hasn’t yet found his next challenge. Could Bayern be that next challenge? He certainly has the credentials – his Barca reign yielded six major trophies, including the 2015 Champions League title. But he’s only ever spent one season as a manager or player outside of Spain, and that season, 2011-12, ended in failure at Roma.
9. Joachim Low (Germany)
Low would be the ideal candidate, but he isn’t leaving the German national team less than nine months before the World Cup.
10. Louis Van Gaal (unattached)
11. Jurgen Klinsmann (unattached)
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.