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Hoffenheim's 29-Year-Old Manager Is Absolutely Smashing It

Hoffenheim's 29-Year-Old Manager Is Absolutely Smashing It

In the first week of December last year, Hoffenheim were second from bottom in the Bundesliga and staring relegation in the face.

Today, a year later, with a stunning 4-0 win over fellow high-fliers Cologne, they sit in 4th place and are undefeated after 13 matches.

That is nothing short of miraculous, so what has changed? Well, for one, their manager. While most clubs would look to bring in an experienced head, someone who has been through it all to guide their team to safety, Hoffenheim took one hell of a risk by doing the exact oppositie.

At just 29-years-old, Julian Nagelsmann has transformed Hoffenheim from a club unable to cope with the loss of their star player Roberto Firmino and looking destined for the drop, to a team setting their sights on a finish in the European places with a number of massive clubs looking at their young stars.

And he was only 28 when he got the job.

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A coaching prodigy, Nagelsmann excelled in his first job as coach of the Hoffenheim U19s, leading them to a Bundesliga title in his first campaign, and soon word was spreading around Germany.

Incredibly, he rejected a position offered to him at Bayern Munich as the U23 coach as told by Bundesliga expert Raphael Honigstein for The Guadian.

Not so long ago, Julian Nagelsmann turned up in the Munich suburb of Giesing for a job interview with a difference: he, the twenty-something coaching prodigy, was sounding out FC Bayern, not the other way around.

The German champions, eager to appoint Germany’s most promising young trainer as their U23 team manager, pulled out all the stops. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and sporting director Matthias Sammer welcomed him personally at Säbener Strasse. Pep Guardiola, too, dropped in on him, offering kind words and a nice pat on the back. Nagelsmann wasn’t swayed by the Red’s charm offensive, however. He preferred the clear path laid out for him in Kraichgau to the glamour of Bavaria.

After taking TSG Hoffenheim’s U19s to the Bundesliga championship in 2013-14 and another appearance in the final a year later, the powers at 1899 secretly made up their mind that the Landsberg-born former TSV 1860 player would take over the seniors ahead of the 2016/17 season.

The resignation of Hoffenheim's manager fast-tracked the decision to make him head coach, and eye-brows were raised all over Europe.

A 29-year-old? That is typically the age of a footballer at the peak of their powers, or, outside of the realm of football, someone still living with their parents pumping hours into Football Manager.. Not an actual manager. Much less a coach that every club in Germany wants a piece of.

But they stuck to their guns, and now they are being rewarded for it. A disciple of Thomas Tuchel, Nagelsmann isn't pulling up trees and making revolutionary changes tactically, instead, his success seems to stem from his personal relationship with his players.

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It helps that only three of his first-team squad are older than him, for sure, but Nagelsmann has the players playing for him week in week out, and it is hard not to admire the remarkable job he is doing.

What's also hard not to admire is his attitude. You could forgive him for getting a little carried away as his team, along with Real Madrid and RB Leipzig, are one of only three unbeaten teams in Europe, but despite the clear attempts of the German media to get him to play along, his feet remain firmly on the ground.

Reporter: Could you have imagined your team's incredible start to the season?

Nagelsmann: I could have imagined it, yes. I wouldn't have considered it realistic, but it is nice to be still unbeaten.

"You couldn't write a script like this!" Well, you easily could, that's the beauty of writing a screenplay... That unfortunate cliche was trotted out every week for Claudio Ranieri last season, and sure enough Hoffenheim are being regularly compared to Leicester City in the German media and beyond.

Hoffenheim won't win the league this season, and they may not even finish in the top six, but there is no denying that they are in a much, much better place with Nagelsmann in charge, and it's clear that the startlingly young manager is well capable of manaing a team in a top European league.

It's only a matter of time before Europe's struggling giants start investigating how he's managed to do so well with such little experience and try to tempt him away... Again.

Mikey Traynor