DÜSSELDORF, Germany — Strange, a shock, a sign of how heartless soccer can be.
Comments from two key Bayern Munich players hinted at unease in the squad even before new coach Thomas Tuchel takes his first training session.
Midfielders Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka voiced concerns Saturday following the sudden firing of Julian Nagelsmann and his replacement with Tuchel, a Champions League winner with Chelsea.
“Of course it’s strange,” said Kimmich of the coaching change after captaining Germany to a 2-0 friendly win over Peru, in comments reported by German agency dpa. “At the end of the day that’s how the business is, not much love, not much heart. We have to learn to cope with and live with the decision.”
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Kimmich later denied he was criticizing Bayern management and said he was describing soccer in general terms, dpa reported. Kimmich had praised Nagelsmann as an “outstanding” coach Friday, hours before his departure was confirmed. His verdict on Tuchel: “I don’t really know him yet.”
Goretzka said he trusted the management to do the best for Bayern but that he had been “extremely close” to Nagelsmann and “when someone like that is suddenly no longer there, out of nowhere, I believe it comes as a shock for everyone,” dpa reported.
Kimmich has played 35 times for Bayern already this season, including 10 games as captain, and Goretzka is close behind with 29 appearances. They will still be with the national team preparing for a friendly against Belgium when Tuchel takes charge of a reduced Bayern squad Monday for his first training session.
He will have just five days to work with his squad before playing Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in a game that could be crucial to the Bundesliga title race. Dortmund leads Bayern by one point in the standings after Bayern lost Nagelsmann’s last game 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen. On April 11, there’s another key game against Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Tuchel said Saturday he was focused on preparing for Dortmund and accepted not everyone would be “super happy” at the coaching change. The priority this week is building motivation for the Dortmund game, he said.
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Not everyone at Bayern was as close to Nagelsmann as Kimmich and Goretzka were, though. Nagelsmann’s last few months at Bayern were notable for club intrigue. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer went public with his unhappiness over the removal of a favored goalkeeping coach and Nagelsmann hunted for a “mole” he said leaked tactical secrets to a German newspaper.
That kind of drama is unlikely to suit Tuchel, who has often made clear his frustration with soccer politics in his previous jobs. By the time he left his last job in Germany at Dortmund in 2017, his relationship with chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke had fractured. Tuchel’s tenure at Paris Saint-Germain saw him win two French titles and reach the Champions League final – losing to Bayern – but his time in France was marked by disagreement with sporting director Leonardo over transfers.
Tuchel’s departure from Chelsea in September came as a surprise. The new American ownership signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an old Tuchel favorite from his Dortmund days, then fired the coach a week later.