Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has revealed he owes a huge debt to prospective new Man United boss Ralf Rangnick after being handed his first coaching role under him.
Tuchel’s playing career ended prematurely due to injury while playing under Rangnick at SSV Ulm in the German regional leagues.
Just as he left, Ulm, led by Rangnick, became the fairy-tale of German football, rising through the leagues to reach the Bundesliga to play the likes of Bayern Munich.
Tuchel was working as a waiter in a cocktail bar aged 24 when Rangnick handed him the opportunity to start coaching an U14 youth team.
“I saw my team-mates getting better and better under Ralf and making it to the first league (Bundesliga), which was always my dream,” said Tuchel as quoted by Daily Mail, reflecting on the key role Rangnick played in his life.
“And this was my team and these were my team-mates. It was so close. It was the first time that I came so close to being maybe a first division player in the Bundesliga.
“When that happened, I was angry, actually. I was not depressed. I felt betrayed and was angry with the situation. I did not know what to do. All my life I dreamed to be a football player.
“Until that point, I had put all my energy and effort into this goal. I finished my school but this was my main target. When this was not a possibility any more, I needed to re-focus, which is not always easy.
“Telling the story now, it’s easy to tell. But in these moments, to overcome your pride and to go to a bar and work for money and go to university, to meet people who know you and say: ‘Hey, what’s up with you? Don’t you play any more?’
“You have to swallow your pride and overcome some difficult moments and days of looking into the mirror. But it sharpened my character. It was very healthy for me in the end.
“I felt all over in football when I got the diagnosis and I felt in the rehabilitation process that I would not make it back to my level, which was at that time second, third division level.
“I did not know what to do so I studied economics because I thought my mother can sleep well if (for) once I finish something at university and do not only start things! I did not know where to end, so I studied economics and thought I can have the most range still available.
“I was a normal student but to make some extra money I worked in a bar once or twice a week. Which was actually a fantastic time in my life. But it did not feel right to be close to football. It did not feel right to watch games at that very particular moment because I was angry.”
“I have no idea,” Tuchel added. “You never know. Nobody can know. Ralf called me because he was my former coach. He knew I was in Stuttgart studying. He asked me if I could imagine to try in the academy.
“I did four months just being a second assistant in the youth academy. From there I did my licences and I started being a coach with the Under-14s.
“I still worked in the bar while I was a coach and I still finished my economics studies. He (Rangnick) opened the door. At some point, you have to go through the door and you are responsible to make the very best of opportunities for yourself.
“This is what I did, because I had people like Ralf who supported me, and so many more, starting with my father and everybody on the way from there in my life, which was then closely connected all the time to football. That’s why I’m a lucky and a blessed person and happy and grateful for where I am.”