Hoffenheim have been remarkable this seaon. They now remain the only undefeated team in the top five European leagues this season. In a league where there is a complete dominaton of Bayern Munich, and some big teams fighting for the rest of Champions League places, Hoffenheim have given them some stern competition. They are just a point adrift of a Champions League place, and if there is one person who can be credited for it, it has to be their manager Julian Nagelsmann.
Just a year ago, Hoffenheim were suffering. Lingering in that dreaded relegation zone, trying to find some ray of light in the darkness. Things were looking bleak for them. Such was the crisis that the then manager, Huub Stevens had to resign just after the winter break. As a result, Nagelsmann was brought in prematurely as the manager. Nagelsmann became the youngest ever Bundesliga manager, at just 28-years.
Fans and media alike criticized the club for their decision. Local paper Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung dismissed the appointment as a “public relations stunt”. Frankfurter Rundschau’s were no less harsh, labelling it “a crackpot idea”. And it was a daunting task. Hoffenheim were in 17th place, five points adrift of the relegation play-off spot. They were facing their first descent from the top flight. But everything went just as Nagelsmann would have dreamt of. He avoided the relegation zone by a point.
Nagelsmann has already shown everyone that he can be the real deal in the future. His man-management and his technical know-how have been on show throughout the season. And the best part is that the team has fantastic togetherness. There is belief in the team, as well as the fans, that this team can do the unthinkable. “There is a hint of Champions League in the air”, wrote the Kicker magazine.
This season has been exceptional for the young manager. Hoffenheim also lost their star forward Kevin Volland to Bayer Leverkusen this summer. But they have maintained their high standards of football. The main story so far has been Leipzig’s rise to second in Bundesliga this season. But it would be unfair to overlook Nagelsmann’s achievements as Hoffenheim boss. And the fact that he is just 29-years-old says a lot about his determination, and probably his future, too.