Much-hyped German manager Julian Nagelsmann is set for an awkward meeting Saturday.
The 31-year-old touchline tactician and his Hoffenheim charges welcome RB Leipzig to the Rhein-Neckar Arena, and for Nagelsmann, the fixture is a clash between his current club and his next one.
Nagelsmann revealed in June that he was set to replace Ralph Hasenhuttl at Leipzig, but instead of taking the job immediately, the centre-half-turned-gaffer has honoured his terms with Die Kraichgauer. In the interim, Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick – who coincidentally led Hoffenheim to Bundesliga promotion in 2007-08 – patrols the sidelines for the Saxons. On Saturday, he’ll face the man he’s slated to employ.
Nagelsmann doesn’t quite see it that way, telling BBC Sport, “My boss is [Leipzig CEO] Oliver Mintzlaff, if I am not mistaken. I do not think the sports director is the boss. Maybe a supervisor.” Understandably, Nagelsmann has been coy about his next appointment. While Saturday’s fixture isn’t short on context, the manager’s quotes should only fuel further intrigue.
With the two clubs sharing recent success following divergent paths to top-tier football, Nagelsmann will be the focal point of the meeting between two sides separated by a point. This matchup is just the latest of a long line of awkward managerial meetings in European football. Here’s a glance at three others:
Niko Kovac (Eintracht Frankfurt) vs. Bayern Munich
Recent history has been kind to cumbersome coaching matchups in Germany. Prior to Bayern Munich’s shock maiden defeat of the Bundesliga campaign Friday at Hertha Berlin, the Bavarians’ last competitive defeat came in the DFB-Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt. Die Adler’s first domestic cup in 30 years was also gaffer Niko Kovac’s last match in charge before taking the Munich gig, a decision the former Croatian international made a month before leading Eintracht to victory at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
Steve Coppell (Brighton) vs. Crystal Palace
Following four spells in charge of Crystal Palace, and a season at Brentford, Scouse manager Steve Coppell joined the Eagles’ rivals to the south, Brighton & Hove Albion. During a return to Selhurst Park during the 2002-03 campaign, Coppell was afforded a warm welcome from supporters of the Croydon side, who would go on to handily dispatch the Seagulls 5-0. That result was met with disdain from Brighton supporters, who alleged that Coppell deliberately lost, claims the skipper denied.
Owen Coyle (Bolton) vs. Burnley
Scottish gaffer Owen Coyle’s first league victory with Bolton came against a Burnley side not 45 minutes north on the A56. Coyle had ended his three-year stay with the Clarets just weeks earlier in 2010 to take the Wanderers gig from Gary Megson. Not surprisingly, he was met with cries of “Judas” from the Burnley faithful. “If they were going to get biblical it should probably have been Moses, because I was the one who led them from the wilderness,” Coyle said post-match. Coyle was eventually sacked in 2012, and with an eye on managing every single Lancashire side, took the Blackburn job four years later.