Nagelsmann has Liverpool, Manchester United ‘decision from the heart’ justified by Musiala

Matt Stead
Germany forward Jamal Musiala embraces head coach Julian Nagelsmann
Jamal Musiala and Julian Nagelsmann is a wonderful combination

It seemed strange that Julian Nagelsmann extended his Germany contract at the height of this summer’s managerial merry-go-round. But the boy is a genius.


In this, the summer of Managergeddon, stocks and shares in Julian Nagelsmann stood to be stratospheric.

Liverpool’s plan to replace Jurgen Klopp involved his compatriot at one point. Barcelona were linked. Manchester United and Newcastle, too. Bayern Munich came crawling back during a coach search that would have induced second-hand embarrassment even in Spurs.

The 36-year-old had an increasingly desperate fleet of clubs falling at his feet, with the Manchester City post among those likely to come up within the year. This was to be the tournament Nagelsmann forced his way to the top of any and all assorted shortlists.

Then came a “decision from the heart” which raised external eyebrows in April. Nagelsmann was so “touched by the supporters’ euphoria” that he extended a deal which initially ran only until the end of 2024, committing himself to the national team until at least the conclusion of the 2026 World Cup.

As a role Nagelsmann could have walked into and been embraced in at any stage of his professional life, it seemed a curious avenue down which to take his career, a needless removal of his coveted candidacy.

Then Friday night happened.

Those who had not seen the full vision in impressive wins over France and the Netherlands in March were treated to a glimpse of a blindingly positive and truly intoxicating future for Germany against Scotland. For as embarrassingly poor as their opponents were, the hosts were scintillatingly brilliant.

Jamal Musiala was sensational from the first minute to his merciful substitution in the 74th. He, Florian Wirtz, Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz dovetailed, darted and danced around a Scotland midfield which did not seem to exist and a defence which could only pray for such a reprieve. The space in between those two areas was invaded and exploited with laughable and frequent ease.

Toni Kroos orchestrated from deep and on the rare occasions Scotland forced a loose ball into that general area, Antonio Rudiger and Jonathan Tah made Che Adams look like a small child asking for his ball back.

The Southampton forward would not have debated his removal at half-time, a necessary sacrificial lamb after the mindless intervention of Ryan Porteous in trying to separate Gundogan’s ankle from the rest of his leg. It was a truly despicable tackle and the Watford defender’s tournament surely being over was perhaps the only constructive outcome from Scotland’s evening.

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They had no shots – the Scott McKenna header which deflected off Antonio Rudiger for the most consolatory of goals cannot possibly qualify for such a descriptor – and only two touches in the opposition penalty area. The Billy Gilmour gamble ostensibly backfired but in truth, Scotland were set up so atrociously that no configuration of players would have made their approach work.

Steve Clarke asked a week before the tournament what there is “to be negative about”. It was foolish optimism at best and complete ignorance of Scotland’s position at worst. This was an emphatic answer to his own question.

But it was also complete justification of Nagelsmann’s own wager. There remains ample time for Germany to implode as they have at the past three major tournaments. Any specific praise from this game must be caveated in some part by just how dreadful Scotland were. But this is a wonderful Germany side with a potent mix of ludicrous experience and ridiculous potential.

With Gundogan, Kroos, Rudiger, Joshua Kimmich and Manuel Neuer at one end of the scale and Wirtz and Musiala tipping things over at the other, Germany do perhaps, as Nagelsmann himself said in midweek, “have everything”.

That includes very possibly the best manager at the tournament, and surely the one most clubs would desire above all others. But maybe Nagelsmann was right to flip the script; while he could have had his pick of teams instead and taken the national job at any time over the next two or three decades, his tactical acumen complements this specific Germany squad exceptionally well and those club posts will invariably become available further down the line.

Until then, the appeal of helping develop this next generation of stunning Germany players is obvious. And who in their right mind wouldn’t want a closer look at Niclas Fullkrug’s shooting technique?

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