Julian Nagelsmann will need to get used to reaching major finals when he walks through the doors at Bayern Munich this summer. He’ll have to become even more accustomed to winning them, too.
Tonight he will lead out his RB Leipzig side against Borussia Dortmund in his first experience of the DFB Pokal (German Cup) finale.
Even with all the plaudits won in his short career so far, Nagelsmann knows just how important Thursday night in Berlin is both for himself and the club.
For all of RB Leipzig’s success under him – the closest challengers to Bayern domestically and reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League last season – Bayern Munich aren’t looking for a boss who always comes up short when it counts most.
Julian Nagelsmann has one final opportunity to win a trophy while in charge of RB Leipzig
He has elevated the club’s level but they are still to win a major trophy under his stewardship
When Nagelsmann arrived in 2019 he talked up silverware, tangible success to really put the club on the domestic and European map.
Now he has his final chance before he packs his bags for Bavaria.
‘The first title would be incredibly important,’ Nagelsmann said on Wednesday.
‘It’d be great for the club, for the region, for the people here. Obviously the game is a real highlight and it will be an emotional farewell for me.’
As much as Nagelsmann tried to play down the personal significance attached to facing Dortmund in Berlin – ‘this isn’t important for my personal career,’ he claimed – there are plenty of expectant men in suits over at Bayern that will watch with interest.
Take Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić as one. In wishing Nagelsmann the best it only reinforced the expectations.
Nagelsmann will take over at Bayern and will be expected to make it 10 league wins in a row
Winning trophies is in Bayern’s DNA and the German Cup final is a big chance for Nagelsmann
‘I only work for FC Bayern and for me the most important thing is that FC Bayern is successful, but of course: I wish for him (Nagelsmann) that he comes to Munich with this title,’ he said.
Legendary Bayern figure Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was another to wade in.
‘I hope Julian Nagelsmann would win,’ he said, as per Bild. ‘He hasn’t won a title yet and I know that coaches want to win titles.’
Nagelsmann has just one trophy on his CV to date – an Under-19 Bundesliga title with Hoffenheim back in 2013-14. Talk of that in the Bayern dressing room is unlikely to win much respect.
Winning the German Cup would change the tone and at least get the monkey off his back before the pressure is ramped up. When the first whistle goes next season the expectation will be for Nagelsmann to compete for a quadruple.
There’s levels to this.
There is a general understanding in Germany that it is notoriously tricky to win trophies with Bayern such a dominant force.
But Thursday’s final feels seismic on both sides. It’s only the third time in the last decade Bayern aren’t in the final.
The final against Borussia Dortmund will take place at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin
Nagelsmann’s record against Dortmund is lousy and the final is a test of his coaching skills
For RB Leipzig this would be a first piece of major silverware – if you choose to overlook their two state Saxony Cups – and it would arrive just a week before their 12th anniversary of formation.
For Borussia Dortmund, it would prove to their young stars like Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland that they can reign supreme domestically.
Sancho lifted the 2019 Super Cup but amid talk of an exit he will be keen to prove he can deliver trophies before walking away from Dortmund.
It promises to be a fascinating match-up and one that Dortmund, rather than RB Leipzig, seem to relish.
Dortmund, with the help of Sancho, have done the league double over their opponents this season.
They met only last week, a sort of dress rehearsal to Thursday’s big showcase and it was a double from Sancho that sealed a dramatic 3-2 win at Westfalonstadion.
Leipzig dominated possession but Dortmund scored from three of their four shots on target in a clinical display.
Jadon Sancho (front, centre) starred when these two sides met in the Bundesliga last week
Nagelsmann has beaten Dortmund just once at Leipzig and the Black and Yellow find themselves unbeaten in seven encounters.
They have only ever lost two out of 10 matches against RB Leipzig and so this will be a major test of Nagelsmann’s coaching credentials with all in Bavarian fascinated to see how he fares.
In his favour, Leipzig do boast the best defence in the competition with only one goal conceded to Borussia’s two.
There will be no Angelino to call on on Thursday with Nagelsmann axing the ex-Man City full-back for ‘disciplinary reasons’ but he will need all of his defenders to elevate their game.
Last time they got this far, in 2019 against Bayern, it was something of a no contest with the German champions running out 3-0 winners.
Ralf Rangnick was in the Leipzig dugout that day and found an inspired Robert Lewandowski strike twice. Nagelsmann knows he must avoid a similar demolition at the hands of Dortmund.
Nagelsmann is only 33 and will go on to have a long and prosperous career at the top of the game regardless of 90 minutes in Berlin.
Sancho tore into Leipzig’s defence and Nagelsmann will need to adjust to win his first trophy
But he is taking charge of a club where silverware is in their DNA – Bayern won’t expect less. Just look at Andrea Pirlo at Juventus. Even with more experience than the Italian rookie, Nagelsmann needs to prove the job is not too big for him.
Win on Thursday and not only will he get his hands on major silverware, history will also be made.
Nagelsmann has the chance to become the youngest coach to lift the German Cup. That record is currently owned by 35-year-old Hans-Dieter Tippenhauer when he managed Fortuna Düsseldorf to glory way back in 1979.
Nagelsmann has three games remaining of his Leipzig career and while he has taken them to previously unimaginable heights, he knows how leaving with nothing to show for it will look when history reflects.
Beat Dortmund and doubts will vanish. Lose and it could be a few sleepless nights before the pressure strikes in Bavaria.