Latest: Who will Bayern Munich get to replace Thomas Tuchel?

When Bayern Munich fired Julian Nagelsmann a little less than a year ago, it came as a surprise to many that the perennial German champions would give up so prematurely on the talented, young manager who had been recruited to launch a new era at the Allianz Arena. Last week’s announcement, that Nagelsmann’s successor Thomas Tuchel will leave the club at the end of the season despite having a contract through the 2024-25 season, was hardly a surprise, though.

The news came on the heels of Bayern’s three consecutive losses — 3-0 at Bayern Leverkusen, 1-0 at Lazio in the Champions League and 3-2 at VfL Bochum. Trailing Leverkusen by eight points in the Bundesliga, Bayern are in serious danger of finishing their campaign without a trophy for the first time since 2012. While the club were reluctant to sack Tuchel midway through the season, talks with the 50-year-old led to the decision that he will not continue beyond the current campaign.

“In a good, open discussion, we came to the decision to end our working relationship by mutual agreement in the summer,” CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen said in a statement. “Our goal is to pursue a new footballing direction with a new head coach for the 2024-25 season.”

The announcement gives Bayern plenty of time to find a new head coach, as they want to ensure that their next hire will stay at the club longer than the 14 months Tuchel will have been in charge for when his spell ends, or the 21 months Nagelsmann spent in Bavaria.

“We have replaced three coaches in a not-so-long time frame,” chairman Herbert Hainer said. “We want to work with a coach for the long haul. Hence, he will take our time thinking about it and analysing — and hopefully, hire the right one.”

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Xabi Alonso is the No. 1 target, according to multiple sources. Bayern have kept a close eye on the 42-year-old for quite some time.

Since he arrived in Leverkusen, Alonso has impressed with his managerial skills and the way he conducts himself. He has not only turned his team into an almost unbeatable machine that seem set to end the “Neverkusen” moniker by winning their first-ever German championship, but Alonso has also displayed an admirable degree of self-reflection.

Alonso once starred in midfield for Bayern between 2014 and 2017 before calling time on his playing career. Even though he was in the latter stages of his career, the two-time Champions League winner remained a fixture in the starting eleven under both Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti.

Like at Liverpool, who are also strongly pursuing Alonso in view of Jürgen Klopp’s departure in the summer, Alonso has a lot of admirers inside Bayern headquarters. Bayern, and specifically former CEO and current board member Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, have remained in contact with Alonso after his exit from Munich. Newly appointed board member Max Eberl tried to hire Xabi Alonso in 2022 when Eberl was the sporting director at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The German record champions normally highly value the way key personnel represent the club, which is why Harry Kane was sought after not only because of his goal-scoring quality but also for his upstanding public image. Sources close to Bayern have stated that they have already started putting out feelers to send a clear signal to Alonso that he’s their preferred choice. The fact that they are actively pursuing the head coach of the current Bundesliga league leaders could create an explosive dynamic, even though Alonso has remained strikingly calm when confronted with any rumours about his future.

However, Leverkusen’s management, with Barcelona-born chief executive Fernando Carro at the helm, have not given up on keeping Alonso beyond the end of the season. While his contract, which was extended in the fall, runs until 2026, it is understood that he would be able to leave if he wishes to move to a top European club.

It is almost impossible to predict Alonso’s next move, but with Liverpool also in the race for the Basque manager’s services, Bayern need to explore alternatives in case their first choice is unavailable.

The unique challenge of managing Bayern

Ever since Rummenigge and former president Uli Hoeness handed over the reins of the club, in 2021 and 2019 respectively, a hire-and-fire culture has developed at Bayern. Despite all the managerial changes — Tuchel is their sixth manager since 2016 — the Rekordmeister have hoisted the Bundesliga trophy 11 years in a row.

When Tuchel replaced Nagelsmann in March 2023, then-sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić and then-CEO Oliver Kahn were still in charge; both were let go immediately after the end of the 2022-23 season, though, and Dreesen emerged as a new powerbroker. A couple of months later, Christoph Freund was installed as the sporting director. Eberl’s appointment to the board was announced on Tuesday. Rumours persist that either Steffen Korell, the head of scouting at Borussia Mönchengladbach, or Felix Krüger, a lawyer who worked as Eberl’s right-hand man at RB Leipzig, could follow the latter to Bavaria.

Plus, there’s the old guard, Hoeness and Rummenigge, who will continue to be around and involved in key decisions regardless of what their official roles may seem. Eberl lists Hoeness as one of his role models in terms of how to successfully run a football club.

Whoever becomes the next Bayern head coach, they need to be aware of the inner workings and dynamics at the club and be confident enough to regularly navigate through them when waters become rough. Alonso ticks every one of those boxes, but the alternatives available, as detailed below, will be a compromise in one way or another.

Zinedine Zidane

The former world-class player has been out of a job since leaving Real Madrid in 2021. He has previously been strongly linked with Paris Saint-Germain but never agreed to join the French champions.

Bayern have naturally kept an eye on Zidane, whose biggest advantage over Alonso might be that he has already won major trophies with an equally large club in Real Madrid. That being said, Zidane has never played or coached in the Bundesliga and could need some time adapting to the culture in Bavaria.

On paper, he boasts the stature and reputation to steer the wheel, but that was said about some of Bayern’s previous managers, too.

Unai Emery

Bayern have been following the development of another successful Basque manager in Emery for quite some time. Interest may have even increased when his Villarreal eliminated Bayern from the Champions League in 2022. Since Emery is under contract at Aston Villa, it could turn out to be a tough proposition to acquire his services this summer.

José Mourinho

The eccentric coach has been linked with Bayern numerous times in the past decade or so, especially when Bayern wanted to hire elite coaches from abroad. They ended up signing Guardiola and later Ancelotti before pivoting back to German-speaking managers.

Bild’s Christian Falk reported that Mourinho started learning German after he was ousted from Roma, but as is so often the case with The Special One, there is a lot of smoke and mirrors. Also, his reputation is not what it once was, and Bayern did not seriously consider him in the past when they were looking for a new head coach.

Hansi Flick

Before it was announced that Tuchel would leave Bayern, Flick, the former Bayern and Germany boss, was rumoured to be a potential candidate for a caretaker or permanent role. He left Bayern in 2021 because of differences with Salihamidžić.

Sources insist that not everyone among the club’s hierarchy is convinced that Flick’s return would make sense, with Hoeness having vetoed a potential return. Flick’s disastrous stint with Germany has led to doubts about his managerial skills.

Sebastian Hoeness

So far, the current VfB Stuttgart manager has not emerged as a leading candidate, but he has an outside chance at the very least. Stuttgart are third in the league, and his success with a financially limited club has significantly increased his standing.

Moreover, Hoeness enjoyed three years in Bayern’s academy, eventually finishing first in Germany’s third division with the reserves. Plus, his uncle, Uli Hoeness, remains one of the most powerful individuals and personalities at Sabener Strasse.

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