Germany coach Nagelsmann is an old head on young shoulders

German National coach Julian Nagelsmann smiles during a dinner as part of the European Championship workshop for national coaches in the Standehaus. Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa
German National coach Julian Nagelsmann smiles during a dinner as part of the European Championship workshop for national coaches in the Standehaus. Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa

The image of Julian Nagelsmann zooming around the Bayern Munich training ground on a skateboard in 2021 left Germany polarized.

Some saw the young coach as a breath of fresh air. Others thought he was too showy and his dress sense was lampooned. Fast forward three years and he is about to lead Germany into a home European Championship (June 14-July 14) at the age of just 36.

His Bundesliga coaching debut came at 28 at Hoffenheim, the youngest boss the German top flight has ever known.

From there he progressed quickly to RB Leipzig and then Bayern, winning the 2022 Bundesliga title before a shock sacking in March last year as the club panicked after a slight dip in form.

He bounced back with the Germany job, deciding to stick with the national team through until the 2026 World Cup when Bayern came sniffing earlier this year, having appeared to have realized the mistake in axing him.

The ambitious nature of Nagelsmann was shown by the fact he initially only signed until the end of the Euros when taking the Germany job in September 2023 after Hansi Flick's sacking. But he caught the international bug.

In many ways Nagelsmann's coaching career has been the opposite of Jürgen Klinsmann, who led Germany the last time a major men's tournament was held on home soil - the 2006 World Cup.

Klinsmann had been a world class player, winning the greatest prize with West Germany in 1990, but at first showed little interest in coaching when he retired.

Nagelsmann in contrast never had much of a career as a player, retiring at just 20 because of a knee injury.

But he always knew he wanted to be a coach and worked his way up, before Hoffenheim were wowed enough to hand him the reins at such a young age.

"I always had a clear plan, I knew what I wanted to be," Nagelsmann once said.

Klinsmann getting the Germany job in 2004 was somewhat of a surprise given he had never been a coach and he only stayed for two years, despite Germany reaching the 2006 semi-finals in a World Cup all Germans still refer to as the "summer fairytale."

In truth he was more of a public face for the team and his assistant Joachim Löw did most of the coaching, going on to succeed Klinsmann and win the 2014 World Cup. Klinsmann flopped in subsequent coaching jobs.

Nagelsmann is the exact opposite to Klinsmann. He lives and breathes actual coaching, obsessed with statistics and fine details.

"He is an outstanding coach, a tactical fox," German team director Rudi Völler said when he appointed him.

The Bavarian will be the youngest coach to take Germany into a tournament and hopes to be the youngest coach ever to win a Euros.

Many fans and pundits were doubtful Nagelsmann could inspire another summer fairytale, given the national side went out in the group stage at the last two World Cups while being knocked out in the Euro 2016 semi-finals and the last 16 in the 2021 event.

But he showed he can be ruthless by making wholesale changes to his squad for friendlies against France and the Netherlands in March after losses in November to Turkey and Austria.

The result was impressive victories over the French and Dutch, prompting sudden fan optimism that mighty Germany could be back.

If they negotiate group games against Scotland on June 14 in Munich, Hungary on June 19 in Stuttgart and Switzerland in Frankfurt on June 23, the feelgood factor will return even more.

Germany's major tournament prowess before 2018 means they always counted as contenders. Now at home and with the savvy Nagelsmann as coach, they again cannot be discounted.

"We will try to do our very best," he told Magenta.