When the referee whistled and the greatest success in Thomas Tuchel’s career was perfect, he turned away from the field; his colleagues from the coaching team ran into his arms, their mouths open, their looks ecstatic. Chelsea’s substitutes stormed past them onto the field to celebrate their Champions League triumph.
A few meters away was Tuchel’s coaching colleague Pep Guardiola. The Catalan had buried his hands in his trouser pockets, he walked lonely on the field, he looked lost. A moment later, the TV picture showed that Tuchel had gone to Guardiola, they spoke for a few moments.
Tuchel and Guardiola have known each other from the Bundesliga since their time together, and they exchanged ideas intensively about the game. In the minutes after the Champions League final, however, it will not have been about football. It’s about consolation.
Tuchel knows what it feels like to fail so close to the greatest possible triumph in club football. He himself was in the premier class final with Paris Saint-Germain last season and lost to Bayern. At that time his team was the more dangerous team, but they missed their chances in contrast to the Munich team, Tuchel was the loser.
Today Tuchel is the big winner. The 1-0 win against Manchester City in Porto raises him to the status of the few coaches who have won the premier class. As the first coach, he led two different teams one after the other into the final. He transformed Chelsea FC from a club that was becoming to one that is: the most successful team in Europe.
In a season in which Chelsea’s top scorer Timo Werner makes a name for himself mainly because of missed opportunities, a season in which there was often a lack of heroes on the field, the person Tuchel shone all the brighter. When the stars are missing in the team, we spectators look for them in the coaching bench.
This is the case (if successful) with Guardiola, with Jürgen Klopp and now with Tuchel. What they all have in common is that they downplay their part in the overall success. Guardiola keeps mentioning that it’s not he who scores goals, but his players. Klopp spoke publicly about how important it was for him that he had professionals around him who could penetrate the parts of the game better than himself.
The young Thomas Tuchel once said that football belongs to the players, not the coaches.
Saturday night’s Tuchel said his team had been brave, brave, relentless; he praised his team’s belief in the chance of victory, in the ties they had made.
Tuchel has only been training for Chelsea FC for four months. The club was ninth in the Premier League when Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard. “We weren’t in a good position back then,” said Werner on Saturday evening: “We were beaten in the league, nobody expected us in the Champions League.” Perhaps the team was not always better than the opponent individually. But the younger players in particular have made great strides under Tuchel, said the striker.
That’s an understatement. Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, but also players like Reece James have developed so much that they have become part of a team that can beat any opponent. Tuchel’s job was to lead Chelsea into fourth place in the Champions League. He succeeded, but with the victory over City he exceeded expectations by far.
The team gave Atlético and Real Madrid hardly any scoring chances, and Manchester City, the most stable team in Europe for months, was hardly dangerous. Not only on Saturday in Porto, but three times in duels with Chelsea during Tuchel’s tenure. The final showed how perfectly Tuchel had studied Guardiola’s system. The offensive trio Havertz, Mount and Werner were never allowed to switch off in the game against the ball, they had to cover pass stations and block pass paths. The defenders had the task of sticking into midfield whenever City wanted to move the ball there. So Tuchel Guardiola’s tactics came without a real striker.
Tuchel defeated Guardiola this season and Klopp, Diego Simeone, Zinédine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti and José Mourinho, the who’s who of the coaching guild. And certainly not always with the superior team. After leading PSG to the final last season, it was clear to every observer that he was a very good coach. He has now proven that he is one of the very best, one that the clubs in the Real Madrid, Barcelona and Man United categories will snap up to in the not too distant future.
After the game, he looked touched in the first interview on the pitch. His family is in the stadium, he said. “My parents who drove me to every soccer field; my wife, who was standing on the sidelines behind me in the Landesliga Süd and thought: who am I with? My grandma, who watches at home, with over 90 years of age. ”He dedicated the title to all of them.
Later, at the press conference, he looked tidy again. As if he had just not won the Champions League, but a home game against Burnley.
“I want the next success, the next title”
A reporter wanted to know how things were going now. Good question. As quickly as the connection between Tuchel and Chelsea bore fruit, it is just as open as to how things can continue to improve from now on. Pep Guardiola has been working towards the Champions League title with Manchester for years, it is a major project whose goal he seems to be slowly approaching. Tuchel simply raced past him with the blues.
Where else can this lead?
Tuchel left no doubt that he is not satisfied with being the Champions League winner. That he will keep pushing his players because he is driven himself. He had seen it before, albeit at a lower level, replied Tuchel. After winning his first title with Dortmund, the DFB-Pokal, he went to work in the next training session with the same hunger. “It didn’t do that much to me,” he said. He felt the same hunger, the same drive.
Now it is time to let the success work, said Tuchel. And added: “But then it goes on. And that’s a good thing, because I don’t want to rest. I want the next success, the next title. And that’s what I demand. “