Berlin (AFP) – The messy sacking of Thomas Tuchel just three days after winning the German Cup has left Borussia Dortmund scrambling around for a new coach, with main target Lucien Favre set to stay at Nice.
Dortmund denied that Tuchel’s departure was sparked by a public spat with CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke but that painfully-strained relationship seemed to finally crack on Tuesday when the coach was fired.
Tuchel’s fall from grace had been coming for months despite capping two successful years with the German Cup.
Just two weeks ago, Dortmund had revealed that talks over Tuchel’s future would be held at the end of the season.
But if they hoped that a replacement could be secured quickly and tidily, they were sadly mistaken.
Rumours that Swiss coach Favre was heading to Germany were nipped in the bud on Friday as Nice put out a defiant statement insisting their man was going nowhere having just led them to qualification for the Champions League for the first time in their history.
“The club doesn’t want to follow any negotiation concerning a transfer of its coach (who is) under contract until June 2019,” said Nice.
“This decision is firm and was fully heard by Borussia officials.”
Dortmund have a clear idea of the type of coach they want but it risks becoming a protracted, and expensive, search as their other targets are all under contract elsewhere.
“It is always important to us that the coach is fully involved in developing a strategy and that we speak the same language,” said sports director Michael Zorc.
Dortmund have been linked to Feyenoord boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst — the new front-runner — Ajax’s Peter Bosz, Cologne’s Austrian coach Peter Stoeger and German David Wagner, who has just steered Huddersfield Town to the Premier League.
Whoever they choose — or perhaps, rather, manage to sign — they will hope to avoid the internal squabbling that blighted Tuchel’s tenure.
Tuchel’s two seasons in charge after Jurgen Klopp quit in 2015 saw solid rather than spectacular results, finishing second in his first season and third in 2016/17.
He secured Champions League qualification in both seasons despite the debilitating sales of Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Tuchel and Watzke were all smiles after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty sealed their 2-1 cup final win in Berlin to deliver Dortmund’s first silverware since 2012.
Yet his relationship with Dortmund had been rotting for months.
– First cracks –
In their official statement, Dortmund insisted the decision “had nothing to do with the relationship between two individuals”, yet the tension between Tuchel and Watzke was palpable.
The slide started before the season began when Watzke sanctioned the sales of Gundogan, Mkhitaryan and Hummels, leaving Tuchel with huge holes to fill in his squad.
In January, Swedish teenager Aleksander Isak was signed with Tuchel saying he knew little of the deal before it happened.
But differences between Tuchel and Watzke reached a head with the April 11 bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus.
Tuchel was furious the game was played just 24 hours after three bombs blasted the bus, leaving his players shaken and defender Marc Bartra in hospital.
“We felt completely passed over, it came down to ‘tomorrow, you’re playing’.”
The remark was directed at Watzke as much as UEFA.
Then in an interview last month, Watzke admitted being “irritated” by Tuchel’s claims.
The writing was on the wall.
Having lost the support of the club’s CEO, Tuchel over-compensated in a series of pitch-side interviews where he insisted everything was rosy within the dressing room.
Yet that claim proved hollow last weekend after Tuchel left defensive midfielder Nuri Sahin out of the squad for the cup final.
“The coach would have to explain why he did it. We all completely stand behind Nuri,” fumed Dortmund’s captain Marcel Schmelzer in open revolt.
Days later, Tuchel was on his way out, reportedly with a 2.9 million euros pay-off.
Dortmund will be keen for his successor’s reign to be a lot less turbulent.