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Thomas Tuchel – rule-breaking coach and innovator

Berlin (AFP) – His reputation for the unorthodox made Thomas Tuchel the  perfect replacement as Borussia Dortmund’s head coach when Jurgen Klopp quit in 2015.

But two years later, Tuchel’s relationship with the Bundesliga giants has turned sour.

Tuchel was axed on Tuesday, with a year left on his contract, after falling out with Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and losing the support of his dressing room.

His exit, which reportedly includes a separation payment of around 2.5 million euros ($2.7m), is in stark contrast to his smiles just last Saturday when Dortmund won the German Cup in Berlin.

It was his first – and last – title with Dortmund and Tuchel was also at the heart of the team’s celebrations in front of their fans on Sunday at Dortmund’s Borsigplatz.

But the writing had been on the wall in the mixed zone immediately after the cup final in Berlin.

Captain Marcel Schmelzer criticised Tuchel for not picking stalwart Nuri Sahin to replaced injured Germany midfielder Julian Weigl for the cup final line-up.

“For an explanation, you’ll need to ask the trainer. We stand completely behind Nuri,” fumed Schmelzer.

After two years in charge Tuchel walks away from Dortmund with an enhanced reputation as a brilliant tactician, who can be difficult.

“I wasn’t easy to deal with as a player,” he admitted in a 2009 interview.

Like his role model Pep Guardiola, Tuchel is not afraid to switch formation or tactics two or three times during a game, making it impossible for opposing coaches to second- guess him.

He can be prickly in post-match press conferences and toys with questions which are not to his taste.

A knee injury cut short his playing career as a defender at third-division Ulm in 1998 and Tuchel turned his hand to coaching.

He cut his teeth in the youth academies at VfB Stuttgart and Augsburg.

His career took off at Mainz where he was promoted from Under-19 team coach to senior head coach two days before the start of the 2009/10 season with no Bundesliga experience.

“We had a rule-breaker at Mainz. The club manager Christian Heidel, who had the courage to make me a Bundesliga coach,” said Tuchel later said of his shock appointment.

– Record run –

Tuchel turned out to be as much of a rule-breaker as Heidel, now at Schalke.

Working with an annual budget dwarfed by their Bundesliga rivals, Tuchel succeeded by ignoring all football adages and insisted on high-tempo, attacking football.

He shuffled his side constantly, choosing his team based on the best way to exploit opponents’ weaknesses.

Tuchel believed that Mainz could only survive in the league if they could play in a variety of styles, making them unpredictable for their rivals.

His side set a record by winning their first seven games of the 2010/11 season.

“We didn’t want to break rules for the sake of it,” he said.

Tuchel helped nurture the likes of Germany winger Andre Schuerrle, whose cross Mario Goetze converted for the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final.

Mainz finished seventh in the 2013/14 Bundesliga, but Tuchel walked away with a year left on his contract, saying he had taken the team as far as he could.

Mainz had twice reached the Europa League and held their own against Germany’s top clubs.

Just like Guardiola did before him, Tuchel took a year’s sabbatical after leaving Mainz.

When Klopp announced he was leaving Dortmund in 2015, Tuchel was ready to follow in his footsteps path from Mainz to Dortmund.

You could not get two more contrasting characters.

The unshaven Klopp’s rock’n’roll, fisting-pumping style on the sidelines was juxtaposed by the clean-shaven, brooding Tuchel.

Before Klopp left, he warned Dortmund’s fans about making comparisons between his success and the new boss.

However, Tuchel has built on Klopp’s success, steering Dortmund to second and third in the Bundesliga, securing Champions League qualification in his two seasons.

The April 11 bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus triggered the events which led to his downfall.

Tuchel was onboard when three bombs blasted the team bus on the way to their Champions League quarter-final at home to Monaco.

The game was initially postponed, then played less than 24 hours later when the shell-shocked hosts lost 3-2 and Tuchel was left fuming.

He complained that he was not consulted about whether the match should have taken place

Not so, said Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and it was just a matter of time before Tuchel was forced out.

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