Nagelsmann: "This club will always be close to my heart"

It's not long before Julian Nagelsmann takes charge of his last-ever match as head coach of TSG Hoffenheim. Interviewed for the latest edition of the club magazine SPIELFELD (set for publication on 3 May), the most successful coach in the history of the club looks back on the many highlights of his time in charge, his relationship to his ''home club'' and how he's feeling as he prepares to say goodbye after nine years spent working at TSG.

''This club means so so much to me. I've spent almost a third of my life here. I've met so many interesting and nice people and I've learned an unbelievable amount,'' says the TSG head coach, who will take charge of the Bundesliga side for the last time on 18 May when they travel to play Mainz on the closing day of the season. ''I got the chance really early on to train both the U16 and U19 sides, and then came the opportunity to make the step up to the first team. Those were obviously massive decisions taken by Dietmar Hopp, Alexander Rosen and everyone on the board. They put so much faith in me at a young age and always gave me the independence to do things my way. They left me to my own devices and I always felt a very strong sense of trust,'' says the 31-year-old, going on to add: ''I know that a lot of coaches say this kind of thing when they leave a club, but TSG will always be close to my heart and of great personal significance to me. I am and always have been happy here, both at the academy and with the first team.''

The past three years and four months have certainly been eventful: the club were hovering around the relegation places back when Nagelsmann first took charge, while this season saw them compete in the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever. In many ways, the whole club has moved forward according to the vision of the young head coach. ''I think I've done a lot for the club. Not just with regards to the sporting aspect, but also in terms of the structure. The overall mood surrounding the club has changed in the last few years. I think I've helped transform the perception of the club. About three or four years ago, the club was faced with a lot of outright hatred. But now I think we're accepted just about everywhere, and in fact liked by most.'' Nagelsmann is happy to have done more than just help the club move up the league table: ''I've definitely played a part in that with the work I've done here. It's something I'm very proud of, in addition to the results out on the pitch of course.''

He speaks candidly about his relationship with Dietmar Hopp. The two have known each other for many years now, but their relationship has grown closer in recent times: ''Of course we talked more after I took over as first team coach. We grew closer and closer and then at some point he told me that I could use the German informal form of you when talking to him. We text each other after almost every game. He writes to me to offer his congratulations, but sometimes to complain as well. He's always fully involved emotionally, but he prefers to stay in the background. I'd say he's the ultimate super-fan.'' Nagelsmann's decision to move to Leipzig led to emotional conversations between the two men: ''Our relationship has become heartfelt and sincere over the years. He often gives me a hug after a win and is always very direct. Our relationship doesn't have an employer to employee dynamic; it's just Dietmar to Julian. Things became more intense around the time of the announcement of my move to Leipzig and of course I had really intense and open one-on-one conversations with him on this topic. It was a long process and tears were shed on both sides of the table.''

Nagelsmann expects his successor, Alfred Schreuder, who has previously worked as an assistant coach at the club, to lead TSG to further success: ''I don't think it's an easy time for me to take over at Leipzig, and the same is true for Alfred here. He's a different kind of person to me, so I don't expect that things will be done exactly the same way as they are just now, and that's probably a good thing. Alfred is a charismatic guy with a great sense of humour and I'm sure that he's going to be a success. He has arrived at this point via a different path than the one I took, and he has a different way of communicating with people than I do, so I expect he'll have his own distinct way of working with the players. I think that hiring him was a good signal that the club will continue along the same development path.''

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