The worst-kept secret in German football has finally been confirmed, with Borussia Dortmund announcing the departure of coach Thomas Tuchel on Tuesday.
This follows a brief board meeting on Tuesday morning, and comes less than three days after Dortmund won the DFB-Pokal, their first major silverware in five years.
However Tuchel’s exit had been widely expected, with numerous reports as discord between him, the board and some of his senior players in recent months.
Tuchel confirms departure on Twitter
Numerous German news outlets had been reporting that Tuchel was set to depart in the coming days, with the first official confirmation appearing to come from Tuchel himself via Twitter, with the account later confirmed to be genuine.
He said that he is “thankful for two wonderful, eventual and exciting years,” at the club, and that it was “a shame” that it had to come to an end so soon.
The club soon confirmed that they had parted company with Tuchel after a meeting involving him, his advisor Olaf Meinking, club CEO Hans-Joachin Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc.
Their statement said they would “not comment” on why Tuchel had left, but did state that “the separation is by no means a disagreement between two persons” (i.e. Tuchel and Watzke) and that the “well-being of the club,”, which is “much more than just sporting success,” was more important than individuals and “any differences” between them.
In an open letter that followed on the club website, Watzke said that the club’s achievements in a difficult season have been “remarkable,” but that the position of coach depended on other factors, such as “trust, respect, team work, communication, authenticity and identification,” an apparent hint as why the relationship broke down with Tuchel.
Success on the field
Tuchel had arrived as the successor to the hugely-popular Jürgen Klopp in the summer of 2015 having been highly regarded for his work at previous club 1. FSV Mainz 05.
Tuchel hit the ground running with Dortmund, who amassed the highest-ever number of points for a second-placed team in his first season, although they fell at the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Europa League and lost the Pokal final on penalties to Bayern Munich.
His team however were hit hard by the triple departures of Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundögan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan last summer, with Tuchel reportedly not happy with Watzke’s decision to sell all three.
Despite all that, a new-look team infused with young talents like Ousmane Dembélé impressed over the course of the season, with the team scoring a record number of goals in the UEFA Champions League group stage, although their inconsistent Bundesliga form meant they only finished third, 18 points behind Bayern and 14-short of their total from last year.
Explosion fallout appears to be the tipping point
Off-the-pitch though, the cracks were really beginning to show in the second half of the season. Tuchel had already fallen out with club scout Sven Mislintat, whilst in January young striker Alexander Isak was signed with no apparent input from Tuchel.
The final straw appeared to be the aftermath of the attack on the team coach ahead of their scheduled first leg Champions League quarter-final with AS Monaco. UEFA, with the club’s (i.e. Watzke’s) approval, rearranged the game for the day after, with Dortmund going on to lose. Tuchel though insisted that the team hadn’t been consulted, publicly blaming UEFA but insinuating criticism at the powers-that-be at the club as well.
Watzke would later confirm to the press that there were issues between him and Tuchel, and with numerous reports of fallings out between coach and some of his players also emerging in the following weeks, the writing seemed to be wall for the 43-year-old. The fact that both captain Marcel Schmelzer and Marco Reus spoke out over the omission of Nuri Sahin from the squad for Saturday’s final spoke volumes as well.
Attention will now turn to who will be the man to replace him at Dortmund. Former Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Lucien Favre, currently with French side OGC Nice, remains the hot tip, with publications including Kicker reporting that an agreement is already close and his appointment could be confirmed in the next few days.
Quotes via Thomas Tuchel/Twitter and Borussia Dortmund.