Tottenham: Pressure ramps up on Daniel Levy after new twist in Spurs manager search
As you have probably heard by now, Julian Nagelsmann will not be the next Tottenham manager, barring an unlikely twist.
On the eve of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Aston Villa, Spurs made it known that they have not spoken to Nagelsmann and do not intend to, despite their respect for the out-of-work German, who was sacked by Bayern Munich in March.
The club’s position raises a big question: why would it not want to interview one of the most exciting young managers in the game, particularly given suggestions from Germany that Nagelsmann was open to the job, depending on the identity of Spurs’s new director of football?
Spurs have twice considered Nagelsmann in the past — after sacking Mauricio Pochettino in 2019 and then again during their chaotic search for a successor to Jose Mourinho in 2021 — so another question for the club is: what has significantly changed since?
There are reasonable doubts over whether the 35-year-old is the right fit personality-wise or has the profile to effect the bottom-up cultural change the club so clearly needs, while it is perhaps significant that Nagelsmann was not considered by Chelsea, after interviewing for the job. Regardless, surely Spurs would want to at least speak to him to find out more about his vision and approach?
Nagelsmann’s own take on the situation may become clear in the coming days, but he was understood to have concerns about Spurs’s current lack of a sporting director, and one possibility is that the club was simply aware that he was unlikely to accept the job.
Whatever the case, the decision to move on from perhaps the most exciting candidate so far mentioned for the job — particularly with Pochettino set to join Chelsea this week — will only increase the pressure on chairman Daniel Levy to get this appointment right.
If Spurs had landed Nagelsmann, it would surely be far easier to explain away the decision to effectively allow fan-favourite Pochettino to join one of their biggest rivals unchallenged, on the grounds that they had hired a younger, arguably more innovative alternative.
And perhaps Levy does have a winning plan up his sleeve, which will soon become clear and entirely justify overlooking Pochettino and Nagelsmann. It would be logical if the chairman is waiting for a director of football to be in place before accelerating the search for a new coach.
The concern, though, is that Spurs’s managerial search, which is already 50 days old, is starting to bear uncomfortable parallels with 2021, when they took 72 days to replace Mourinho, only to end up with Nuno Espirito Santo.
If Spurs had landed Nagelsmann, it would be far easier to explain the decision to effectively allow fan-favourite Pochettino to join one of their biggest rivals unchallenged
Clearly, Spurs are desperate to avoid a repeat, but there is already a familiar sense that the longer the process goes on, the less control the club has. Thomas Tuchel, who was admired by Spurs, has joined Bayern, Pochettino was ignored and now Nagelsmann is out of the running.
Can Spurs afford to keep missing out on such quality candidates? The difference this time around is that there are still a number of exciting contenders potentially in the frame. Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi would feel like the closest thing to Pochettino in 2014; a fine tactician, on the way up and with the force of personality to change the culture at Spurs.
Arne Slot, who has just led Feyenoord to the Dutch title, Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso, Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou and Sporting Lisbon’s Ruben Amorim are all intriguing candidates on paper, too, although none boasts the experience of Nagelsmann or Pochettino.
Luis Enrique is more proven and a free agent, but is a less obvious fit for the club’s desired profile of a younger, up-and-coming project coach. Interim boss Ryan Mason, who reiterated his desire for the permanent job after the defeat at Villa Park, increasingly feels like an option, despite one win from his first four matches in charge, albeit in very difficult circumstances.
When Spurs sacked Antonio Conte in March, they had an advantage over Chelsea, as well as any other top European clubs planning a change in the summer. With just two weeks remaining of the season, there is a danger Spurs could fritter away their head start, amid a growing sense that Levy still does not know what he really wants.