Coaches Summit: 'Good' is the greatest enemy of 'excellent'

Read article contents
Increase size

Photos: © Dirk Bruniecki

What are the similaritites and differences between football and basketball? Our head coaches Julian Nagelsmann and Andrea Trinchieri talk about FC Bayern's DNA, their idols and perfect athletes at an analysis summit.

Nagelsmann and Trinchieri in interview:

Julian Nagelsmann: "Hi Andrea, nice to meet you!"

Andrea Trinchieri: "Ciao, coach. It's an honour - and a dream - for me to be at Säbener Straße. Because I know that what you see on the pitch is created somewhere else: here! I wanted to touch and feel this place since my first day at FC Bayern."

You were born in Milan: A footballing stronghold - what does football mean to you?
AT: "From the age of eight, we went to the San Siro every Sunday. Julian, you've probably been to the San Siro before, so you know what it's like. My father said to me: 'We are AC Milan fans!' But when we went to Inter as well, I wondered: 'Dad, why are we here?' He answered because we come here to see Milan win and Inter lose. Football has meant everything to me ever since: a whole range of emotions."

Mr. Nagelsmann, have you been pulling all-nighters to watch NBA games?
JN: "Not that often, because I had to go to school and I trained a lot myself from a young age. My coolest basketball experience was when I saw two Mavericks games live in Dallas, against Houston Rockets and Golden State [Warriors]. It was a great atmosphere. Dirk Nowitzki played, it was absolutely incredible. He is one of the greatest athletes Germany has ever had."

Who are the GOATs in basketball in general in your eyes?
JN: "For sure Michael Jordan is one of them, then Scottie Pippen, LeBron James and Steph Curry come to mind. With Curry, I often think that he would also be a perfect football player. He's so quick and has incredible moves. That's what impresses me the most in basketball: despite their size, these players move so fast. That makes them perfect athletes."

Nagelsmann: "Whether it's football or basketball: we have to radiate 'Mia san mia'. That's our identity, on and off the pitch."

Do you follow each other's matches?

JN: "For time reasons and also because of coronavirus, it's not been so easy to get to the court. But I look at the results and read the match reports."

AT: "I've been following FC Bayern's games since before I came here because I've always had a great interest in the club and the way it operates. I really like the fact that they are now giving a young coach the opportunity here. When a big club like Bayern does something like that, it's a sign that they are open to new things. That's always good for a sport."

Is there a cross-sport identity at FC Bayern?
JN: "When you are head coach at FC Bayern, you always have to win every game. And you have to win titles. Whether it's football or basketball: we have to embody 'Mia san mia'. That's our identity, on and off the pitch. We want to inspire the fans."

AT: "I always say that we give out emotion. And at Bayern, unlike at other big clubs, not everything is always business."

Mr Trinchieri, you once said about Robert Lewandowski that he was a jukebox - can you explain that?
AT: "I'm quite a good observer. And I feel that Lewandowski is like what happens when you put a coin in a jukebox - but instead of getting a song, you always get a goal. Always. He's absolutely reliable. He's there in every game. I'm excited about Lewandowski - Lewangoalski, right? And I think that Manuel Neuer also plays an important role in your dressing room. There are players who lead a team without saying many words because they lead by example every day."

Swapping roles: Trinchieri tries having a ball at his foot, Nagelsmann takes one in hand and goes to the basket.

Mr Nagelsmann, how good are your players at basketball, who's particularly talented?
JN: "I think the best is Alphonso Davies. Jamal Musiala also often shoots hoops with him. There are videos of both of them, you'd have to analyse them ..."

AT: (laughs) "I'll take a look and scout them."

Mr Trinchieri: You feel pressure is a privilege - what do you mean by that?
AT: "You have to differentiate types of pressure. When we talk about pressure here, I don't mean the pressure of having to work every day so that your family has food on their plate, for example. I have enormous respect for all those who have that kind of burden. What we have here, on the other hand, is a good form of pressure. It is a privilege because it drives us. And it's a sign that a lot is expected of you. That what you do means a lot for a lot of people."

JN: "You explain it very well: if you feel pressure in the games, it means that your work is important to you. Pressure and also a bit of nerves help you give your best and stay focused. I always feel pressure because of the fans, because they all want to go home happy after the game. I love the feeling of healthy pressure. I love coaching in games with pressure."

AT: "I always say: diamonds are made under pressure."

You recently called your colleague Nagelsmann "super modern" - what makes him so modern?
AT: "The coaching job has changed a lot in the last ten years. I listen to what Julian says, I watch how he behaves. You have to give direction, you have to show compassion. The biggest lie we can say as coaches is that every player is the same. It's not true. How you talk to them, how you address something, how you motivate them, that's the great skill of the modern day. Julian is 'super modern' because he brings everything, professionally and personally. He is always one step ahead."

There's no other profession where you feel so alone as a coach after a match, you once said.
AT: "For me it's like you're walking barefoot on ice back to the dressing room, your team are miles away, everything is replaying in your mind ..."

JN: "Walking barefoot on ice sounds pretty tough, but it's true: you stay focused after the final whistle, you think about the 90 minutes and what it means for the next game. What will be the first words to the team? It's important that you find the right words. After a game, you're alone because you want to be. When you win a game at Bayern, the victory often only counts for an hour for a coach, and then you have to look forward. Players can enjoy something for longer. After wins, the team celebrates with the fans, that moment belongs to the players. And when we lose a game, ashamed is the word for me: Yes, I feel ashamed then: Was the preparation good enough, was the plan good enough? It's a really uncomfortable feeling."

AT: "For many people, the first thing after a loss is usually to blame someone else. But I feel like Julian - I also know this feeling of shame. First you criticise yourself: What could I have done better? It's important to question your ego after a game, that's the only way to get better. And I also think the pain would only grow if you didn't look at yourself too before you go into the dressing room and debrief. The players would feel notice otherwise immediately."

Tactics board: The two coaches analysing the game.

How do you see the issue of perfection: Do you have to strive for perfection as a Bayern coach, knowing full well that it is utopia?
JN: "It's all about being as perfect as possible at FC Bayern. Only with this aspiration and approach can you keep improving - regardless of whether you're aware you can never achieve perfection in reality."

AT: "You know, Julian: 'good' is the greatest enemy of 'excellent' - if you start to settle for 'good', you will never improve. So our job is to strive for perfection, to address perfection, to learn perfection, to be perfect as best we can. That's the only way you can build a real winning mentality."

Which of you two actually has more influence in the game?
JN: "I think it's maybe a bit easier for Andrea: the players are closer to you in an indoor setting, and you also have the opportunity to take more short tactical breaks."

AT:  "Our pitch is smaller, so I can reach the players more easily with my calls. And we have a lot of breaks: every coach has five time-outs in basketball, so ten in total. In addition, I have the breaks between the individual quarters and at half-time. That's why I think I can influence the game tactically a bit more."

Mr. Nagelsmann, would you like to have time-outs in football?
JN: "Yes, definitely! It would be great, I've been campaigning for it for almost ten years. But it's not so easy in football to bring about change. I'm sure the quality of the games would go up again because the coaches could make more of an impact by having more influence in time-outs."

AT: "I absolutely agree with that. I don't understand why this hasn't been introduced in football anyway. It would be better for the players, for the coaches, for the fans, for everybody."

Trinchieri: "Julian is 'super modern' because he brings everything, professionally and personality-wise."

Mr Trinchieri, during a visit to the FC Bayern Museum you were particularly impressed by a picture of Franz Beckenbauer - why?
AT: "For a sportsman, there is no better subject. Breathtaking. It's the same category as the picture of Michael Jordan when he made the last shot of his career. The motif shows the 'Kaiser' with who knows how many trophies he has lifted. We say it's always about winning here, and when you see this picture, you understand the reason behind it. I felt a special atmosphere then - and finally understood the scale of this club."

Mr Nagelsmann, as coach of FC Bayern, how important is it to know the club's history?
JN: "The enormous heritage of the club and its history is binding. If you see the past, you know that you also have to win titles in the future: Never forget where you come from! The responsibility that comes from this history is also an important component when you are looking for new players. Everyone knows what FC Bayern stand for."

FC Bayern wish everyone a Happy New Year of the Tiger!