Mauricio Pochettino was recently sacked by Tottenham in a somewhat surprising manner. The Argentine, still heralded as one of Europe’s top managers, will have no shortage of suitors over the coming months. According to reports in Germany, Bayern Munich is among the clubs eager to have Pochettino leading their dressing room. The Bavarians, however, should avoid the allure of hiring Pochettino now that he is available. Instead, Bayern Munich should increase their pursuit of Ajax manager Erik ten Hag.
Erik ten Hag Fits Bayern Munich Better Than Mauricio Pochettino
The Hansi Flick Factor
Functioning as Bayern Munich’s manager is no easy task; just ask Niko Kovac. It is entirely possible to win both domestic trophies and still be seen as unfit for the role. Winning alone is not enough. Bayern’s next coach will, of course, be expected to consistently win both the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal. Going beyond the first knockout stage of the Champions League is also a must. However, he will have the added pressures of playing an attractive, offensive style of football and turning the club’s corps of young talents into bona fide stars.
Because of this, it is imperative that CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, and the other decision-makers at the club have plenty of time to decide on their next candidate. Thanks to Hansi Flick, Rummenigge and Co. have that precious commodity of time to make their decision.
Perhaps it was for this very situation that Hansi Flick was brought to the club in the summer. Although he did serve as assistant manager to Niko Kovac, there was always a sense that he was joining as more than just an assistant. From the beginning, Flick was Bayern’s contingency plan for when things eventually fell apart under the Croatian.
Yet while Joachim Low’s former assistant has done excellently in his few matches as Bayern manager, it is unlikely he stays in charge beyond the summer at the latest. Nevertheless, Flick has bought the club some much-needed time to assess their candidates and ensure the right man is given the job.
But who is the right man?
The Ideal Candidates
Since Niko Kovac’s sacking, a few names have popped up as potential candidates for the Bayern job. But there are not exactly a plethora of names that fit the bill.
The club wants someone experienced but young. They must be tactically astute and a good man-manager. As Bayern coach, they will be expected to succeed across multiple competitions. They will also have the task of turning Bayern’s next generation of young stars into world-class players without sacrificing short-term success.
Perhaps no managers across Europe meet those criteria any better than Ajax manager Erik ten Hag and former Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino.
Anyone who kept up with last season’s Champions League knockout stages will be well aware of Erik ten Hag’s exploits with a young Ajax side. Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, turned Tottenham from an above-average Premier League side into Champions League finalists in the space of five years without spending outrageous fees in the transfer market.
Both coaches prefer an attacking style of football that requires possession of the ball. They have both proven, for the most part, solid man managers. Each in their late-40s, Ten Hag and Pochettino are both fairly young but also experienced. In short, both coaches seem to almost perfectly fit the basic mold the Bavarians are looking for in their next manager.
Mauricio Pochettino has the edge over Erik ten Hag in terms of sheer experience. However, the dominant, attractive football Ajax have played under the Dutchman in the past two seasons speaks for itself. Ten Hag furthermore has a few other things weighing the balance more heavily in his favor.
Beyond winning and playing attractive football, a few more qualifications exist to take on the role of Bayern coach. At least, meeting a few of these criteria will go a long way with the Bayern bosses.
Speaking German was formerly considered a non-negotiable but has since become merely a preference. It may not be a total necessity now that Uli Hoeness is no longer president, but it does not take a genius to understand that a German club would prefer a German-speaking coach.
Having a past connection with the club is yet another factor that goes a long way for anyone hoping to manage the Bayern squad. Perhaps more so than any other team in Europe, Bayern are always keen to bring former players or coaches back to Munich when possible. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeness, Hasan Salihamidzic, Oliver Kahn, Miroslav Klose, and yes, even Niko Kovac are all examples of former players who have returned (or are near returning, in Kahn’s case) to play an important role at the club.
Although Erik ten Hag never played for Bayern Munich, he coached the club’s second team for two seasons from 2013-2015. During that time, he undoubtedly learned plenty about Bayern and became well acquainted with the club’s culture. Pochettino, meanwhile, has not spent any time at the club.
Ten Hag can also speak both German and English fluently, meaning he would have no issues communicating with his players. Pochettino, a native Spanish speaker, struggled to grow accustomed to the English language. It is not impossible for him to learn German, but it is likely there would be at least a small language barrier between him and many of his players at Bayern Munich.
Erik ten Hag Is the Better Choice for Bayern Munich
Neither Erik ten Hag nor Mauricio Pochettino would be a bad appointment for Bayern Munich. They are both among the top coaches in Europe and could be trusted to lead the club into the future. Both would also come with their own risks, as would any manager.
The risks associated with appointing Erik ten Hag would pale in comparison to the potential benefits, though. He spent two years learning under Pep Guardiola as manager of Bayern’s second team. With Ajax, he has already proven he can employ an attractive style of football and dismantle Europe’s top clubs without a host of world-class players.
If all that is not enough, Erik ten Hag has publicly admitted his interest in returning to Bayern Munich in the future. He is one of Europe’s top managers, fits the Bayern style, and is well acquainted with the club. Bayern Munich would be foolish not to do all they can to appoint Erik ten Hag as their next manager.