Champions League: Stress test for the national coach: Why Dortmund's success puts Julian Nagelsmann in a dilemma

It is said about Julian Nagelsmann that he is constantly on duty.

Champions League: Stress test for the national coach: Why Dortmund's success puts Julian Nagelsmann in a dilemma

It is said about Julian Nagelsmann that he is constantly on duty. Even in these weeks, when he only sees his national players from a distance because the major club competitions are still running, the Champions League, Europa League and the national championships. Nagelsmann then really tries to create closeness, at least a virtual one. He writes short messages to his players, congratulates them on victories, encourages them after defeats, and sometimes even calls them. The signal that Nagelsmann is sending is: Make an effort, the national coach sees everything!

One would now love to take a look at Nagelsmann's WhatsApp account. Who did he text Tuesday night? Certainly the Dortmund striker Niclas Füllkrug, who is also a regular in the national team. But what about Mats Hummels, 2014 world champion, sorted out by Joachim Löw, then brought back and then sent away again? What about Nico Schlotterbeck? Once celebrated as the greatest central defender talent in German football, but fell out of favor with the DFB after the failed 2022 World Cup. Did he receive a few lines from the national coach? And Julian Brandt? And Karim Adeyemi? They, too, were once among the chosen ones, but recently slipped onto a list that is titled “In Focus” at the DFB. Which is a euphemistic label for: We can't use it right now, maybe later, maybe never.

Hummels, Schlotterbeck, Brandt and Adeyemi deserved more than just a congratulatory text message from the national coach for reaching the final of the Champions League. The four weren't just among the best in BVB's 1-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain. With the exception of Adeyemi, they have been in impressive form for weeks. You could also say: in EM form.

Nagelsmann has geared everything he does to the European Championships in the summer, in his own country, as the saying goes. At the last training course before the international matches against France and the Netherlands, Nagelsmann explained the principles he would use when selecting personnel. What counts above all is “the momentum” and he looks at “which of the boys is in a good mood and is on a roll”. And this is what his squad looked like: Nagelsmann called up four players from VfB Stuttgart, then the league's surprise team. That was in March.

This picture, less than two months old, has already yellowed again. The team of the hour is Borussia Dortmund, they fought their way to Wembley, to the final of the Champions League, it doesn't get any higher than that in Europe. BVB may even win the title on June 1st.

Dortmund's success has now become a problem for Nagelsmann. After the victories against France (2:0) and the Netherlands (2:1), the national coach said that the European Championship squad had largely been decided and from now on it was important to prepare for the tournament. There will only be changes in one or two positions if there are no injuries.

And now this triumph of BVB. Nagelsmann fell into a trap that he set for himself. Whatever he decides on May 16th when he announces his squad for the European Championships: Nagelsmann will make himself vulnerable. If he leaves the up-and-coming Dortmunders at home, the accusation will be that Nagelsmann is overriding the performance principle. By definition, the strongest should play in the national team and not those to whom the national coach swore loyalty in March. If he takes Dortmund to the European Championships, it will be said: The team has just found itself, even beats France, who came second in the World Cup, and what does the national coach do? Tear them apart four weeks before the opening game. How can you?

A dilemma that is insoluble even for a resourceful coach like Nagelsmann.

Anyone who observes his work at the DFB can get an idea of ​​what Nagelsmann will decide. He will not dare to undertake a major restructuring of the squad. November is still too close for him, when he was criticized for his experiments. Against Turkey (2:3) and Austria (0:2), Nagelsmann shook up the personnel table, which culminated in him placing striker Kai Havertz in the left full-back position. That went terribly wrong - and Nagelsmann was treated with malice, like Hansi Flick was recently after his gray goose lecture in the Amazon documentary.

The dark November continues to have an impact in Nagelsmann. He wants peace and stability. In the training camp starting at the end of May, he wants to build a framework that will support the European Championships. It's just a shame for him that the Champions League final is taking place during the course - and Dortmund will once again do everything they can to work on this scaffolding.