“It is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v Baby Mourinho”: Julian Nagelsmann insists that Champions League clash is about the action on the field and not about the men on the sidelines
- Tottenham faces RB Leipzig in a potentially tricky Champions League final-16 draw
- Julian Nagelsmann was called “Baby Mourinho” when he exploded on the scene
- It is the German’s first knockout band in his thriving career
- Mourinho is experienced in knockout football and Spurs are in good shape
RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann insists that his side’s Champions League clash with Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham is not the master versus the apprentice.
Nagelsmann, 32, was named “Baby Mourinho” after making early waves as a coach, who had to give up playing while he was a teenager because of an injury.
He became the youngest manager of the Bundesliga ever at the age of 28 when he took over at Hoffenheim in 2016 and is generally regarded as one of the emerging coaches of European football.
Julian Nagelsmann says that the collision of RB Leipzig with Tottenham by Jose Mourinho is about the players
Wednesday’s final 16 first leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be – and Leipzig’s first taste of a Champions League knockout match, something Mourinho is an old hat for.
The Portuguese has won the competition twice, which means that Nagelsmann is full of respect for him, but says the band is not about them.
“It’s just a match between Leipzig and Tottenham. Eight years ago, Tim Weise called me Baby Mourinho, but that was only for two weeks. Then he called me Julian again.
‘Tomorrow it’s Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho against Baby Mourinho.
“I have a lot of respect for Mourinho. He has won many titles with major clubs, the Champions League twice.
“He left his mark on European football at a few major European clubs. I think it’s his 59th knockout match in the Champions League and it’s my first so there is clear respect there. “
Nagelsmann, 32, was called “Baby Mourinho” in the early stages of his coaching career
If speculation was believed, Nagelsmann may have been in the Spurs dugout before the game because he was connected to the club in the final stages of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign.
He didn’t say much about it, just to deny it.
Asked if he came close to Spurs last November, he said: ‘Me? No.’
Nagelsmann insists that his side will not change their plans after Tuesday’s news that Son Heung-min will be missing for Spurs.
The South Korean may no longer play this season because it needs surgery on a broken arm, but that does not affect Leipzig’s plans.
“I’m not changing anything, we’re not going to change a plan because of one player,” the head coach said. “I hope his operation is good and he will be back soon.
Nagelsmann is one of the smartest coaches of football, but this phase is a new experience for him
“But it’s a shame if a top player in a game like this is missing. It means that there is a less great player. Tottenham has a number of players out, but so do we.
“These things happen, we have a few injuries that we’re dealing with. We have to be solid against Tottenham and match them. He has played an important role in recent games.
‘We have prepared for Tottenham in detail, it doesn’t matter if (Harry) Kane or Son don’t play.
“For Tottenham it would be better if they play, but it is better for us if they don’t play.
“We prepared the plan this morning and told the team, so we won’t change the plan.”
Leipzig has injuries itself because Ibrahima Konate, Willi Orban, Kevin Kampl and Tyler Adams are all injured while Dayot Upamecano is suspended.