Ralf Rangnick, the “Professor” mocked in Germany who has become a reference in Europe

Ralf Rangnick during the friendly match between Austria and Serbia at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, June 4, 2024. LISA LEUTNER / REUTERS

For any German coach, leading Bayern Munich is the ultimate accolade. A line on the CV that attests to a great career. At the beginning of May, the Bavarian club surveyed several technicians to replace Thomas Tuchel, who will leave his bench at the end of the 2023-2024 season. The leaders turn to Ralf Rangnick. The latter refuses, to concentrate fully on Euro 2024 which he must play as coach of Austria.

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For the 65-year-old technician, who will face the French team with Das Team (“the team”) in Düsseldorf (North Rhine-Westphalia), Monday June 17, this refusal addressed to the great Bayern is a formidable revenge on the past. Glasses on his nose, phlegm assumed at the edge of the pitch, Ralf Rangnick has acquired the rank of luminary of German football. At the turn of the 2000s, however, he burst in with the title of “Professor”. A nickname, rather than a nickname.

“He changed football in Germany”, announces straight away Peter Zeidler, coach of VfL Bochum and one of his close friends for forty years. In the mid-1980s, the two friends and other educators formed the “Stuttgart School”, a group of technicians with innovative ideas, supervised by a mentor, Helmut Gross. Ralf Rangnick, after a modest career as an amateur player, is its most radical representative. The one, also, who obtains results at the highest level the fastest.

The current Austrian coach became the “Professor” on December 19, 1998, in prime time. Ralf Rangnick was then coach of Ulm, surprising leader of the German second division after being promoted at the start of the season. An ambitious young forty-year-old, he is invited on the set of “Sportstudio”, the flagship sports program of the ZDF channel, to detail his ideas. On the blackboard, he places the pawns and explains his method, which is not unanimous across the Rhine.

“He explained the “zone” marking, which we had not yet seen in the countryremembers Peter Zeidler. The great gentlemen of German football made fun of this coach with glasses, who came from the amateur world. » At the time, the Mannschaft were European champions – crowned in 1996 – and the country saw no point in calling into question a formula that seemed to work.

“One of the first representatives of modern football”

That of Ralf Rangnick can be summed up in a few ideas: the end of individual marking – known as “breeches” – still in force in Germany, intense and coordinated pressing, all associated with “vertical” play, turned towards the opposing goal . The technician has not invented anything, he is inspired by what is best abroad: the USSR of Valeri Lobanovski, finalist of Euro 1988, the AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi who won the League champions in 1989 and 1990 and… the French team, winner of the 1998 World Cup.

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