MONACO, France, Apr 18 – There is just a year in age between them, neither had a distinguished playing career and both have been linked with moves to the Premier League, so Leonardo Jardim and Thomas Tuchel have plenty in common.
They are two of Europe’s most exciting younger coaches, but only one will take his team into the last four of the Champions League as Monaco and Borussia Dortmund meet in their quarter-final second leg on Wednesday.
Regardless of what happens at the Stade Louis II — where Monaco will kick off with a 3-2 lead from the first leg — Jardim and Tuchel will continue to be linked to jobs at supposedly bigger European clubs in the coming months.
English media reports have stated that both are on a potential shortlist of successors to Arsene Wenger, should the Frenchman’s long reign at Arsenal finally come to an end.
Jardim has also been talked about in Italy in relation to the Juventus job amid suggestions that Massimiliano Allegri could move on. Tuchel’s name has come up in speculation about who will replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona.
“I don’t know. I am so focused on Monaco that I’m not thinking about my future. I have two more years on my contract and I feel good,” Jardim, 42, told Portuguese sports daily O Jogo in an interview last month when asked if he was considering moving on.
Tuchel, 43, was less expansive when pressed on his own future a couple of months ago, replying: “I’m on a contract with Dortmund and I’m happy here.”
– Unremarkable playing careers –
Both are still fighting for a major honour as a coach, but they have each had to prove themselves in their profession without having been players of any note.
Born in Venezuela, Jardim grew up on the island of Madeira — better known as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo — and he started coaching there with lower-league Camacha in his late 20s.
Jardim studied physical education at university in Madeira but he left that career behind to coach on the mainland when the chance arose and he has never looked back.
His impressive showing in charge of Sporting Lisbon paved the way for him to succeed Claudio Ranieri at Monaco in 2014 and, after some initial difficulties, he has made them the most spectacular side in Europe this season.
Monaco are top of Ligue 1 and in the French Cup semi-finals while still pursuing their European dream, despite selling the likes of James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Yannick Carrasco and Layvin Kurzawa since his appointment.
“I recognise the skill of those who do most with less. I see this change in perception, the tendency to want to see if the coach is able to add value to what is there and not just buy, buy, buy,” he told O Jogo.
A former sports science student with a degree in English, Tuchel’s modest playing career was cut short by injury but he soon emerged as a promising coach at Mainz, taking over their first team in 2009.
His work there allowed him to succeed Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund in 2015 and the work he has done with a young side, as well as the way in which he dealt with the traumatic events of the past week, mean his reputation keeps growing.
“Though Dortmund have slipped behind Bayern domestically this season, there is patience with Tuchel as he is clearly rejuvenating the team in the very literal sense of the word,” says German football journalist and commentator Ian Holyman.
“Teenagers Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele, in particular, have been given free rein this season and flourished.
“The incidents that marred the first leg with Monaco mean he is unlikely to be blamed for a quarter-final exit should Dortmund go out, and the fact they put up such valiant resistance in the first leg has only enamoured him further to the Dortmund faithful and football fans Europe-wide.”