Domenico Tedesco took over as Leipzig head coach just about five weeks ago.
In an interview, the 36-year-old spoke about having the best full-time job in the world, his excitement at playing in a sold-out Red Bull Arena and what makes him a stereotypical Italian
Domenico, it’s been five weeks since you took over as head coach of RB Leipzig. Time to give us your first impression!
It’s definitely been positive. We just had a full week with the team, after having only had the experience of a double game week before, with the rhythm of playing ‘Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday.’ This time has been very helpful, especially in order to get to know the club, its employees and the processes better. There are a lot of new faces, lots to process and it’s a lot of fun.
Is there anything that really surprised you about RB Leipzig?
Not really. I was a student at RB Leipzig for two months in 2015, so I already knew a bit about the city and club. Back then, I had more time to explore Leipzig. Since becoming head coach, I’ve only made it into the city twice, when we went out to eat with the staff.
Do you compare that time in 2015 to now?
Back then, RB were a second-division side and today they are a top level club in the first division with a great squad. But, I could already tell back in 2015 that this was a well-structured club that knew where they wanted to go. Even in their Bundesliga 2 days, RB Leipzig already had a really strong squad with lots of players that are still at the club like Péter Gulácsi, Willi Orban, Marcel Halstenberg, Lukas Klostermann, Emil Forsberg and Yussuf Poulsen. I can’t really draw any other comparisons. The club has really grown and the lads have improved a lot.
Now you can have a impact on that development. What does a typical day look like for you as head coach of RB Leipzig?
Essentially, every day of training starts the night before. That’s when we start to prepare. We usually know on Saturday or Sunday night already what the upcoming week of training will look like. How many sessions will we have each day? When is the next game? Who are our upcoming opponents? We plan our sessions based on that. Obviously, they aren’t set in stone. If something comes up on Tuesday, like a player falling ill or if we need to focus on something specific, then we can swap sessions around. But, our aim is to have every week planned out as early as possible. The days usually start around 7:30 a.m. for me.
(laughs) I know, you guys are always there at 6:30 a.m. already.
Be serious. That’s a really early start!
It’s really important though. In the morning, we have one and a half to two hours before training. We use that to meet with the medical department and to prepare our video sessions, as well as eating breakfast together. In the morning, we switch from an overview of our plans to looking at the details. How many players do we have available? What are the drills and things we need to focus on in every training session? After training, we review everything. Every session is filmed and we watch it all back. We discuss how it went and look at what we take with us into the next game, and also begin planning our individual discussions with the players.
After training, we review everything. Every session is filmed.
No matter how late we leave, there’s always someone from the coaching staff still hard at work. Is it a 24/7 job?
In the beginning, definitely. We have more to do now, in order to teach what we want. It’s kind of like pre-season. There’s no going home early.
How do you manage to still switch off or take a break?
It’s important that we feel at home here at the training ground. The food is a real highlight – our catering staff can really cook! It’s a nice ritual we have, to eat together as a team. On days where we have three training sessions, we end up sitting down to eat together three times and those are good moments to relax because we talk about other things and not just football. There also always a coffee break in the office where we just chat, which is fun.
So your breaks are mainly at Cottaweg?
Right now, yes. But once everything has settled down and the first few weeks are behind us, and we head back into the double game weeks, then it’s impossible to be at the training ground every day from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Then, it’s important that I tell my staff to go home. When our work is done, then we’ll sometimes go at 4 p.m. already.
You have a real gift for languages and can speak English, Italian, Spanish, French and Russian. Is that a hobby of yours?
It’s more of a job for me. I wouldn’t speak French every day, if I didn’t need it for my job, because we have a lot of French players in our team. Based on that, it’s more of a job than a hobby. To clear my head, I’d rather work out. I like to run or bike, or watch a movie or a documentary.
What’s your favourite movie right now?
I recently watched “The Unforgivable” with Sandra Bullock. I’d really recommend it. But I watch a bit of everything, there’s not one genre that I really follow. I also like going out to eat and know that Leipzig has a lot to offer in that regard, even if it’s difficult to go out in the city after work with the current Coronavirus rules.
Let’s talk Corona: our games continue to be played behind closed doors. Has that affected your style of coaching?
It hasn’t really; I coach the same as I would do at a match with lots of fans in attendance. The difference is that the players can hear me much more clearly. The main difference for me between having supporters at the games or not is the emotionality of it. So far we’ve played away at Augsburg and had three home fixtures, and there’s hardly been a difference in the games besides the travelling. I would also say the home advantage is significantly reduced. I haven’t yet had any form of contact with the fans, and that’s what I really enjoy and what makes football fun for me.
You’re familiar with the Red Bull Arena being a sold-out ground from your time in charge of Schalke. Were you impressed by the ground?
Absolutely! In the season during which I finished runners-up with Schalke, the first game of the second half of the season was a 3-1 defeat here in Leipzig. The stadium was full, it was a super match and a super atmosphere. You could feel the noise rise as Leipzig came into our half. It was amazing to see and the fans really carried the team that day. It was tough as the away side, because we had to play against the entire stadium that day.
Hopefully we will soon be able to return to full capacity at the ground. What can our fans look forward to?
We want to be a real force when playing at home. With the fans behind us, we’ll become even stronger at home and I cannot wait for the day when we can finally welcome a full house. Our stadium with a sold-out crowd will hopefully be a statement for what the away teams are in for when they get here. But fans are also important to us when we are on the road, and we also want to and need to pick up points there.
A good place to start would be in Stuttgart on Saturday, where the game will also be played behind closed doors. Is the game against VfB a special one for you?
It’s definitely a special game for me. We lived just 500m away from the stadium for eight years. I started off my coaching career at VfB and worked with almost every youth team. I often went to the stadium as a kid, and in terms of my home, VfB is my team. That said, I’m not nervous about returning to Stuttgart. I’m going there as part of RB Leipzig and we want to win the match. You're able to focus quickly on the task at hand.
I haven’t yet had any form of contact with the fans, and that’s what I really enjoy and what makes football fun for me.
Italy is also home for you. How Italian would you say you are?
(Laughs) I always get asked that. I’m very Italian, both my parents are from there. We may have moved to Germany when I was two and a half, but we spent every summer holiday in Italy and a lot of our relatives also live there. So I would say I’m very Italian.
The emotionality, too? You’re well known as a bit of a volcano, in a good sense...
That’s true, but it’s worked so far in Leipzig, hasn’t it?
Yes, but it is nice to see how you act on the touchline!
It’s a part of who I am and is what makes football enjoyable to me. Nothing’s ever fake about it, either. The thing I miss most about not having fans there is the emotionality. The only good thing about that is that I can focus a little more as a head coach. The less emotional I am, the more I feel I’m in the game. It’s a good balance for me at the moment. But you will soon experience plenty of emotional outbursts from me (laughs).
You like to use objects to explain certain tactical elements. How do you view your role as a coach during matches?
There’s a lot of tactics to work on and recently I’ve been doing lots of analysis. For example, where do the opposition have space when we win or lose the ball? Where are the spaces for use when we have the ball? How is our build-up play? What works well and how do our players behave? We’re always collecting information to use in our half-time analysis. In addition to this, we have a very good video analysis team who have the appropriate footage ready for us at half-time. But as a coach you need to have a basic idea of what is and isn’t working well. Overall, I would say I view my role as very analysis-based above all.
To conclude, let’s look into the future. You’ve experienced a lot and overcome a lot. Do you have any dreams at all?
What’s important for me is my health, irrespective of the current situation. You always try and look into the future and ask yourself where you’ll be in ten or 20 years. In that, your children will have grown up and you would like to be able to experience that and wish that all your family and friends are healthy. That would be lovely, of course, but unfortunately, you can only influence that to a certain degree.
Otherwise, I am very satisfied. I have an amazing job which I really enjoy. I work in the industry I love. Of course, it can go from being the most beautiful job to being the nastiest job depending on results, but it’s just great to be able to work in football.