After Julian Nagelsmann was announced as Bayern Munich’s new coach for next season, RB Leipzig needed less than 24 hours to decide on the new man to take them forward. That man is Jesse Marsch, the club confirmed in a tweet on Thursday morning.
Marsch, 47, is a product of Red Bull’s global football imperium, having previously coached MLS side New York Red Bulls from 2015 to 2018 before spending a season as an assistant coach under Ralf Rangnick in Leipzig.
The American then replaced Marco Rose as the manager of sister club Red Bull Salzburg, signing a contract until June 2022. In his first season in charge, the he won the Austrian double and looks set to repeat the trick this season too.
A well-trodden path
In swapping Salzburg for Leipzig, Marsch follows a well-established path leading from Austria to Germany. Since 2012, a total of 20 players have moved in that direction, among them the likes of Peter Gulacsi, Naby Keita, Marcel Sabitzer, Dayot Upamecano, and most recently Dominik Szoboszlai.
Rarely have Salzburg said no to their German counterparts, the most major exception being Erling Haaland’s move to Bundesliga rivals Dortmund. While a final fee for Marsch is yet to be agreed, there is unlikely to be major friction at the negotiating table given the inherent ties between the two clubs.
The standout candidate
Marsch may well have known he would eventually be moving up the echelons of the Red Bull footballing hierarchy. He reportedly abandoned talks with Eintracht Frankfurt regarding their respective vacant posts.
Reports in Germany had previously rushed to link Wolfsburg’s Oliver Glasner with the Leipzig job, alongside Stuttgart boss Pellegrino Matarazzo. Both have impressed this season but Marsch is the more natural fit, having spent so much time within Red Bull’s football structure, particularly benefitting from that season at Leipzig under Rangnick’s tutelage.
Familiar faces and tactics
Marsch will likely be joined by Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund, who is all set to replace the recently departed markus Krösche at Leipzig. There are players like Szoboslai and Hee-Chan Hwang he has coached himself at Salzburg previously, in addition to the many others he knows from his brief stint as an assistant with his future employer.
The American favours the narrow 4-2-2-2 formation championed by previous Leipzig coaches Ralph Hasenhüttl and Rangnick. Nagelsmann had, after his first half season in charge, pivoted to a 3-4-3, which plays to the strengths of wing-back pair Angelino and Nordi Mukiele. Marsch has used back-threes sparingly in the past but would do well to consider it for his new squad. Regardless of formation, he will surely continue the attack-minded ethos fostered across all Red Bull affiliated clubs.
A speech heard around the world
Marsch rose to mainstream fame after a rousing half-time pep talk went viral. In October 2019, his Salzburg side faced Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the Champions League group stages and were 3-1 down at half-time.
Dressing room footage showed Marsch tearing into his players in an at times comical mixture of english and German, shouting “how many fouls have we got? how many? Maybe two? This is not a f***ing friendly! This is a f***ing Champions League match!”
His side managed to level the scores before succumbing to a 4-3 defeat but the outburst had put him on the map outside of Austria and those familiar with Red Bull.
It also showed he had honed his German during his tenure as Salzburg. He now gives full interviews and press conferences in the language he has had less than two years to work on. If he can handle the Austrian dialect, he should comfortably understand the local Saxon accent of some Leipzig journalists.
The move across the pond
Marsch enjoyed a steady 13-year career as a midfielder in the MLS for DC United, Chicago Fire, and CD Chivas USA, winning three MLS Cups but never coming close to a move to Europe.
He also won two caps for the US before getting his first coaching gig as an assistant with the country’s national team in 2010. After just a year in that post he took the reins at Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) and, following just one season in charge, announced an “amicable” split from the Canadian club.
At New York Red Bulls, he registered the best record of any coach in the history of the club, but failed to grasp the MLS Cup. He did lead them to one MLS Supporters’ Shield, the annual award given to the team with the best regular season record. His affiliation with Red Bull enabled him to move straight from the MLS to a European side with Champions League ambitions.
A new nemesis
The latest move in his progression through the Red Bull ranks will see him once more compete for titles. however, this time around he’ll have the mighty Bayern Munich to contend with, led by a man who will know his Leipzig squad inside and out. That alone will make a title charge with his new employers a real uphill task.
But Marsch will likely not need much time to settle into his new surroundings. Meanwhile, Nagelsmann will be entering a dressing room filled with well-established and decorated players, some of whom are his senior. Bayern’s squad is far from as fully formed as their recent title haul may suggest. So, Marsch has a real opportunity to disprove those who sees Nagelsmann’s move as a sign that there will be no Bundesliga title race next season.