For Julian Nagelsmann, Valentine’s Day this year will not be a day of love, but the day of truth. The 35-year-old head coach of FC Bayern has a business trip to Paris ahead of him on February 14, Champions League round of 16, the first leg with the star squad from PSG around Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi. And when reading these names, it becomes clear that the Bavarian trip to the city of love is unlikely to offer much romance.

For Nagelsmann and his team, it’s all about the goals this season, from a sporting point of view almost everything. Because: A disappointing end in the premier class like last year must not be repeated under any circumstances.

At that time it was over in the quarterfinals against outsiders FC Villarreal, Nagelsmann then had to put up with fundamental questions. Will it be like that after the meeting with Paris (second leg on March 8th in Munich, ed.)? “The chances are 50:50,” said Nagelsmann during the training camp in Doha, which the coach used to get his stars in shape. “You will see whether we are fitter in the duels because our players had a longer break – in games like this it is always the day’s form that decides.”

And the team spirit. Especially in this area, the soft success factors, Nagelsmann and his team seem to have made progress compared to last season, his first in Munich. This gives everyone involved hope. “Some employees who have already completed several training camps said to me: That was the best so far in terms of mood,” reported the coach: “That’s always a good indicator.” That’s right!

Nagelsmann himself also contributed to this good atmosphere. There’s a different coach on the sidelines than last season, one who’s still noisy, but mostly on the training ground when he’s yelling (‘Pressure, pressure, pressure!’) at his players like in Doha prompts.

Someone who no longer publicly takes a stance on every topic, who is no longer available for every photo and pose, who has acquired a certain distance that is good for him and creates more authority.

Nagelsmann’s transformation. It’s not quite as crass as in Franz Kafka’s masterpiece of the same name, in which Gregor Samsa suddenly wakes up in the morning as a beetle, that would be bad too. But she is clearly visible.

People who deal with Nagelsmann almost every day report a coach who has not changed fundamentally as a guy, but who appears more relaxed. One of the main reasons for this: Nagelsmann has the feeling that the team has now internalized his game idea.

The coach no longer overloads his Bayern stars with too many tactical instructions and specifications. “I’ve learned that we shouldn’t exaggerate certain things, but have to reduce them,” he explained: “I took steps towards the boys, and it’s the same the other way around. I saw before the winter break that the boys have the necessary greed and are willing to implement things. The forms of training all have a purpose. Of course it would be nice if it meant that we were more successful internationally than last year.”

That’s exactly what Nagelsmann expects, a title like in the 2021/22 season is not enough for Bayern in the long run. Not to forget: The past season was also weak in the DFB Cup, in the second round there was a crashing 0:5 at Borussia Mönchengladbach. This time, for the first time since 2020, the final will go to Berlin, but there is already a tricky task ahead in the round of 16 at Mainz 05 on February 1st.

Nagelsmann, whose team played the only pre-season friendly against RB Salzburg on Friday evening, is immediately under pressure to win – also in the Bundesliga. Next Friday we will face third-placed RB Leipzig, four days later against 1. FC Köln and on January 28 against fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt.

A tough program. But one that does not scare the Munich team despite the tense personnel situation after the injuries to Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernández, Sadio Mané and Noussair Mazraoui. “The coach knows us better – and we know the coach better,” said Thomas Müller, explaining his optimism. He expects a “much better second half of the season”.

On February 14, everyone will know the truth – including the transformed Julian Nagelsmann.

This article was written by Maximilian Koch

The original of this post “Mega pressure at FC Bayern! Suddenly Nagelsmann has changed” comes from the evening newspaper.