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FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers


As Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel go head-to-head once again as two of the best managers in the world, it may come as a surprise that they both owe their careers to a used-car salesman.

Liverpool take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley with the opposing German coaches no doubt drawn from the most elite slice of football managers.

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Klopp and Tuchel will meet at Wembley for the second time in a year

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

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But the duo’s origins are incredibly intertwined

Both Champions League winners with their respective English sides, there isn’t a club in the world that wouldn’t employ either manager, which makes it all the more surprising that they were both discovered by the same man.

Tuchel’s early career followed Klopp’s, managing both Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund, before diverging, finding himself under the north London arch on Saturday.

Their black-and-yellow careers were what earned them international recognition with scintillating football in Westphalia, but it was in Mainz that their journey began.

And it wouldn’t have been possible without a man of whom Klopp once said: “After my parents, he was my biggest influence.”

Christian Heidel has branded his local side Mainz an ‘award club’ as he thinks back to when he joined the side on a part-time basis in 1992, now they have been a Bundesliga regular for 13 years.

Much of that is thanks to Klopp and Tuchel, but chances are neither will be household names without Heidel.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

Heidel started working for Mainz part-time while selling cars

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

But his decision to move Klopp from player to manager was brilliant


“Jurgen Klopp has been a boon to the club,” said chairman Harald Strutz. “But the first stroke of luck was the decision to tie Christian Heidel to the club in a responsible position.”

Heidel started working for the team alongside his main job as a used-car dealer and got the job by catching Strutz’s eye in 1990 when he bought the 15,000 tickets for the fifth-grade league game. division of Mainz as a publicity stunt for his garage.

The 58-year-old struggled to juggle the two jobs, admitting he ‘seldom saw his wife and two children’ and it was even harder to manage the playing staff.

“Although I was a manager, I didn’t have an office at all,” he later revealed. “I don’t even know where I should have signed contracts.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

The Heidel office was a bit unorthodox

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

But he found the perfect partner to take the club forward

“There was no office for me, so the whole department was actually handled in my office at the car dealership.

“The players were actually coming through almost every day, the coach was sitting down every once in a while.

“I have to say it was the most intense period of my life as a footballer so far. Because it started at seven in the morning and sometimes lasted until 11 in the evening.

It wasn’t long in Heidel’s time at the club before things took a turn for the worse, and the intensity escalated further when a boardroom meeting grabbed the headlines as the issues financial issues were getting worse and gaming staff were leaving.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

Mainz was in deep trouble when an infamous board meeting made headlines

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

But from the embers came out ‘Kloppo’

“There were 20 trial riders, 18 of whom were 30 kilos overweight,” he explained.

A new head coach was also needed, and after Heidel assumed the full-time CEO position, he even thought about stepping forward, but one player jumped into the line of fire instead.

“I’ll do it on an interim basis until maybe someone has been trained,” he thought. “And then came the decision to hire Klopp.”

“I wasn’t 100% convinced at first,” Heidel explained. “But I was 100 per cent convinced after Jurgen Klopp’s first session with the players on the same day.

“The team came together and after the second playing session, even I was ready. If given the chance, I would have played too.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

Klopp quickly started working his magic

“I planned the training and told our board members that it would work 100%.”

Klopp, however, quickly found out what Heidel really thought of him.

“He thought I was a crap football player,” the Liverpool boss joked. “You noticed that later because of the dirty contracts he always gave me when I was still a player.

“‘Honestly, you’re on top here, you’re really the best earners’, and then when I coach here and it’s only then that I see the players’ contracts.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

best of friends now

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

Klopp joked he would have dropped Heidel tires when he found out what the others were being paid

“I have to drive straight to his car to flatten the tyres!” But he redeemed me. »

It’s hard to believe now with Klopp competing for a record four trophies with Liverpool, but early in his career things were far from easy.

Heidel had Mainz as second division holders, but it took Klopp eight years to bring them into the top flight for the first time, coming painfully close on three occasions before making the fourth stick in 2004.

Mainz had pulled off the improbable thanks to Heidel and Klopp, and despite relegation in 2007 they soon returned to the Bundesliga where they have been ever since.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

Klopp faced a huge amount of heartache before finally succeeding

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

And his departure caused a lot of tears to flow between friends

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

It was amazing what the two achieved together

A stadium worthy of Europe was built in 2011 on the backs of their manager and director, but it wasn’t until Heidel’s next coaching appointment that they became continental for the first time.

Replacing Klopp was another unenviable task, and one that Dortmund have still not solved for a decade, but at Mainz, Heidel once again took a different route.

He explained: “I think it was a very, very important decision, also as a signal to the outside world that this club is very, very strong.”

First date Jorn Andersen didn’t work out, but Heidel had an ace up his sleeve.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

A fresh-faced Tuchel arrives to start the next stage of Mainz advancement

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

And it turned out to be yet another stroke of genius

He had already managed to snare U19 league winner Tuchel of Augsburg to coach Mainz’s youth team, and it didn’t take long for the unprecedented step of rapid promotion.

Heidel explained why Tuchel justified the decision: “The main requirement a coach needs is social skills, that’s very, very important.

“A coach needs charisma, innate authority, and finally, as ridiculous as it may sound, a coach needs to be 1.90 meters tall.

“I prefer it when they are over 1.60 meters and they train, because it brings a certain charisma, but the basis of everything is an intelligence that must be there.”

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

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Heidel leadership appointments basically built a new stadium

A first UEFA Cup venture was made in 2005 after only returning to the top flight the previous year, and after that, with the construction of the 34,000-seater Mewa Arena, the ‘award club’ became a regular of the Bundesliga.

Three more Europa League campaigns followed with the power of Heidel’s success contrasting sharply with a number of struggling giants such as Hamburg, Kaiserslautern and Schalke.

The last of them, Schalke, Heidel joined in 2016 after a tear-soaked farewell, but left in 2019, and the team was then relegated to second tier for the first time in 30 years.

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

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Heidel left to rebuild Schalke but couldn’t do it

FA Cup finalists Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were discovered by a used car salesman who nearly had his tires stripped by the Liverpool boss and only hires top managers

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But his impact on football is quite remarkable

Klopp spoke during Heidel’s departure to Mainz, with a message from Anfield appearing on the big screen.

“Maybe you have to say you were the heart and soul of this club,” Klopp said, and he was right when Heidel returned in 2020.

This year marks three decades since the used car salesman joined the struggling board of his local team, and his impact on them has been unmatched in Europe.

However, Heidel remains an unknown outside of Germany, which should come as a surprise given his impact on the world game will be on full display on the touchline at Wembley on Saturday.

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