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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary (Managerial) Shortlist: Ralf Rangnick

For a holistic approach to success, is there anyone better than the gegenpress guy?

Congress of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (“FAZ”) Photo by Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images


Subject: Let us help you! (Manager search)

Hi Daniel,

I am sorry to hear that your search for a new manager at Tottenham Hotspur is taking as long as it is. It is worth remembering something I mentioned the other day, though: the pool of managers to pull from is so large, so another great candidate is out there! It’s just a matter of tracking that person down, and as you know, we at Cartilage Free Captain remain committed to your cause.

That is why I would like to discuss Ralf Rangnick, someone you may already be fond of. After all, he is so deeply associated with gegenpressing, a style of play that has inspired so many of the top teams in the world. Rangnick’s true selling point, though, is that he knows how to build a footballing structure from inside and out that prioritizes attractive play and getting results.

Pardeep Cattry
Cartilage Free Captain

The Basics

Name: Ralf Rangnick
Age: 62
Team: currently unemployed (last employer: Red Bull)
Nationality: German
Cumulative ELO ranking: 2005

The Specifics


Regionallia Süd (Ulm 1846, 1997-98); UEFA Intertoto Cup (VfB Stuttgart, 2000); 2. Bundesliga (Hannover 96, 2001-02); DFB-Pokal (Schalke 04, 2010-11)


Out of maybe any candidate you might consider, Rangnick has perhaps the most recognizable style of play; after all, he is the gegenpress guy. It is naturally central to the way his teams come out, regardless of formation. During his most recent spell as a manager with RB Leipzig in the 208-19 season, the true constant was playing with two forwards while he altered both the midfield and defense as need be.


The reason Rangnick has a reputation is because of his work as a sporting director. He may not have been the manager at RB Leipzig as it rose quickly from the German fourth division to becoming Germany’s second best team, but he laid the foundation. He also did it on a larger scale, providing Red Bull’s other teams a similar foundation for success. Rangnick operates with the three Cs in mind — concept, competence, and capital — as he explained last year.

Despite the need for cash, Rangnick admits that capital does not make up for concept or competence. His strategy is one that prioritizes quality over splash, corresponding nicely with your own philosophy, Daniel, as someone running a top club with a different financial reality compared to your counterparts. His greatest ability is to streamline football operations, which could be of use to Tottenham.

Currently, Spurs have a strong roster able to play a pressing style but lack an organized structure to produce consistent results. Rangnick’s system could be a great equalizer against clubs that are similarly unstructured but have capital that is otherwise hard to compete with.


The full Rangnick experience comes with giving him a lot of control. It is a big ask, but there are very few people better suited to having that level of control than Rangnick. It also might mean that Spurs have to undergo another managerial search a bit sooner than liked, because he may be best suited for a sporting director-like role than any other. (There’s a reason he has been called the “football professor” in Germany.)

The Verdict

Likeliness of being hired

Reportedly, he seems like a top candidate as things stand. He might just be the best person available for the job, and considering he is without work and looking to get back into the swing of things, this might just happen.

Grade if hired: A

A move like this signals a club not just interested in on-field success, but one that is structurally set up to prioritize that success. Embracing a holistic and organized view of winning football matches can only be a good thing for a football club, and may just lead to some success.