Thomas Tuchel: Football’s Icarus

Thomas Tuchel’s recent firing from Chelsea is emblematic of his tenures at other clubs — initial success, but eventually he flies too close to the sun. 

The story of Icarus is a classic cautionary tale of ambition, complacency, and arrogance. The Greek myth that birthed the idiom “don’t fly too close to the sun” saw Icarus ignore his father Daedalus’ warnings, only to have his wax wings melt and fall to his death.

Thomas Tuchel has somehow found a way to mimic the story of Icarus at every major club he has managed. His demand for excellence is instant from the moment he steps into a new club. The players must bend to his style, standards, and commitment to winning. There is no place for personalities that do not meet his criteria, and those who rebel will be cast to the side, either being released, transferred out, or banished to the dark and hidden corridors of the club.

The standard is not easy to meet. Players must be tactically astute, physically superior, and 100% committed to the idea that Tuchel’s way is the right way to win. And to his credit, Tuchel has found a way to win a lot of football matches and trophies along the way.

However, that winning also comes with a heavy price. As anyone who has had a boss before will understand, being placed under heavy scrutiny for long periods of time with no reprieve will lead to burnout, a wandering eye to other jobs, and even disillusionment of their leader. This is where the German manager starts to near the sun, and the wax in his wings begins to soften.

Player performance starts to drop, and Tuchel, unwilling to drop his standards for even a moment, burns through players that he trusts. If you are to pick out one fault in this whole story, it is that Tuchel is unable to trust someone more than once. Once the trust is broken, he will fight tooth and nail until they have left or been proven to be unworthy in the eyes of bystanders.

Every club that he leaves, the same story comes out. Tuchel is labeled as “difficult” or “stuck on an idea.” When he is given the time to burn through players, he scorches through the glories of his early time at the club. But instead of later reigniting the world-beating style he is capable of, all that’s left is ash.

In a way, I don’t blame Tuchel for this behavior. He sees perfection, holds it in his hands, and believes that it can happen at all times, indefinitely. In a way, he is the perfect manager for a team of world-class robots. On his day, Tuchel is the best manager in the world, but getting there requires him gliding too close to the sun.

Thomas Tuchel only knows how to manage one way. Hard, fast, intense, and fiery. His wings will burn and singe, but he will win clubs trophies. This will not change because Tuchel will never compromise. Maybe one day, he’ll figure out a way to strike a balance like Pep Guardiola. Or maybe his wings are burnt to the point of no return. Either way, Tuchel has once again flown too close to the sun, and will have to deal with those repercussions as Todd Boehly reshapes Chelsea Football Club.

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