Who is Fabian Hurzeler? The 'next Julian Nagelsmann' wanted by Brighton

Tom Weber
Tom Weber
  • Updated: 8 Jun 2024 12:58 CDT
  • 6 min read
Fabian Hurzeler, St Pauli

Fabian Hürzeler is Germany's next big coaching talent.

The 31-year-old's rise to prominence has been swift, seemingly coming out of nowhere to take German football by storm. After leading St. Pauli to the Bundesliga for the first time in over a decade, the USA-born tactician is set for big things.

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Indeed, his age and swift ascent have earned him comparisons to Julian Nagelsmann. Hürzeler's next step could be in the Premier League, with Brighton viewing the German as one of their main targets to succeed Roberto de Zerbi.

So, who is Fabian Hürzeler and how good is he really?

READ MORE: Who is Sebastian Hoeness? The 'next Klopp' taking the Bundesliga by storm

What team does Hürzeler manage?

Hürzeler is in charge of St. Pauli and has been since December 2022.

What formation does Hürzeler play?

Hürzeler usually lines his team up in a 3-4-3 formation.

Fabian Hürzeler
© IMAGO - Fabian Hürzeler

How good is Hürzeler?

Born in Houston, Texas to a German mother and a Swiss father, Hürzeler was a German youth international during his playing days but failed to break into the professional ranks. A teammate of Emre Can in Bayern's academy, Hürzeler spent most of his time in Southern Germany. He took his first steps in coaching as a player-manager at Bavarian side Pipinsried, with whom he won promotion to the regional, semi-professional fourth tier in 2017.

He simultaneously worked with the DFB as an assistant coach for the German U20 national team and later the U18s. In 2020, the 31-year-old moved to the other side of the country to take up a role as an assistant at Hamburg-based second-tier outfit St. Pauli. Still a player at that time, Hürzeler lined up for lower-league side Eimsbüttel but rarely featured.

Following the sacking of Timo Schultz in late 2022, Hürzeler was given the reins of St. Pauli's first team to save them from relegation, sitting only outside the drop zone on goal difference. A spectacular run of form followed, with Pauli winning their next ten games before suffering two minor setbacks. After losses to Braunschweig and hated local rivals HSV, Hürzeler's men would not be beaten in the final five games of the campaign, finishing the season in fifth place after their stunning resurgence.

However, this was child's play compared to what would come the following term. With Hürzeler having a full pre-season and summer window under his belt, in which the side was strengthened with smart defensive additions such as Karol Mets and Hauke Wahl, St. Pauli went on an early-season tear in the 2. Bundesliga. Though initial results didn't look particularly great - one win and four draws from the first five outings - Pauli wouldn't lose a game until matchday 21, having racked up 11 victories and nine draws at that point.

Pauli were comfortably top of the standings and looked to be on their way back to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2010/11. Pauli continued to rack up wins, but they forgot how to draw games, which meant that if they didn't win, they lost. Though they were only beaten five times over the course of the campaign, a few slip-ups during the run-in gave Holstein Kiel hope and they eventually reached the summit. Ultimately, with the battle for the 2. Bundesliga title going down to the final day, St. Pauli would come out on top, though of course just getting back to the Bundesliga was the main goal.

In November 2023, tactics analyst and German football expert Abel Meszaros described Hürzeler's football as "the most appealing" in the 2. Bundesliga with middle-of-the-pack St. Pauli punching well above their financial weight. Though Hürzeler has often been compared to Julian Nagelsmann due to his age and time spent in Southern Germany, he is more of a disciple of Roberto de Zerbi. Hürzeler interned at Brighton during the Italian's time at the club and, unsurprisingly, the Seagulls identified the US-born German as a potential replacement for De Zerbi in June 2024.

Hürzeler wants his side to control the ball at all costs and, unlike many coaches in Germany, would rather his team win thanks to a clean sheet than by outscoring the opponent 4-3. That is, of course, not to say that Hürzeler's deep build-up is boring. Quite the opposite, with the exception of top-flight sides Bayer Leverkusen and Stuttgart, Pauli probably played the most fun and attractive football in Germany in 2023/24.

Hürzeler prefers short-passing build-ups with confident, ball-playing centre-backs playing a key role. He instructs his side to only employ long balls when there is an opportunity for them to be actually useful. The more one watches Hürzeler's side, the more one notices the similarities to De Zerbi's approach. A fiery character who has been racking up yellow cards for dissent for fun since his playing days, Hürzeler has also cited Oliver Glasner, Gian Piero Gasperini and Diego Simeone as inspirations.

Hürzeler managed to turn a middling St. Pauli that had lost several key players into a league-winning side. It is only a matter of time before he takes the next step.

What trophies has Hürzeler won?

Hürzeler won the 2. Bundesliga with St. Pauli in 2023/24.

Who has Hürzeler managed previously?

Hürzeler was a player-manager at German lower-league side Pipinsried (2016-2020) and an assistant for Germany's U18s (2019-2020) and U20s (2018-2019).

How old is Hürzeler?

Hürzeler was born on February 26, 1993, making him 31 years old.

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