Tuchel came through the youth academy at Augsburg as a centre-back but his time as a player was spent mostly in the lower divisions in Germany and ended prematurely due to a serious knee injury.
After studying for a Business Administration degree following his early retirement, Tuchel reached out to Ralf Rangnick, his former coach at Ulm, asking for one last shot to revive his playing career. Rangnick was in charge at Stuttgart and offered Tuchel an opportunity but chronic cartilage damage in his knee meant the comeback was shortlived. However, Rangnick encouraged him into coaching and he eventually took a job in the club’s academy.
He excelled working with young players, an attribute that has remained throughout his career, and continued to develop himself as a coach working with Stuttgart’s Under-19s before taking on similar roles at Augsburg and then Mainz. It was with the latter that he won the Under-19 Bundesliga title in 2008/09 with a side featuring future Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle.
In August 2009, then aged 35, Tuchel took his first senior coaching role as boss of Mainz following the dismissal of Jorn Andersen after an early-season cup exit to lower-league opposition before the league campaign had begun.
The club had just returned to the Bundesliga and the task to keep them in the division was daunting but Tuchel’s mix of tactical shrewdness and man management skills saw them win three of their opening six league matches, including a 2-1 home victory over Bayern Munich. They eventually finished the season ninth.