Antonio ‘Toni’ Di Salvo is the new coach of the Germany U-21s. Having been assistant coach for five years, he now replaces Stefan Kuntz, who has been appointed head coach of the Turkish national team. In his first press conference as head coach, 42-year-old Di Salvo, alongside Sports Manager of the Talent Promotion Program Joti Chatzialexiou, talked about his goals and what he has planned.
Antonio ‘Toni’ Di Salvo speaks
… ongoing work with the U21s: Firstly, I would like to thank the DFB presidential board for their trust in me, and also Stefan Kuntz for our time working together. I’m really looking forward to the task ahead. We have started very well in the qualifiers and want to carry that forward. There is no reason to change anything. As a coaching team, we have always believed in making collective decisions. Stefan Kuntz did an excellent job with us and it brought us together. I want to carry that on but with my own style and personality and to remain authentic.
… his appointment: I wasn’t surprised because over the last few years we have talked about me taking over a team as a logical step. The fact that it was the U21s was not something I really expected.
… his influence then and now: It wasn’t just me, but the entire coaching team. We discussed nearly every decision with each other so the team’s style was shaped by us and that includes me as well. It’s more about me having a different way of addressing things with the team. Things will mostly be the same as before. I’m very similar to Stefan Kuntz and we have the same ideas with respect to how the team should work. I’ll tell my own stories, but otherwise things will continue in the same way.
… his first game in charge being in his hometown of Paderborn: These are the stories that come with football. The fact that the first match will be in the city where I was born is really special and I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure that I’ll get a lot of support from family and friends. But it would have been just as special had it been elsewhere.
… the German youth system: The U21 titles should not hide the fact that there is a lot of work ahead of us. We certainly have the potential in Germany, but the smaller nations have caught up, and the larger nations are just a few steps ahead in one or two areas. We have to do more individual work again and it also has to be fun. Kids should already be doing one-on-ones on smaller pitches where they can try things out.
… the pressure as Kuntz’s successor: There is always pressure because you are judged on results. As I was part of the team before, the pressure is not as great. I’ll give it my all and am confident that we can be successful.
… the current year: First of all, it will be important to get to know the team. It’s never easy when 23 new players arrive and they have to integrate in such a short period of time, during which you also have to share your ideas with them. We think the team has done that well, however, and made a really good start. Even in the last cycle, not everything worked immediately. We want to get better step by step.
… the ‘Stürmerprojekt’: It’s a dynamic project and we are being as active as possible in its implementation. I presented the project to trainers and youth academies in Berlin over the last three days. It’s about making every position better through training. I’m sure that it will be fruitful and it will help us to develop a lot of good players.
… Assistant coach Hermann Gerland: I have known Hermann for quite a while. Even though we weren’t at Bayern together for very long, we have always stayed in contact. We on the coaching staff immediately thought of Gerland and saw him as a great addition. We wanted to bring in a different perspective, and with Hermann Gerland we have a super-experienced coach who has a different approach to things sometimes. I’m very happy that he’s with us. He said that he wants to give something back to football.
… Youssoufa Moukoko: He was unlucky with injury in March, when we first wanted to call him up. It doesn’t need saying that he is an incredible talent and he has proved that he can score a lot of goals. We don’t want to get carried away, however, as he is still very young and has a lot to learn at Borussia Dortmund. We need to have patience, but I’m sure that we will see him in the senior team at some stage. We have to give him time to grow and mature.
Joti Chatzialexiou on…
… the decision to appoint Antonio Di Salvo: In Toni we have a great coach taking over the team. After Stefan Kuntz asked to move on, we quickly sat down together and were all in agreement that Toni should take the job. Our goal is always to be developing coaches as well. We have invested a lot in him, he has been around and gained experience, which has benefitted him, the German football system and also the team. He is an analytical, meticulous worker, his analysis of opponents was top-drawer and the way he speaks is fantastic. He has already had a lot of success and we spoke a while ago about him taking a role with us as a head coach. Now it’s the logical next step, and we want to give him that chance. He will keep the mood and spirit in the team alive, even after the Kuntz era.
… the path to the senior team: The link will continue to be strong. It is another piece of the puzzle, as we know Toni has a good relationship with Hansi Flick and Marcus Sorg, both of whom value Toni’s work greatly. There was no question that we would also speak to Hansi about the appointment. The transition to the senior team is part of our job – to guide young players in that direction and to create a tangible path towards the senior team.
… other candidates for the job: Of course we also have other really good coaches with a lot of potential in our team. However, Toni was our first choice for various reasons.