Thomas Tuchel tells Dortmund bomber trial he'd still be coach if not for attack
DORTMUND -- Thomas Tuchel has told a court in Germany that he believes he would still be Borussia Dortmund coach if it had not been for last year's attack on the team bus.
Tuchel was speaking as a witness at the trial against the defendant known as "Sergej W," who is accused of setting off an explosive device as the Dortmund bus was making its way to a Champions League game against Monaco on April 11, 2017.
When asked by public prosecutor Carsten Dombert whether he would have remained Borussia's coach beyond the summer of 2017 Tuchel, who had been under contract until 2018, said: "I'd like to think so."
Less than two months after the attack, Dortmund and Tuchel parted ways. The coach is yet to take another job, although he has been linked with top clubs such as Bayern Munich and Chelsea in recent months.
Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and Tuchel fell out in public following the attack, and both sides were unable to fix things, with the Borussia chief saying in early May 2017 that there were major disturbances in the relationship between coach and club.
"Watzke has spoken in public of the dissent," Tuchel said of the direct aftermath of the attack. "It was about the handling and the consequences of the attack."
The match against Monaco at the Westfalenstadion was initially postponed, before being rescheduled for April 12, the following day. Dortmund officials including Watzke, their Monaco counterparts and UEFA made the decision.
Tuchel said: "The biggest dissent, I believe, is that I sat in the bus, and he didn't."
While the 44-year-old said he "felt prepared to coach the match," when the team met at the training ground the next morning he realised that the squad was "in a state where they were unable to play."
When asked whether the attack had influenced Dortmund's performance, Tuchel said: "I am convinced of it.
"The magnitude and how much luck we had, the extent of it all. We only felt that the next morning."
Despite winning the DFB Pokal in May 2017, a clash with Dortmund's hierarchy led to Tuchel's dismissal only a day after parading the trophy through the city.
"What the squad achieved [after the attack] was incredible and remarkable," Tuchel said of the cup win, less than two months after the attack.
Also on Monday, two former BVB players -- Felix Passlack and Sven Bender -- as well as current club captain Marcel Schmelzer and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller admitted they, at least in parts, have not got over the attack and criticised the rescheduling of the match.
"It's incomprehensible how the team was not allowed to rest. We are not machines," Weidenfeller said.
Schmelzer added: "None of us slept. And the bus ride to the stadium the following day was just horrible. Nobody thought about the match."
Bender said: "We made a huge mistake to play. We could have decided against it. But all of us had never been in this situation."
Following the explosions, Dortmund only had a limited time to decide when to reschedule the match. It was decided to go ahead with it the following day, and during a team meeting the next morning all players inside the squad agreed to play the match, which BVB lost 3-2.
They also lost the reverse fixture the following week, and went out of the Champions League. That day in Monaco, Dortmund's team bus was stopped from leaving the hotel for around 20 minutes and kick-off was delayed.
And Schmelzer said he still felt awkward whenever a car slowly passed the bus. "It happened a week later in Monaco when we sat in the bus, couldn't move, didn't know why and a car slowly drove passed us. That was also a very strange feeling in the bus. You could sense it."
Dortmund lost the second leg 3-1, and conceded two goals in the opening 20 minutes.
BVB staff member Fritz Lunschermann, meanwhile, told the court that players like Nuri Sahin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Gonzalo Castro and "Marc Bartra, of course" were still affected by the aftermath of the attack.
Bartra, who sustained an arm injury in the attack and required surgery, joined Real Betis from Dortmund one day after appearing as a witness in the trial in late January.
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.