Can Magath wake Germany’s sleeping giant?
It was clear from the start that Felix Magath’s move to VfL Wolfsburg in 2007, after winning consecutive league and cup doubles with Bayern Munich, was a step backwards before another big step forward.
No one really expected them to be top of the table with three matches left this season. Magath himself said the team had met their targets earlier than expected.
His next big step now turns out to be Schalke 04, one of the most fervently supported clubs in the country — as opposed to Volkswagen-sponsored Wolfsburg — but also a club that has long failed to live up to its potential.
Without a championship for 51 years, Schalke have come agonisingly close many times. Magath must change that. He has to reorganise a team that includes several key players on their way out, like formidable central defenders Mladen Krstajic and Marcelo Bordon, expensive signings that have failed to deliver like Orlando Engelaar and Jefferson Farfan and volatile striker Kevin Kuranyi, who is still undecided about his future.
Magath, who will have complete control over the team, has to change all that without playing in any European competition next season.
It’s a much bigger job than he’s done at Wolfsburg. Everyone in Gelsenkirchen expects to get what they have been missing out for the past half century. All the second-place finishes, all the last-gasp failures have left fans hungry for lots of silverware and they will want to taste success under Magath sooner rather than later.
PHOTO: VfL Wolfsburg’s coach Felix Magath gestures during their Bundesliga game at VfB Stuttgart, May 9, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen