Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughRise of Wolfsburg: Can Magath’s madness lead Die Wolfe back to the top? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Rise of Wolfsburg: Can Magath’s madness lead Die Wolfe back to the top? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Rise of Wolfsburg: Can Magath’s madness lead Die Wolfe back to the top?

As a manager Felix Magath is known as “Quälix” to his players. “Quälix” is the mashed up word of his first name Felix and the German word for torture ‘quälen’. Quite a word, to describe your manager; but that’s what Magath is all about. Fitness, discipline, conditioning; “Quälix” is all about prepping up his players to battle it on the pitch. His detached man-management and strict methods, while harsh on players have produced the goods during his management career. Back at Wolfsburg, he’s aim once again is simple: make them champions. 

“The last time (in 2009) it took two years to do it. Now the situation is a bit harder. So we should add a year to that,” said Magath in an interview with Sport 1 before die Wolfe 3-2 lost against Hertha Berlin. In 2009, Magath lead Wolfsburg to their first ever title, finishing two points above second place and former employer Bayern Munich. With star forwards Edin Dzeko and Grafite leading the line and the backline marshalled superbly by Andrea Barzagli and Marcel Schafer, the question is: can he do it again, with a completely new squad?

The answers are both yes and no. Magath has the record to prove he can achieve success at the club – he did it just two years ago. He also achieved it with the biggest club in Germany: Bayern. In his first two seasons at the Munich giants, he led the club to two consecutive league and cup doubles, the only time this has occurred in German football history. 

His Bayern team, lead by Michael Ballack played a high pressure game, focusing on balance. Attack when needed and defend to grind out the results. Employing a 4-4-2, his team finished 14 points ahead of second placed Schalke 04 in 2004/2005. The following season, he slowly developed them into a 4-3-1-2 side, with Ballack the playmaker behind strikers Makaay and Pizarro. Magath similarly employed the exact same formation when he arrived at Wolfsburg. With Misimovic the playmaker in the team, he was placed in a role similar to Ballack’s where he was able to create. Brazilian Josue and Germans Christian Gentner and Sascha Reither offering support in the centre of the pitch. 

Success though, isn’t all down to tactics and formation. Through his well-known brutal training sessions, Magath’s players where fit: able to last the 90 minutes without breaking a sweat. They were discipline and knew that if they committed too many errors or heaven forbid cost the team a game, Magath would punish them during training. His teams were fit, focused and motivated by fear. Success was all that matters. Even Misimovic, the creator in the pack, he had to chase and harass for every ball.

 There is, only so much players can take when they are being pushed and punished in training. Magath’s strict regime proved to be his undoing at Schalke 04. Wolfsburg’s 2009 title made Magath a Schalke target and he joined the club the following season, citing monetary reasons. Not much was expect and given that Magath had led Wolfsburg to glory, Schalke were happy to give him full control: buy the players he wanted, allowing his training regime and even gave him the chance to construct “Magath’s Mount” – a man-made hill aimed for pushing his players to the limit – and punishing them. 

Finishing second in 09/10, many were impressed with Magath, but there was a growing tension underneath. Magath was quoted as saying: “I don’t pretend to be a hobby psychiatrist and I don’t ask how the players feel”. Clearly, Magath is not a compassionate man and his dictatorship rule can lead to players revolting. Former captain Manuel Neuer approached the Schalke board to complain about the manager’s training regime and man management style. However that complain was hardly the tip of the iceberg. Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfan didn’t want to extend his contract with the club, as he didn’t want to work with Magath; Croatian starlet, Ivan Rakitic left for Sevilla as he couldn’t stand Magath anymore and current Bayern right back, Rafinha had enough of Magath’s treatment of players. He was quoted as saying to the press: “It’s tough for a Brazilian to work with him…after the way he treated me, I think I could become a general in the Brazilian army.” 

The tensions grew and despite leading the Royal Blues to a German Cup final and the semi-finals of the Champions league, Magath was sacked and replaced by Ralf Rangnick. 24 hours later he was back at his beloved Wolfsburg. It was not long before he started to implement his rule and to great effect, getting Wolfsburg out of relegation and into safety on the last matchday of the season. The cracks though, started to surface before the start of the new season: creative midfielder Diego was ousted to Atletico Madrid for a season and defensive star Simon Kjaer was off to AS Roma. For reasons unexplained, but understandable, given Magath’s methods. It could be his methods: after four games into the season, sitting 15th in the Bundesliga, an unbelievable fine system was implemented. €100 docked for every minute a player is late to training, €250 for wearing headphones on the team bus, €500 if a defender lets the ball bounce in front of him before clearing, and €1000 for a player for every “unnecessary” backpass. Was it Magath’s madness yet again? 

However, we’ve seen this all before at previous clubs. Magath has imposed his rules on the team, focusing once again on fitness and discipline. The Wolfsburg of 2011 play a 4-4-2 formation: could Magath be preparing his team like he did at Bayern Munich? The problem is though this isn’t the team of ’09. This is a far weaker team: players that lack the quality of Dzeko, Grafite, Misimovic and Barzagli, three of the team’s most important contributors that season. However, Dzeko was unknown when Magath bought him; Grafite never played for the Brazilian national team till he moved to Wolfsburg and Barzagli couldn’t have moved earned a move to Juventus. Magath made them great and into a championship team. The mantle has moved to Patrick Helmes, Mario Mandzukic and Christian Trasch to lead the team to glory. Can Magath win the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg again? Possibly: as they say, there is always a method to Qualix’s madness. 

Andrew Bishara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *