When Louis Holtby was asked in January following his move to Fulham on Loan how he felt treated under Andre Villas-Boas, his simple reply was “well I have survived Felix Magath”. Holtby played under Magath in the Bundesliga with Shalke 04. Little did he know they would be reunited a couple of months later. Only a few days ago, Ryan Turncliffe was shown the door after only signing at the end of January from Manchester United. Magath is living up to his reputation.
Managers get singled out for different reasons over their careers but very little of them are singled out for being disciplinarians who do not compromise. Magath is a Manager who would have it no other way. Players like Grafithe, Diego and many others would explain with personal experiences.
In comparison to other disciplinarians such as Louis Van Gaal, Arigo Saachi and Fatih Terim, Magath has shown he is a man with no equal. He often fined players for making an unnecessary back pass during a game and Defenders for letting the ball bounce in the 18. The skilful Brazilian players were not left out either, just ask Diego, players got fined for unnecessary show of skill. Magath likes everything straight to the point much like the “German Machine never dies” mantra.
His fitness regime is legendary, believing that if players are physically impeccable there was nothing that couldn’t be achieved on the pitch. He sent his players on mazing runs through the forest carrying medicine balls. At VFB Stuttgart, his players trained three times daily including a cross country run at dawn. He once fined a player for returning to the team bus late after a running session in the mountains, and that after he found out the player had actually fainted. It would be interesting to see him manage players like Messi and Ronaldo. It is trite to say that discipline is high on the agenda of Magath.
Many managers in the Barclays Premier League today are more concerned with their players enjoying training and having a laugh around, not Magath. On the training pitch its serious business because you might get a fine during the next game for not paying attention. One thing however that Magath cannot be faulted for is his success as a manager. He has won the German Bundesliga three times, once with Wolfsburg a team who aside Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund, is the only team to win the title aside from Bayern in the last 10years. He also won the German Cup twice and guided Wolfsburg to the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
You would think this would earn him praise for past players, well when a man is nicknamed “Saddam Hussein” praises do not quickly come to mind. Rafinha, the Brazilian right back, who is now at Bayern Munich but played under Magath at Shalke 04 once said he felt sure he could enrol in the Brazilian army and succeed. Jefferson Farfan was even harsher saying Magath left nothing positive at the club after he left. As Louis Holtby rightly said, some of those criticisms are unjust as he is personally currently reaping the rewards of such a hard training regime.
I guess the question is do you want success at all cost or do you want it as long as it is not strenuous. The answer for Magath is “we would be successful but you must be ready to push yourself to the limit”. You can argue he is paranoid and a control freak but he is definitely a successful one. Man Up!!