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Magath & Schalke 04: End of an Unhappy Marriage, the Start of a Messy Divorce

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Although possibly one of the less shocking pieces of news to emerge from the Bundesliga this season, the timing of FC Schalke 04’s judgment to dismiss Felix Magath at lunchtime on Wednesday (16th) – following the convening of an extraordinary board meeting – still took most people by surprise. Indeed, their judgement comes just a week on from their progression into the last eight of the Champions’ League (where they also boast an unbeaten home record this season), and just a fortnight from their much-celebrated 1-0 triumph over FC Bayern Munich in the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal. Conversely, Schalke currently occupy tenth place in the league, with little chance of making up the ten point, five place deficit to the final European qualifying spot. They have also been less than inspirational on the pitch, while seeing their Revierderby rivals Borussia Dortmund disappear at the head of Germany’s top flight.

To limit consideration of the reasoning behind the decision to dismiss the experienced German to a purely on-field level, though, would be to significantly underestimate the dynamics of a Club like Schalke. The city of Gelsenkirchen lies in the heartland of the industrialised Ruhr region of Rhine-Westpahlia, and is predominantly built on the foundations of hard work that have long-typified the mining community. As such, Magath’s tendency to emphasise fitness and training – belying his reputation as a player “capable of playing aesthetically pleasing as well as effective football” (Uli Hesse, in Tor) – leant themselves well to a large portion of the Konigsblauen faithful, though less so to the players. Indeed, such was their indifferent first half of the season form – where they recorded just one win from their first ten league fixtures – that Magath went as far as threatening to cancel Christmas. In the end, the festive period was allowed to stand, but the team’s inconsequential form has, largely, continued – with three wins from nine since the Winterpause.

Magath’s apparent indifference to their league status, in deference to their cup exploits – proved to be a bone of contention amongst the fans, but a recent survey in Bild still had 68% of them prepared to back the dogmatic coach. However, there is no doubt that a certain portion of the decision to relieve Magath of his duties did come as a result of unfulfilled expectations as well, though. Last season – his first with the Club – saw them finish as runners-up to Bayern, thus equalling their best ever campaign. Coupled with Magath’s managerial reputation for engineering title-winning sides – having won the league the previous year with VfL Wolfsburg, and completed back-to-back double with Bayern in 2005 and 2006 – this gave hope of finally realising the much-vaunted potential of the Club, whilst also ending their nine-year wait for a trophy of any kind. While this optimism may have led to a large contingent of the Club’s success-starved followers being very vocal and visual in their support of their embattled figurehead, those who donned the Royal Blue in a playing capacity were becoming increasingly disillusioned. Indeed, on several occasions the players’ committee approached the Club’s hierarchy to voice their concerns in a very open manner. Most recently, when challenged on his relationship with his charges, the diminutive manager retorted in fractious fashion: “I am not a coach who strokes his players and blows sugar up their backsides”.

The most high-profile of the playing staff to publicly oppose Magath has been their £20m-rated goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. The much-coveted German number one was handed the Captain’s armband by Magath at the start of the season, but this merely served to stymie his discontent for a relatively short period. After seeing his side contrive to a 2-1 defeat to relegation-threatened Borussia Mönchengladbach in Matchday 23, their relationship seemed to have broken down completely; Neuer complaining “we are not a unit and had no plan for how we should play for the 1-0”. Neuer subsequently professed that he was fully behind Magath, but the rift certainly cut deep within the mechanics of the Club.

In announcing the board’s verdict, Chairman Clemens Tönnies issued a brief statement that read: “From the point of view of FC Schalke 04 there are very good reasons for this parting of the ways. We will not be making them public because legal proceedings are set to follow. We go into these proceedings very relaxed….The substance of what we have decided is a good outcome for FC Schalke 04.” Since that announcement, Tönnies has stated that “results on the pitch were not decisive for our decision”, and yet has spoken of an as-yet unclear “pivotal moment” behind the removal. Rumours circulating in Germany suggest claims of irregular transfer dealings may lie at the heart of the matter, but the Club remain steadfastly tight-lipped on these accusations. Mid-afternoon on Thursday, Schalke then confirmed the appointment of Ralf Rangnick to the post, on a contract until July, 2014. The 52 year-old former TSG 1899 Hoffenheim boss had earlier confirmed that he was in contact with the Club, having found himself as the early front-runner. He previously led the Veltins Arena inhabitants to second place in the league, and the DFB-Pokal Cup final in a fifteen month spell between September 2004 and December 2005. However, given his inauspicious departure from Hoffenheim over disparities on transfer policy and investment, it remains to be seen whether similar constraints at Schalke will serve equally as divisive or ultimately, prove to be their collective undoing, at a Club where financial concerns have left them in dire straits. In either case, the €12 million pay-out to which Magath insists he is entitled is likely to limit the initial level of funds available to the next incumbent.

At the time of writing, it would appear that the saga over the dismissal is likely to run a long course, looking set for a less than amicable divorce. Ralf Höcker – Magath’s lawyer – has suggested that the Club are looking for any excuse to rid themselves of his client while, in response, a swift riposte was levelled by the Club, stating simply: “Emperors and Kings have died, but Schalke are still playing football”. In those terms, and with just eight league games left this campaign – alongside the anticipation of a domestic cup final, and the impending Champions’ League quarter-final draw – it is vital that the Club’s focus remains resolute; for their vehement, long-suffering fanbase, who deserve far, far more, but who may yet find themselves as collateral damage. In the meantime, the ink can barely be dry on the divorce settlement, yet 57 year-old Magath has already opted to renew his vows with an old flame; signing a 27 month contract with VfL Wolfsburg to take him through to the summer of 2013. Read here to learn more about solving family issues with the right judgement.

If you have decided to end your marriage, then speak to the Rochester divorce lawyer to know about various essential clauses in a divorce settlement agreement.

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About Author

I’m in my mid-twenties, and work and live in London, having grown up in the Midlands, and then gone to Uni up north.I’m an avid fan of German football – and all things Deutsch – and have followed the Bundesliga for about ten years. In England, I’m a Leicester City fan, but enjoy watching and talking about all levels of football, across all countries! I also have a great love of track & field athletics, and pretty much all sport. I want to create a greater appreciation for the Bundesliga in the UK, and will happily talk about it all day!

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