Felix Magath was wearing a light blue suit with a scarf, a white shirt and a smile on his face. At the top of the podium he paused briefly, looked down the gallery, then said loudly and clearly, “Hello.”
Don’t rush, come up with an idea first and express yourself clearly: this is roughly how Felix Magath envisions you for your next assignment. It was announced on Sunday night that he would replace the hapless Tayfun Korkut at Hertha and take over as manager of the troubled Bundesliga club from Berlin until the end of the season. He was presented to the public on Monday evening, on Tuesday he will be on the training ground for the first time with his new team, and on Saturday he will celebrate his return to the Bundesliga after almost ten years in the home game against TSG Hoffenheim. .
“It’s a nice little point” that the players have met him through the media and not face-to-face, says Magath in his presentation. But to most professionals, the 68-year-old shouldn’t be a stranger. No matter where he has worked until now, at least the image of him was already there.
Of his new players, only Peter Pekarik, 35, a veteran of Hertha and with the club for almost ten years, knows him personally. As a child, the Slovakian was under contract to VfL Wolfsburg and even became German champion in 2009 under Felix Magath. And who knows, Magath now says, maybe one or two of his colleagues have already asked Pekarik about “how nice it will be in the next few days.”
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Of course, Magath knows that expectations are different. You don’t have to talk about it, he says, “I’ve always been someone who polarized people.” Some would have said of him that he was great, others that he was useless as a coach. “I will do my best to make sure those who think I am the right choice are right.”
Compared to the hype generated by Magath’s surprise signing, his first appearance as a Hertha BSC employee is unexpectedly positive. He seems confident but affable, clear but not stubborn, confident but not arrogant. And, yes, the image of him… At least outwardly he can treat her with enough self-loathing, without deviating from his convictions.
“Discipline is just one part of the sport,” says Magath, who will be supported by Scotsman Mark Fotheringham, 38, as assistant coach. “I can’t change it, I didn’t make it up.” Even if he sometimes presents himself differently: Magath doesn’t make fun of players of him “to please me”, but because it serves the common success. “I don’t feel lucky there.”
Without his reputation as a discipliner, a tough dog, a grinder, Magath probably wouldn’t be in Berlin right now. Fredi Bobic, Hertha’s sporting director, was looking for precisely this type of coach for the faltering team, which has lost five times in a row and is now in the direct relegation zone. Magath’s predecessor, Korkut, was drifting further and further away from the team.
The new one is not only an alternative to Korkut because of its advanced age, but also because of the opinions it has always held. “A football coach with a lot of experience, a strong personality who advocates discipline, who has a clear and strong hand: that’s what Felix Magath stands for,” says Bobic. “There are not many who have the courage to take charge of a club like this. He has been thinking about signing Magath for a long time,” explains the Hertha general manager. And at the latest since Saturday’s defeat in Mönchengladbach it was clear that something had to happen, “that we have to reset everything again”, as Bobic says. “Together we will dispute this trip”.
Magath found the team’s appearance in Gladbach “a bit uncoordinated”
Magath watched his new team’s most recent appearance on television and at least found “they clearly put up a fight”. But without going into too much detail when it comes to naming the deficits: “It seemed a bit uncoordinated to me.”
Magath was spared more remote diagnostics. “First I have to meet people, develop a feeling for them,” he said. “I have to see them, I have to hear them, I have to smell them, I have to feel them.” Regardless of that, of course he believes he can do the job of keeping Hertha in the league. “I have shown in the past that I am able to adapt to situations,” he says. “I did it in the Bundesliga with six or seven teams. That is why I see something in this task that is tailor-made for me”.
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Since his last stint at Wolfsburg almost ten years ago, Magath has worked as a manager at FC Fulham and in China. Most recently he was Head of Global Soccer Flyer Alert works in an advisory capacity for Würzburger Kickers and Admira Wacker Mödling. With manageable success. Würzburg were relegated from the second division and are now fighting for relegation one league below.
As manager, Felix Magath has been spared the experience of relegation, and of course he should continue to do so with Hertha, be it in the remaining eight games of the regular season or in relegation. Magath is absolutely convinced that he will succeed. “Those who don’t think I’m the right choice should not only criticize, but first make their own suggestion as to who should be able to solve this difficult task in the German Bundesliga,” he says. “I would love to ask for requests to speak.”