Samrin Hasib

As the seconds ticked away in extra time of the German Cup semi-final at the Veltins Arena, Schalke coach Felix Magath watched the action mumbling to himself, as chance after chance failed to produce a breakthrough. All Magath's mumbling could not prevent Bayern Munich taking the tie 1-0 and with it Schalke were left alive in just one competition this season: the Bundesliga.

Bringing Magath to the Ruhr club was unquestionably Schalke's best piece of business in the summer, with The Miners sitting top of the table at the time of writing, ahead of their cup conquerors Bayern Munich. Magath, who won the Bundesliga last season with Wolfsburg, has expanded the squad, and despite not having an “Arjen Robben” or a “Lucas Barrios” can still call upon players of the calibre of Alex Baumjohann, Ivan Rakitic, Lukas Schmitz and Marcelo Jose Bordon.

Due to this large playing squad Schalke have an element of unpredictability about them which can worry their opponents. With so many men to call upon, the Bundesliga side can employ various formations and have a high degree of flexibility about their play. Teams lining up against Magath's players never truly know just how Schalke will be set up before they kick-off.

Magath hasn't done it all with a team of nobodies though, and The Miners do have a number of notable players in their squad: keeper Manuel Neuer, captain Heiko Westermann and midfielder Jermaine Jones are all German internationals, while young defender Benedikt Howedes, who has featured regularly for the country's Under-21 team, is rated extremely highly. Baumjohann and Joel Matip are also making their presence felt.

Up front a familiar face is who Magath has chosen to put his faith in: Kevin Kuranyi. The 28-year-old Brazil-born hit-man, despite being out of favour with the German national team, is a man on fire this season. Having hit the back of the net 17 times so far, and provided six assists, Kuranyi is repaying Magath's faith. His counterparts leading the line for the national team have not managed figures such as his: Miroslav Klose remarkably only scoring twice so far this season, Mario Gomez managing ten and Cacau scoring eight times.

Magath has previously said that he does not expect any more from his players than he used to expect from himself. Those could be high standards indeed though when taking into account that as a player Magath scored the goal which won Hamburg the European Cup in 1983 and reached two World Cup finals with West Germany.

The manager also has a reputation for “torturing” his charges. Magath is obsessive about fitness, garnering nicknames such as “Saddam” and “Quälix”, Quälix being a mixture of his first name and the German world for torturing, “quälen”.

At the end of the 2008/09 season, Schalke were a beaten team. Under Dutch coach Fred Rutten the club's fortunes had gone from bad to worse, and Schalke were, and still are, rumoured to suffer from heavy debts.

Upon deciding to axe Rutten the Ruhr side opted for a different direction, bringing Magath in as not just coach, but also filling the role of general manager. Thus Felix Magath's role and powers have more in common with British bosses like Sir Alex Ferguson than with the traditional German coach.

Under Magath, Schalke have a good chance of claiming their first ever Bundesliga title, although Bayern Munich, with the skills of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will have something to say about that. Nevertheless, Magath has had an instant impact at the 61,000 Veltins Arena, given that a club which finished eighth last season are seriously challenging for the Bundesliga this time around, and there is a feeling within Germany that they have hit top spot at just the right time.

Having won the UEFA Cup in 1997, Schalke know what it feels like to taste European glory, and having not enjoyed continental competition this season will be desperate to return to that stage. Felix Magath will now surely achieve that feat, and the 56-year-old may even gain revenge on his old paymasters in Munich and take the title to the Ruhr. To win the Bundesliga with two different clubs in successive seasons, and with neither of those sides being Bayern Munich, will finally silence any doubters Felix Magath still has.


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