| A file picture of Felix Magath (left) watching his VfB Stuttgart players
Berlin: “No pain, no gain” is VfB Stuttgart coach Felix Magath’s mantra, one which the former Hamburg SV and German striker believes can inspire his team to knock Bayern Munich from the pinnacle of German football.
“Quality comes from agony,” is a quote often attributed to Magath, one of the German game’s true personalities, both as gifted left-footed player and successful coach.
While Bayern Munich easily swept aside all comers to win the title with four games left this season, Magath, whose team lie second, has ambitious plans for the club from the capital of the prosperous south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
“If we’re a bit patient with our younger players, I think we can have a go at Bayern. I want Stuttgart to be champions,” he told Bild am Sonntag in a recent interview.
“If everything goes as we hope, then maybe we’ll reach our goal of winning the title in the 2004/2005 season,” said the bespectacled 49-year-old Magath, who is the son of a Puerto Rican father and a German mother.
Magath is famous for wielding a firm whip hand when it comes to keeping wayward player egos in check and his disciplinarian approach has rescued clubs such as Nuremberg, Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen from the drop.
This same tough-guy approach has brought Stuttgart close to winning automatic qualification for the Champions League next season.
Magath’s own record is impressive — he scored 46 goals in 306 Bundesliga appearances for Hamburg, winning German championship medals in 1979, 1982 and 1983 and two European trophies — the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977 and the European Cup in 1983.
He has 43 German caps and played in the World Cup in 1982 and 1986.
Magath played some of his best football alongside Kevin Keegan at Hamburg, where fans still tearfully recall his sweet 30-metre shot which won the 1983 European Cup against Juventus.
He played in the Hamburg side, which lost to Nottingham Forest in the 1980 European Cup final, where he faced Martin O’Neill, whose Celtic team edged Stuttgart out of the Uefa Cup earlier this season.
His managerial record has been characterised by a lot of moving around.
The father-of-five was co-trainer of Hamburg from 1993 until 1997. He went on to coach Nuremberg in 1998 but left in October of the same year after a disagreement with the club’s president before going to Bremen, whom he left in 1999. He has also managed Eintracht Frankfurt.
Last year, his past wanderings led to a bizarre situation when Magath faced clubs he had previously managed three times in 11 days.
He is a bookworm and a humorist, as well as a talented chess player — he says it helps him to understand football strategy better. Known variously as “The Fireman”, “The Saviour”, “Saddam” or “The Magician”, Magath has a reputation as a turnaround coach.
While he has an amazing success rate in stopping the rot, until joining Stuttgart two years ago he had a poor record in holding on to success.