Magath mystery deepens amid Schalke's European celebrations

A breeze of optimism swept through Gelsenkirchen yesterday after Schalke 04 rescued their otherwise mediocre season with a surprise spot in the Champions League quarter-finals following a 3-1 win over Valencia on Wednesday.

Leading up to their qualification for the last eight for only the second time, Schalke had to endure months of sharp criticism following a lacklustre Bundesliga season. Only days ago the future looked bleak with the team struggling just five points off the relegation play-off spot in the league and hopes of international football quickly fading as fans directed their anger against the coach, Felix Magath.

Hours before the game against Valencia there were reports that Schalke had decided to terminate Magath's contract at the end of the season, two years early, with the coach saying he knew nothing about it.

Their 4-2 aggregate win over Valencia, secured in front of a surprisingly supportive home crowd, and a 1-0 win over the holders Bayern Munich last week that sent them through to the German Cup final seem to have turned the tide.

"The results in the Bundesliga were not so good, but then we made the German Cup final and now the last eight in the Champions League, so things are looking up and such moments make you feel very good," said the Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer yesterday. "We are now among the top eight teams in Europe and we want to go into the next round fighting as well as bring this confidence into the Bundesliga," said Neuer, whose form this season has been one of the team's few consistent positives.

The Champions League last eight spot means the debt-ridden club are also receiving an unexpected financial injection, a fact not lost with their management.

Schalke's outstanding European run, having topped their group and won every home game this season, has even taken some players by surprise, including 33-year-old Raul, who joined after 16 trophy-rich years at Real Madrid.

The triple Champions League winner, who is the competition's record goalscorer, has not played in a quarter-final for years with Real exiting at the last 16 stage every time since the 2005-06 season.

"Raul told me after the game, 'Think about it, we had to change to Schalke to finally play another Champions League quarter-final'," said the defender Christoph Metzelder, who had played at the Spanish club with Raul before they both joined Schalke last year.

But for all that Magath missed his team's training yesterday, fuelling speculation about his future. His assistants ran the session, with Schalke saying a comment would be made clarifying the situation "in the coming days".

Schalke, last season's Bundesliga runners-up, are struggling in 10th place. Magath's numerous signings, no fewer than 40 in in the space of 18 months, have mostly failed to deliver, hurting the debt-ridden club.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...