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.
Latest in Sport
A tight game could be in prospect here. Northampton have been keeping things very tight of late and ...
by Gareth Purnell
18 May 2013 02:01 AM
I can’t ever watch games of football or rugby without wistfully wondering what it must be like to be...
by Martin Ayres
16 May 2013 05:10 PM
Since PSG’s exit to Barcelona in the Uefa Champions League quarter-final in April, PSG have been sur...
by Matthew Riding
15 May 2013 02:37 PM
Stoke City investigate 'religious abuse' after 'pig's head is found in Kenwyne Jones' locker'
Is David Beckham one of the Premier League all-time greats? He's not even in the top 1,000 says Chris Waddle
Groundhog day looms for Arsène Wenger as Arsenal battle for a place in the Champions League on final day
Andre Villas-Boas ready to spark Tottenham revolution
One last swipe at Manchester City and then Sir Alex Ferguson was gone...
- 1 Stoke City investigate 'religious abuse' after 'pig's head is found in Kenwyne Jones' locker'
- 2 Gove’s lesson: spare the comma, spoil the child
- 3 Grace Dent on TV: Extreme Couponing, My Strange Addiction, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, TLC
- 4 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 5 Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.