Wolfsburg players threw an impromptu, but sizeable, party after news broke that their coach Felix Magath had been fired.
And even before Klaus Allofs was named as the club’s new sporting director, the festive mood was on the pitch when the Diego-inspired Wolves tore apart in-form Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday to win at home for the first time this season.
Big-spending Wolfsburg were languishing in last place when the board ended Magath’s tenure — and the club’s English-style management structure with Magath in charge of buying, selling and coaching.
Magath’s brutal training sessions are stuff of legend (the German press nickname him Qualix, a combination of Felix and Qual, the German word for torture).
For the players, the last straw came when Magath apparently emptied most of their water bottles at the end of a punishing run through the woods of Lower Saxony.
“You don’t deserve more water than that after your performance,” Magath stormed, according to magazine Sports Bild. ”Share the rest.” (For the record, Magath insists the water bottles in question ”fell over.”)
Bundesliga footballers might not be as mollycoddled as their Premier League counterparts (who in the words of one expert are treated like ”sickly kittens”), but whatever happened in the woods, Magath’s style was never going to be accepted by players, who barely put up a fight in the ensuing 2-0 home defeat against Freiburg.
Magath’s firing changed all that. Under the returning Lorenz-Günther Köstner, Wolfsburg banged four past a Fortuna Dusseldorf defence that had not conceded a single goal in its five first Bundesliga matches.
After an unfortunate 1-0 loss at Nurenberg, Wolfsburg were unstoppable against Sami Hyypia’s Leverkusen, showing the kind ofresolve and creativity that had been absent in the closing days of Magath’s reign.
Of all the expensive buys at Wolfsburg, Diego has most to prove during the post-Magath era.
The vastly-talented, but sometimes petulant, Brazilian had more than his fair share of run-ins during his first stint at the club.
Back in May 2011, on being told by Magath that he would be on the bench for a make or break relegation match at Hoffenheim, Diego stormed out of the club hotel vowing never to play for them again.
Wolfsburg fans were surprised to see him back after his successful spell at Atletico Madrid — and delighted after Sunday’s world class display.
After curling in a wonderful free kick in the fourth minute, Diego’s reaction was to sprint to Köstner and give the 60-year-old interim coach a massive bear hug. It’s hard to imagine the poker-faced Magath getting the same treatment.
The party was well and truly under way when Diego knocked in a second goal 12 minutes later. With Diego rampant and Ivica Olic showing his old tenacity down the flanks, even the much-maligned striker Bas Dost got in on the act with a third. Only an injury time Stefan Kiessling goal added any respectability to the 3-1 score.
Magath’s spell at his seventh, and perhaps final, Bundesliga club is well and truly over.
Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness is not known for needing an excuse to kick a man while he is down, and was quick to comment on the man who twice coached the Bavarian giants to the league and cup double.
”Felix is a man who wants to have total powers. He’s a suspicious man, always thinks people are talking about him. That’s why he wanted to be a coach, manager, director and editor of the matchday magazine”
Hoeness doesn’t expect to cross paths with Qualix any time soon. ”Magath will be back, but not in Germany.”
Even more remarkable than Magath’s training sessions was his transfer activity — he bought nine and sold 13 players in the last transfer window alone.
That toing and froing might have something to do with Wolfburg’s decision to split the jobs of sporting director and coach. And after more than decade of overachieving at underheralded Werder Bremen, where he formed a title winning partnership with coach Thomas Schaaf, Allofs takes the former role.
“I was not unhappy in Bremen, but I just had to take this offer,” he said.
The move was relatively easy to execute. Handily, Volkswagen own Wolfsburg and are Bremen’s main sponsors. A fee of between €3 million and €5 million was paid for Allofs’ services, according to German media. Bremen’s hand may have been forced: this week the club announced record losses of €13.9 million.
But racehorse owner Allofs clearly leaves Bremen with a heavy heart.
“Schaaf was obviously disappointed and I found it hard to tell him, but Thomas is professional, he will have success without me.”
For now the players, including former Bremen man Diego, seem delighted that there is a change at the top.
”Allofs is good for the team, he understands a lot about football and is one of the best managers in the league,” the Brazilian said.
Allofs first made his mark as a prolific mustachioed goalscorer in the 1980s, before gaining wide respect at Bremen. But his new task is arguably the toughest in his career. By Allofs own admission, big-spending Wolfsburg don’t just need to climb up the table, but improve its image among the football public.
”There is a lot of work to be done. We are in search of many things but I want to win a permanent place in the hearts of the fans win. But I don’t have a magic wand.”
Allofs won’t have time to change anything this week. The real work starts on Saturday week: Werder Bremen are the visitors to the VW Arena.
This weekend’s Bundesliga action gets underway Saturday with Dortmund v Furth. We’ll follow that up with extended highlights of Nurenberg v Bayern and then Leverkusen v Schalke. The action continues on Sunday with Schaaf’s Bremen against Fortuna Dusseldorf. We’ll then follow Allofs’ new club as Wolfsburg travel to Hoffenheim. Full highlights at 19:30 Sunday. Coverage in North and East Europe only.