Pitchside Europe

Fines for wearing headphones: Can hard-line Magath save Fulham?

The nickname Quaelix, a combination of the German verb for torture and the name Felix, tells Fulham's players all they need to know about the type of training sessions they can expect under their new manager.

Anecdotes abound about how former West Germany forward Felix Magath, named as English Premier League bottom club Fulham's third coach of the season on Friday, forces players to run up mountains or wear lead-weighted jackets in training.

During a stint at VfB Stuttgart, one of seven Bundesliga clubs he has coached, Magath subjected his squad to three training sessions three times a day, including a cross-country run at dawn.

When he took VfL Wolfsburg on a summer training camp to Switzerland, he promised his players that they would spend the afternoon on a trip up a nearby mountain, with cake and coffee at the cafe near the summit.

The only catch: on arriving at the cable car station, the players were told they would have to run to the top.

Magath's most recent coaching job, also at Wolfsburg, ended in 2012 shortly after he made them go on a long run through the woods and threw away their drinking water.

"Training must push athletes to their limits," Magath once said. "Any player who is willing to improve themselves should enjoy training."

That does not seem to be the case with some of his former players.

Defender Rafinha, now at Bayern Munich, said after playing under Magath that he felt qualified for a spell in the Brazilian army.

Schalke 04 forward Jefferson Farfan had a love-hate relationship with Magath at Schalke 04 and said following his departure: "All the coaches who Schalke have had in the last few years gave something to the club, the only coach who didn't leave anything positive behind was Magath."

Needless to say, discipline has also been high on Magath's list of priorities.

When Brazilian playmaker Diego fell foul of Magath at Wolfsburg, storming off home after being left on the substitute's bench for a key match, Magath banished him and loaned him to Atletico Madrid for the following season.

The German tabloid Bild reported an extraordinary system of fines during Magath's second spell at Wolfsburg.

Players had their wages docked for anything from wearing headphones on the team bus to letting a high ball bounce before clearing it.

Additionally, Bild claims forwards Patrick Helmes and Mario Mandzukic were both fined a whopping €10,000 for repeatedly failing to track back after losing possession.

For much of his career, Magath's eccentricities have brought success.

The 60-year-old, a keen chess player, is regarded as tactically astute and a master at getting the most out of the players at his disposal, and likes to point out his tactics that brought titles rather than his players' fitness.

He won the Bundesliga and German Cup double for two seasons in a row with Bayern Munich and led Wolfsburg to their only Bundesliga title in 2009.

He then moved on to Schalke 04 and led them to a second place Bundesliga finish in 2010 before taking them into the Champions League quarter-finals the following season.

Yet, shortly after that, he was sacked with Schalke chairman Clemens Toennies saying it was time "to draw a line now as the club is on fire".

Magath had amassed an unusual amount of power by German standards, where most clubs have a sporting director in addition to the coach, and signed 40 players in 18 months.

Within days he was back at Wolfsburg, who were by now threatened with relegation, and managed to pull them to safety in the nick of time.

Magath quit early in the 2012/13 season after another spending spree failed to produce the expected results.

By this time, there was a general feeling in the Bundesliga that his training methods were becoming outdated and players could not be exposed to them for more than one or two seasons.

Magath has been named by Fulham to replace sacked Dutchman Rene Meulensteen, former assistant to Manchester United's now-retired manager Alex Ferguson, with a salvage job on his hands.

He is the sort of coach who could save the west London club from relegation but it will be fascinating to see whether his methods work in the long run, or even whether he changes them.)

Reuters