Bayern part company with Felix Magath
Felix Magath has been relieved of his position as Bayern head coach, the Munich club announced on Wednesday. Magath, whose contract in Munich runs until 30 June 2008, was sent on indefinite leave following a goalless draw at home to VfL Bochum the previous evening. Ottmar Hitzfeld, a familiar face at the club after a spell as head coach from 1998 until 2004, has agreed a contract returning him to the Bayern helm until the end of the 2006-7 season.
"We regret this development," commented Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "Felix Magath has performed very good work for Bayern in the last two-and-a-half years and with great success, specifically winning the domestic double twice in a row. However, those of us in positions of responsibility at the club must take account of current developments and react accordingly. Our concern over qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season prompted us to take today's decision."
'Proud of my time at Bayern'
"Naturally, this isn't a pleasant situation," Magath commented. "I've had two-and-a-half excellent and successful years here, and I'm proud of my time at the club. However, I've always been aware I wouldn't be here for ever. I would like to wish FC Bayern Munich and the team all the best, and continuing success."
Bayern enjoyed two highly successful seasons after Magath joined the club on 1 July 2004. The 53-year-old became the first-ever coach to guide Munich to the domestic league and Cup double immediately upon taking charge, before Magath's men made German footballing history by retaining both trophies the following year.
Poor mid-season form
However, Magath's third campaign with the club rates as relatively disappointing. Bayern were knocked out of the German Cup before Christmas and have taken just one point from two matches since the Bundesliga action resumed after the winter break. The champions lie fourth, five points off leaders Werder Bremen, who could extend their advantage to eight points with a win in Leverkusen on Wednesday evening.
"We hoped we'd be able to mount a challenge in the second half of the season," Rummenigge observed, but in the absence of any evidence of an upturn in fortunes, the board met on Wednesday lunchtime and took the decision to switch coaches. Supervisory board chairman Franz Beckenbauer was informed, and contact with Hitzfeld established. "He didn't play for time, he spontaneously said yes. He wants to supervise Thursday training, and take charge as head coach for the game in Nuremberg on Friday," Rummenigge reported.
Official unveiling on Thursday
The agreement means Magath's predecessor will now succeed him as head coach. The 58-year-old, whose former assistant Michael Henke also rejoins him in Munich, previously enjoyed a glorious six-year spell at the helm. The 'General' guided Bayern to eight trophies, including the Champions League and the World Club Cup in 2001. Hitzfeld is the most successful German coach of all time with a total of 16 trophies to his name.
After leaving Bayern in summer 2004, Hitzfeld took a break from coaching and worked as an expert commentator and columnist. Frequently linked with the top coaching positions in European football, he most recently rejected overtures from Hamburg and his former club Borussia Dortmund during the winter break. Hitzfeld will be officially introduced to the media on Thursday lunchtime ahead of the first training session in his second spell at the club.
Hoping for quick turnaround
A decision regarding the position of head coach beyond the end of June this year has yet to be taken. "It's not something we've discussed yet. We'll concern ourselves with that when the time's right," Rummenigge announced. "The priority is to turn things around as quickly as possible, hopefully playing good football too. We need to compete in the Champions League for image-related and financial reasons. I hope we succeed in doing that under Ottmar Hitzfeld."