The extraordinary career of Markus Babbel and what he will bring to Western Sydney Wanderers

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There's far more to the Wanderers new coach than meets the eye

German international Markus Babbel was announced as the surprise new coach of A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.

Replacing Spaniard Josep Gombau, who couldn't guide the red and black to finals last season, Babbel has signed a three-year contract with Western Sydney after coaching stints in Germany and Switzerland. 

Still known more for his playing career than his managerial exploits, Goal takes a deeper look at the man set to lead the Wanderers for seasons to come. 

A playing career nearly ended in paralysis

Markus Babbel

Standing tall at well over six feet, Babbel was an imposing figure on the pitch making his name as a defender that could play at both right and centre back.

Transitioning from Bayern Munich's youth set-up to the senior side, the German would spend two seasons honing his craft with Hamburger before returning to Bayern and establishing himself as a regular starter.

After 170 games and picking up a number of trophies for the German giants, Babbel attracted interest from Manchester United but would be poached instead by Liverpool.

Babbel settled well at Anfield and scored the first goal in the Reds 2001 UEFA Cup final win over Alaves before being cruelly struck down by Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

A rare virus that attacks the nervous system, the illness not only cut short his Liverpool career but also nearly left him in a wheelchair with the virus known for paralysing its victims.

"It was bad," Babbel said at the time. 

"I couldn't feel anything below the knees or my hands, and even one side of my face.

"But there were other people worse off than me at the hospital, linked up to respirators and unable to walk. They were confined long-term to wheelchairs; I only spent a while in one."

Overcoming that frightening roadblock, Babbel would finishing his playing career with Stuttgart and bow out as a player with 51 caps for the German national team and a very healthy amount of silverware.

From fairytale to nightmare, Babbel's first foray into coaching

Markus Babbel

Remaining at Stuttgart as an assistant manager after hanging up his boots, Babbel would find himself thrust in as manager early in the 2008/09 season with the club sitting 11th.

Despite a lack of experience and being just 36-years-old, the German hit the ground running, winning 70 percent of games in his first season and leading Stuttgart to the Champions League after finishing the Bundesliga season in third.

Earning himself a contract extension after that fairytale start, Babbel's dream start quickly turned into a nightmare as he won just two of his 15 league games in charge the following season.

Sacked after a number of fan protests directed at him and the Stuttgart board, the German was criticised for being the player's friend rather than a coach and wasn't helped by the fact he was still working on getting his management badges simultaneously.

Having played as a defender, reports also emerged that Babbel ignored attacking elements of the game with one player claiming he held just one attacking focused training session in his second season with the club. 

Bouncing back with Bundesliga promotion

Markus Babbel

After a brief break from coaching, Babbel jumped back on the managerial merry go round by signing for Bundesliga.2 side Hertha Berlin.

Babbel would again repeat his first season heroics by leading Hertha to the top of the division and automatic promotion to the Bundesliga.

Winning 67 percent of games in his first campaign with Hertha, Babbel would struggle to reproduce such statistics in the German top flight and was quickly sacked midway through the season after winning just four of his 17 games in charge. 

Hoffenheim would be Babbel's next stop and he'd never really get to impose himself on the club, arriving for the second half of the 2011/12 season and sacked midway through the proceeding one winning just under 25 percent of games in charge. 

Babbel's bizarre plea in Switzerland

Markus Babbel

Saying farewell to Germany, Babbel would find himself in Switzerland next, signing for Luzern in late 2014.

After guiding the side to a fifth-place finish, he would build on those foundations in the proceeding season securing a third-place finish in the league and taking Luzern to the Swiss Cup semi-finals.

Babbel's third and ultimately final season in charge wouldn't be so smooth with the German even making a bizarre plea to his players' wives to go easy on them in the bedroom.

"We have to do everything possible to be 100 percent ready in a short space of time," Babbel said. 

"The players' wives need to go easy on them.

"I am not forbidding them from having sex. If it regenerates them then that is no problem."

The plea wouldn't work however with Babbel deciding to exit the club in January after issues with the Luzern board.

Interestingly, Babbel's time at Luzern would see him cross paths with former Wanderer Tomi Juric, whose praise for the club would help lead the German to Australia for his next coaching job.

Tactics and player signings

Markus Babbel

Still somewhat finding his feet as a coach, Babbel doesn't have an overly distinct managerial style just yet.

His most preferred formation appears to be a 4-4-2 but he's experimented with a number of different styles over his career and was most recently deploying a 3-4-2-1 formation with Luzern.

In his first press conference for the Wanderers, Babbel hinted at his tactical flexibility as a coach.

"First I have to meet the players to see what is the strengths of the team," he said when asked about the style he'll bring.

"Of course I like to play with the ball but you need the players for this and if not we have other tactics.

"We have enough time to find out what is the best system, what is the best style of play."

As far as player signings go, Babbel isn't one to make a huge splash in the transfer market, preferring to work with what he's got.

His biggest transfer as a coach was the acquisition of Zdravko Kuzmanović back in 2009 for Stuttgart which set the German club back €8 million.

Babbel's second largest transfer was that of Spaniard Joselu, who now plays in the Premier League for Newcastle.

How will Babbel settle in at Western Sydney

Unlike Gombau before him, don't expect Babbel to place philosophy above results.

The German is a practical manager, who though might not boast a perfect record, has shown he is a capable coach in Europe and could well thrive in Australia.

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Marco Kurz has shown what a German coach is capable of bringing out of a side in the A-League and in Babbel's favour is the shell of a relatively strong Wanderers outfit that really should've achieved more last season.

Babbel also has a full pre-season to work with, something Gombau didn't, and has a history of hitting the ground running with his clubs. 

While a top-two finish might be asking a bit much from a manager just coming to grips with a foreign league and country, a top-four finish should be well within Babbel's sights. 

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