A new squad every six months - why Felix Magath's Schalke & Wolfsburg sides have been so inconsistent

A revolving door of personnel has afforded some success, but plenty of failure in recent years for the coach who just cannot keep a side settled over long periods
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

With the transfer window having been open for just a week, Wolfsburg have used the opportunity to make wholesale changes to their squad. Felix Magath’s side have added six players to their ranks, and reports suggest that they are close to signing four more.

On the other hand, Tolga Cigerci, Aliaksandr Hleb and Thomas Kahlenberg have left the Volkswagen-Arena, beginning what could be a 10-player exodus from the club. In total, the Lower Saxony side could make up to 20 changes to their squad in mid-season. As of midnight, CET on Sunday, the combined sum of transfers made by the other 17 Bundesliga teams is just 36.

1) Ferhan Hasani  
2) Felipe Lopes  
3) Alexander Lukovic   x
4) Petr Jiracek  
5) Slobodan Medojevic  
6) Vaclav Pilar   x
7) Ricardo Rodriguez   x
8) Giovanni Sio  
9) Ibrahim Sissoko  
10) Vieirinha  
The volume in which Magath has dealt during the current window thus far is no anomaly. In fact, during the previous five transfer periods, his teams (Schalke and Wolfsburg) have made a whopping 55 additions and let go of 41 others, an average in excess of 19 squad changes per window.

Magath has been known to prefer a large pool of players to choose from, but nonetheless averages replacements for about a third of his team with every transfer period. The result is that, less than three years later, his current squad bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to that which won the Bundesliga in 2009. Of his first-choice XI in the title-winning year, only Diego Benaglio, Marcel Schafer, Makoto Hasebe and Josue remain - the latter not for much longer, if rumours of his imminent departure are to be believed.

For dealing players with the freewheeling
1) Hvoje Cale   x
2) Tolga Cigerci  
3) Patrick Helmes   x
4) Aliaksandr Hleb  
5) Josue   x
6) Thomas Kahlenberg  
7) Sortirios Kyrgiakos   x
8) Srdjan Lakic   x
9) Patrick Ochs   x
10) Jan Polak   x
abandon of a young child with a PlayStation, it is easy to ridicule Magath. But, to be fair, he has had his share of success. In previous transfer flurries, he signed Edin Dzeko, Grafite, and Zvjezdan Misimovic, the attacking trident that characterised his Wolfsburg side in their championship season. Magath also was responsible for making the wholesale changes to his Schalke side that nearly resulted in his club’s relegation last season, but also gave the Gelsenkirchen outfit the class to force their way into the Champions League semi-finals.

But the practice of never having a settled team comes at a cost: weeks, if not months, of uncertainty within the team, and no real identity. It is no coincidence that when Wolfsburg won the Bundesliga in 2009, it came months after Magath made just two additions, trimming six who were considered surplus to requirements. And that very same team struggled in the first half of the campaign, following the signings of 14 and removal of 15 players.

MAGATH'S MADNESS | The ins and outs of the last five windows
Signings (league avg)*
Sales (league avg)*
Summer '11
12 (7.7)
11 (9.3)
Winter '11 Wolfsburg 6 (2.2) 4 (3.2)
Summer '10 Schalke 14 (9.0) 15 (9.6)
Winter '10 Schalke 10 (2.9) 5 (3.4)
Summer '09 Schalke 13 (9.1) 6 (8.3)
*Includes loans, loan returns, full signings, and promotions & demotions to & from youth & reserve teams

To drastically change a team once smacks of desperation. But to do so every six months, threatening unwanted players - some of whom had only arrived half a year prior - with banishment to the Regionalliga Nord, speaks of a desperate tyrant with no control over his club.

Felix Magath is a decorated coach who, with discipline and respected leadership, managed to achieve success on a limited budget, sometimes with very limited talent at his disposal. But now his reputation has diminished as his transfer policies have become more and more farcical. Magath would be wise to return to his roots.

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