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Mission impossible

Bundesliga correspondent Thomas Zocher explains why Steve McClaren did not prove a success at Wolfsburg.

Last Updated: 08/02/11 5:20pm

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McClaren: Arrived in Germany having won the Eredivisie title with FC Twente

McClaren: Arrived in Germany having won the Eredivisie title with FC Twente

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The reasons why Steve McClaren was not a success at Wolfsburg before he was sacked on Monday have much to do with the long-term aspirations of the club, which have needed to be reviewed for the past five years.

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Wolfsburg were almost relegated from the Bundesliga under manager Klaus Augenthaler in 2007 and they had only survived the drop on the final day of the previous two seasons.

Then the club decided to appoint Felix Magath as manager and he guided them to the Bundesliga title in 2009. This came almost out of nowhere, if you keep in mind that Wolfsburg are not a traditional German top-flight club.

Magath used large amounts of sponsorship money from Volkswagen to buy a team that contained players such as Edin Dzeko, Zvjezdan Misimovic and Josue, as well as stars like Grafite.

Despite using the transfer market to buy up to ten players each six months, Magath managed to find some real bargains. Christian Gentner was one, Dzeko was another and also Diego Benaglio. This all led to a positive effect that resulted in Wolfsburg deservedly winning the Bundesliga title in 2009. Wolfsburg were simply the best team.


But Magath knew the signs. Winning the Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg is an exceptional success and you cannot really push any higher. You might have a good campaign in the UEFA Champions League, but winning the Bundesliga again with a surprise team looks almost impossible. There are enough strong contenders around and you are lucky enough to win one Bundesliga title, when one or more of the traditionally top clubs have not had the best of seasons, let alone two.

Still, Magath, who is now at Schalke, was in the mind of the Wolfsburg people when his successor, Armin Veh, took charge. Veh was constantly compared to Magath. When Wolfsburg did not reach their previous heights, Veh ended up on the scapegoat. In the end he was quickly sacked at a time when Wolfsburg had already appointed Dieter Hoeness as managing director. Hoeness does not usually have the greatest patience. But the appointment of former England boss McClaren was a surprise.

McClaren was not able to repeat the success he had just enjoyed with FC Twente at Wolfsburg. At Twente he had the backing of the crowd and the faith of his superiors. There was no real expectation as the Dutch title does not usually go to a team like Twente. So, McClaren could do what he once did at Middlesbrough. He developed a team. He was given patience and time.

At Wolfsburg he did not have that opportunity as they already had a 'team', a group of players that was strengthened with further star players such as Diego from Juventus and Simon Kjaer. Wolfsburg has developed into a club who buy players, not a club for developing talent.

There was the ego of Diego clashing with the ego of Dzeko. McClaren never really looked in control of team affairs. The situation on Saturday when he told Patrick Helmes to take the spot-kick only to see Diego disobey his order is one example that he never really had the full backing of every player.

Although Wolfsburg bought Tuncay Sanli last week, looking at the players who arrived during McClaren's time in charge gives you a feeling that he never had the opportunity to put his own ideas into the Wolfsburg squad. This is ultimately why he failed.

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