Would Felix Magath have saved Germany from relegation?

Written by Samuel Turner |

Robsen86/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Last Friday, the Netherlands beat the current world champions France 2-0 at the Stadion Feijenoord in group A1 in the inaugural Nations League. This was a result that led to the relegation of Germany from group A1, meaning they will be playing in League B in the next cycle of the Nation League.

Not only did this pile more misery on the German national team following a disastrous 2018 World Cup in Russia, but it also raises the question ‘How will the concept of relegation in international football affect the behaviour of National Football Teams?’

In club football, if a club is being threatened with relegation, they often take the decision to sack their manager and hire a new manager to try and motivate the team and steer them away from relegation.

Great examples of managers hired to save clubs from relegation in the UK would be Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis. In Germany, this role fell to Felix Magath, a German football manager who has guided both Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg away from relegation out of the Bundesliga and won the Bundesliga title with Werder Bremen. More recently he became the first German manager in the Premier League, managing at Fulham. He has a reputation of saving teams from relegation and has gained the nickname ‘the Fire Fighter’.

“Would Felix Magath have saved Germany from relegation out of the top tier of the Nations League? “

Would Felix Magath have saved Germany from relegation out of the top tier of the Nations League? – To work this out, we will need to look at the situation the German national team was in during the Nations league. Germany lost 2 of their first 3 matches (with the other game ending in a draw). This was the earliest point at which Germany became threatened with relegation. So, let’s assume this is when Magath gets hired.

By this point, Germany only had one game left and their fate was not in their hands. They had to rely on France beating the Netherlands for any chance of survival.  Consequently, it is unlikely that Magath would have had any chance to save Germany. Moreover, even if Germany had hired Magath after two matches when Germany had drawn to the Netherlands and lost to France, it would have been mid-way through an international break.

A situation where you would be unlikely to change manager leaving Magath to work with a team he hasn’t selected for 1 of the 2 games he would have in charge. Again, making survival difficult for Magath to achieve. Overall it is unlikely that Felix Magath would have been hired to save Germany, and even if he was hired, it would have been hard for them to keep them up.

“Will national team managers employ relegation specialists?”

Will national team managers employ relegation specialists? – In club football, the league is everything and being relegated is the ultimate failure. Conversely, in national football, the Nations League is not the most prioritised competition. A national team’s priority is to qualify for competitions and win competitions such as the World Cup, where there is no risk of relegation.

As well as this, ultimate failure for a national team is to not qualify for a competition. Thus, as national teams have different priorities to club teams, it is likely that we won’t see national teams employing a manager with a reputation for saving teams from relegation.

Furthermore, club managers, when appointed to save a club from relegation, normally have around 5 to 20 games to do so. Comparatively only 4 to 6 games are played in the league stage of the Nation’s League. This means that even if a national team change their manager, it most likely won’t have the desired effects, as the new manager won’t have the required time to motivate the squad and get their new tactic across. Therefore, again suggesting we won’t see national teams employing a manager with a reputation for saving teams from relegation.

Overall the idea of managers with a reputation of beating the drop taking charge of National Teams to prevent them from being relegated- albeit an interesting one- is unlikely to happen.