Felix Magath replaces Rene Meulensteen as manager of Fulham

The league's bottom team replace Dutchman Rene Meulensteen with German Felix Magath

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 11:17pm


As Steven Gerrard leapt into the air in celebration of his late winner for Liverpool at Craven Cottage on Wednesday, Fulham owner Shahid Khan could feel the relegation trapdoor opening beneath his feet.

Fulham's 18th defeat in 26 games this season had left the west London club rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, with just 12 matches remaining to preserve their place in the lucrative English top flight.

Faced with the prospect of losing out on the millions on offer to the 20 clubs who compete in the world's richest league each year, Pakistan-born tycoon Khan decided drastic action was needed after that loss to Liverpool.

Just 48 hours later, the club's recently appointed manager Rene Meulensteen was ruthlessly sacked, with former Bayern Munich boss Felix Magath immediately hired as his replacement.

Meulensteen had only been in charge for 75 days following his promotion from assistant to fellow Dutchman Martin Jol, who was axed in December.

"Given our form, we can no longer merely hope that our fortunes will finally turn. And with 12 matches remaining and at least four points separating us from safety, we certainly can no longer post empty results. Action was required," Khan said.

The difference in Premier League football or plunging into the second tier is estimated at around £120 million (HK$1.55 billion) and Khan is desperate for that prize.

For struggling Fulham, the nightmare scenario of relegation into the financial wasteland of the Championship has become increasingly realistic as they fell four points adrift of safety.

Even so, dismissing former Manchester United assistant Meulensteen so brutally will draw widespread criticism.

Fulham had actually been playing reasonably well in their last two matches, earning a draw at champions Manchester United and twice leading against Liverpool before losing 3-2.

That makes the timing of the sacking especially bizarre as Khan had allowed Meulensteen to sign players during the transfer window and then gave him next to little chance to work with new arrivals such as Konstantinos Mitroglou and Lewis Holtby.

It was the latest chaotic development at a club rapidly descending into farce.

Meulensteen is convinced he has paid the price for a knee-jerk reaction.

"I knew the owners were freaking out and panicking about the fact that Fulham could get relegated, but they've had that attitude already 10 games back," he said. "They've hit the panic button on emotions of fear."

Magath, 60, arrives with an impressive pedigree, having won the German league title three times, twice with Bayern and once with Wolfsburg.