BERLIN - Schalke 04 basked in the
Champions League spotlight after booking a semi-final spot, with
the liberating effect of new coach Ralf Rangnick evident with
their fourth win in four games.
Schalke crushed holders Inter Milan 7-3 on aggregate after
Wednesday's 2-1 win in Germany, setting up a clash with
Rangnick, nicknamed the professor, took over from Felix
Magath in late March and his team have since flourished, winning
all four games under him.
There was never any doubt that Magath's infamous gruelling
training regime would see Schalke players still in outstanding
physical form towards the end of the season.
It was their mental strength that was a major stumbling
block, however, as last year's Bundesliga runners-up spent most
of the season struggling to stay clear of the drop zone with
Magath fighting running battles with fans, club bosses and his
Rangnick, who had coached Schalke until 2005, on the other
hand, is a completely different animal, eager for his players to
have fun and express themselves on the pitch.
"What can I say about such a team," 52-year-old Rangnick
beamed after their second win over Inter, following a 5-2
demolition in the first leg in Milan last week.
"I am delighted that the team gave itself a reward with a
second win and was not just looking to advance. What a
performance," he said.
"Everyone ran their socks off for the other players and that
was the key to our success."
JOIE DE VIVRE
Magath may have set the bar high when he unexpectedly
steered Schalke into the Champions League last eight and the
German Cup Final before being sacked.
But the way Schalke have played under Rangnick has been
completely different. Gone are the days when Schalke ground out
ugly wins with a struggling defence that failed to gel.
Against Inter, they play to win with their new found joie de
vivre painted on their faces.
Central defender Christoph Metzelder, who joined last year
from Real Madrid and had yet to peak this season, played
arguably his best game on Wednesday, shutting out Inter forwards
Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o.
Under Magath, the former Germany international's confidence
level was so low he had to seek psychological help.
Attacking midfielder Jefferson Farfan is a similar example
with the Peruvian labelled persona non grata under Magath as he
desperately pressed for a transfer in the winter.
Farfan, suspended in the return leg, orchestrated Schalke's
offensive explosion in the first leg and now wants to stay on at
"(Under Rangnick) we have become a real team with everyone
fighting for the other," said defender Benedikt Howedes, who
fired in the winner on Wednesday after Spaniard Raul set him up
with a lob over a static defence. Raul had also scored Schalke's
"We have an amazing determination on the pitch and we just
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