May 2003 was a month of celebration for Felix Magath. On the 24th, his precocious VfB Stuttgart side defeated VfL Wolfsburg 2-0 to wrest second place in the Bundesliga from BV Borussia Dortmund on the last Saturday of the German season. The following day then marked the 20th anniversary of his wonderful strike which clinched Hamburger SV's first and only European Champion Clubs' Cup.
Hamburg had been given little hope of succeeding in the final against a Juventus FC XI which contained many of the era's greatest players. Captained by Dino Zoff and featuring other 1982 FIFA World Cup winners in Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Gaetano Scirea, Marco Tardelli and Paolo Rossi, the Bianconeri were also able to field the legendary Roberto Bettega and the finest France and Poland had to offer - Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek.
Although renowned for their collective will rather than any individual brilliance, Hamburg were not overawed by the Italian aristocrats at the Olympic stadium in Athens. Magath, an elegant playmaker, scored the game's only goal in the seventh minute, a long-range effort which fizzed past Zoff. The victory provided a fitting end to an unparalleled era of success which saw Hamburg win the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, three domestic championships and a German Cup in addition to final losses in the 1980 European Cup and 1982 UEFA Cup.
The man behind Hamburg's rise was Ernst Happel, the legendary Austrian coach who had guided Feyenoord to the European Cup in 1970. Magath learned much from his master and has recently used those skills to forge one of the most exciting teams Germany has seen for years. Stuttgart beat SC Freiburg 4-1 at the weekend and lead the Bundesliga ahead of Tuesday's trip to Panathinaikos - a fixture which sees Magath return to Athens.
"Of course, my attitude towards Athens is positive," said Magath, who also enjoyed a lengthy international career with West Germany which reaped one UEFA European Championship and two FIFA World Cup runners-up medals. "I have a good feeling and I hope this is going to transmit itself to the team." Magath has every right to feel confident. Stuttgart top Group E from Manchester United FC, who were beaten 2-1 at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion on Matchday 2.
"It was one of the best days of my life as a player and coach," said Magath of the victory - perhaps the most significant since he took charge of Stuttgart in February 2001. Since then he has speeded up the development of a squad to the extent where they are arguably playing the most attractive football in Germany. He told uefa.com: "The players trust me and that is why they obey my commands all the time.
We have created a professional way of playing without losing our creativity."
'Discipline and composure'
A coach who reportedly adopts a 'no pain, no gain' ethos, the 50-year-old continued: "I've told the players that football only allows for a certain amount of mistakes and that discipline and composure are the two basics needed for success in a team sport." With a smile, though, Magath concluded: "I have also told them that there is nothing better than winning the championship or the European Cup." His players seem to have taken heed.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.