BERLIN, Jan 31 - Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich sacked coach Felix Magath
and replaced him with former boss Ottmar Hitzfeld in a shock move on Wednesday.
The coaching change came the day after a goalless draw at home to relegation
candidates Bochum left Bayern down in fourth place, in danger of slipping eight
points off the title pace.
"We had to react due to concern over a Champions League place for next
season," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.
Only the top three finishers in the Bundesliga can go through to the
Hitzfeld, who has been appointed until the end of the season, coached Bayern
from 1998 until 2004.
During that time he led Bayern to the Champions League in 2001 as well as
four Bundesliga titles and two German Cups. Hitzfeld also won the Champions
League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
Magath replaced Hitzfeld in July 2004 and guided the club to league and cup
doubles in each of his first two seasons in charge.
The loss of midfielder and Germany captain Michael Ballack to Chelsea at the
end of last season proved difficult to recover from, though, and their form
throughout the current campaign has been poor.
They finished the first half of the season in third place in the Bundesliga,
three points behind Werder Bremen and Schalke 04.
They have managed just a point from their two matches since the restart, a
3-2 defeat at Borussia Dortmund followed by the draw against Bochum, which ended
with the players being whistled from the field.
Those two results have left them in fourth place, and they will slip eight
points off the pace if one or both of the co-leaders win their league matches on
"We don't need to talk about the title any more," Magath told reporters after
the Bochum game. "We have to make sure of getting second or third."
Concerns over that crucial third place led to his downfall on Wednesday.
"Naturally it's not a nice situation," Magath said in a statement released by
the club. "But I have had two-and-a-half successful years here and I'm very
Bayern are also out of the German Cup after losing to modest Alemannia Aachen
They are still in with a chance of winning the European Cup -- a competition
they last won under Hitzfeld -- with a second round Champions League tie to come
against Real Madrid.
Bayern's next match is away to Bavarian rivals Nuremberg on Friday.