Manchester United under Sir Alex, it doesn't get more honourable then that as a club to settle down at nearing the end of a career.
Max Kofler: Die Revolution
Max Kofler announces retirement from professional football
Manchester United and Austrian captain Max Kofler has announced his retirement from professional football, ending his seventeen year playing-career. Kofler made over 657 appearances for four separate clubs during his career, scoring 189 goals and winning numerous major trophies, including the FIFA World Cup in 2010 with Austria, the UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan and most recently, the Premier League with Manchester United.
Kofler, Austria's third-most capped player, represented his country on ninety-four occasions and captained his side to two major tournaments, including to the World Cup trophy in South Africa, as the 33-year-old scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Spain in Johannesburg. At club level, he enjoyed an unprecedented level of success - winning major honours in England, Germany and Italy - which included winning Serie A on five different occasions and the Premier League twice, as well as winning the UEFA Champions League with Inter in 2010, alongside the Italian Cup, in a treble-winning season that year.
Beginning his career at boyhood club, SK Rapid Wien, Kofler spent four seasons in the Austrian capital, making 102 appearances and scoring twenty-eight times, before attracting the attention of German club, SV Werder Bremen. In a move that allowed Kofler to make his senior international debut in 2000, against Romania in a friendly, he would celebrate winning his first-piece of silverware in a domestic double in Bremen - lifting both the Bundesliga title and the DFB Pokal in 2004. He would spend another two seasons in Germany, before departing to join Inter Milan in the summer of 2006.
Working under Roberto Mancini and then José Mourinho, he would enjoy four highly successful seasons in northern Italy. Winning five consecutive Serie A titles, a single Italian Cup in 2010 and the Italian Super Cup in 2006 and 2008, respectively, alongside the UEFA Champions League trophy in his final year in Italy - beating Bayern Munich in the final.
His final chapter in an illustrious career brought Kofler to Old Trafford, where he was "excited" to work under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Immediate success followed, winning the Premier League in his debut campaign, alongside the Community Shield and Carling Cup. He would go on to win the Community Shield once again in 2011, before lifting the Premier League trophy for a second time last month - which also marked the end of Sir Alex Ferguson's twenty-six year tenure at Old Trafford, as he retired from management at the age of seventy-one.
The Austrian posted the following statement on Twitter, which confirmed his retirement from the professional game:
"I would like to confirm my retirement from professional football, following the conclusion of my contract at Manchester United. I have had an incredible career, which has taken me to heights I could never have quite imagined, including the proudest moment of my career, winning the World Cup with Austria - a night I will remember for the rest of my life."
"I have been given the opportunity to play for some of Europe's elite football clubs - in which includes playing for my boyhood club, Rapid Wien, and with some of the world's finest footballers. To have shared a pitch with so many greats was an honour. This also applies to figures off the pitch - working under managers such as José [Mourinho] and Sir Alex [Ferguson]."
"I feel like I have achieved more than I ever realised I could. There is simply nothing more I could do and I will look back at my career with no regrets at all. I have met some truly fantastic people, many whom I now consider friends. For that reason alone, I have the upmost gratitude to this great sport."
Finally, I want to thank everybody for supporting me throughout my career. The support I have received has been the greatest gift I could have ever gotten. Thank you so much for believing in me, without you, I don't know where I would be. My playing-career may be over, but this certainly won't be the end."
It is unknown what Kofler's career-plans are following retirement, however his future sounds ominous nonetheless. We wish him all the best. Viel Glück, Max!
Posted 16th June 2013
LFC: It certainly allowed Max to finish his career in style and if he does make the transition into management, he will certainly have learnt from the best - Mourinho and Ferguson, you couldn't ask for better tutors.
Maguire: It doesn't at all. Sir Alex was a fantastic manager and that cannot be doubted, despite the fact I have an undying hatred towards them.
Justice: That's one of your poorest yet, I'm afraid.
I would just like to credit Jack for the graphic used in this update. Thanks for your work, mate.
A quite incredible career for Max, undeniably one of the best to ever play the game! I wonder what he will do next!
An outstanding playing career which has set the bar high for him when it comes to management. The expectations will be great, let's hope this Wiener can satisfy his fans!
After retiring from professional football, I decided to take a short-sabbatical from the sport. It was needed. For the last seventeen years I had dedicated every minute to football. I was exhausted, just as I were after the World Cup - probably the most fatigued I had ever felt heading into a new season, despite constant fitness tests to ensure I was ready for the start of the season. This break was more than justified.
Upon returning several months later, I immediately secured a job in England with Sky Sports, working as a pundit alongside the likes of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, analysing games alongside the pair, breaking down miniscule details with pin-point criticism. Having freshly-retired, alongside Jamie, with Gary retiring two years prior; someone I had the honour of playing alongside during the 2010/11 campaign, I gave a modern insight to the views footballers had in certain situations and sought to deliver a refreshing approach to the network's analysis, alongside my two colleagues, often offering things the pair couldn't, such as the views of a foreign player coming into the Premier League.
However, I knew that working alongside both Gary and Jamie wouldn't be a long-term plan of mine. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and the duo were hilarious, yet professional and insightful, but I had other plans ahead. In my final few years at Manchester United, I discussed the potential of me studying for coaching badges with Sir Alex and the board. I was granted that request and began studying within weeks of such permission.
Working under Ferguson was great experience, it was like work-experience, in that sense. It was a great help and he was always willing to discuss things with me to develop my managerial prowess. I was learning from one of the greatest managers of all-time, someone who understood how to win things and at the highest level, too, everything you want as someone looking to learn the trade - a trade very different, surprisingly, from the role of a footballer.
I would continue to do this throughout my time in England, even when I worked at Sky. This was the ultimate aim - to make the transition into management and continue to strive for success, even after I had retired from playing the game I loved. So many of the world's elite had made that successful transition - from winning things as a player, to then winning things as a manager - yet so many had failed, too. The determination to be one of the successful individuals was what drove me on.
I successfully achieved my UEFA Continental Pro License in February 2016, at the age of thirty-five. Whilst I continued my studies, I continued to work for Sky, even briefly after I completed them. I always had my set-goals of working my way into management, but stepping away from the network in May that year - following the conclusion of the Premier League season - was a difficult decision, yet I was a professional at that point, given the many decisions I was forced to make throughout my career, so I knew it was a sacrifice I was making for the greater good.
The Austrian national team had diminished since the 2012 European Championships, a tournament in which we recorded a semi-final finish. A 2-0 loss to Spain, who extracted their revenge on us for beating them in the World Cup final in Johannesburg two years prior, ended our tournament. They would ultimately go on to win the entire competition, beating Italy comprehensively in the final, 4-0.
Head-coach Karel Brückner departed after the tournament, in which began our return to normality - as we slumped in the FIFA rankings and failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, finishing third behind Germany and Sweden in qualifying. It was a depressing realisation that we had simply overachieved in 2010 - and those heights would simply never be reached again.
We did, however, reach the European Championships in France, under new leadership once again. Marcel Koller led the nation into France with renewed optimism that Austria could perhaps once again achieve a respectable finish, after topping our qualification group - which contained Russia, Sweden, Montenegro, Liechtenstein and Moldova.
Drawn alongside Portugal, Iceland and Hungary in Group F, there was a great possibility to qualify from the group. However, a disappointing tournament followed, as we finished bottom of the group with just a single point to our names - obtained in a 0-0 draw with third-placed, and eventual winners, Portugal. This prompted the immediate resignation of Koller, who admitted he was "disappointed" and "sorry" for the dismal showing in France.
The Austrian FA were swift in their next appointment. Former Sturm Graz head-coach Franco Foda was appointed on an initial two-year-deal. He would be tasked with leading Austria into World Cup qualifying, seeking to progress from Group D. Serbia, recent European Championship semi-finalists Wales, Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Moldova all awaited.
The Austrian media were quick to support Foda, viewing him as the right candidate to seek to propel Austria and guide them back into the World Cup after missing out in 2014 - despite winning the competition four years prior. Yet, there was still a lot of doubt surrounding him and the squad. Many supporters still hung on to hope they could once again see their country on the grandest stage, celebrating success once again, disillusioned by the reality of post-Brückner life.
Many understood the reality, though. They were ready for change under Foda. The qualification group we were placed in certainly didn't hand us a bye into Russia. But, it would pose questions for the new management, with challenges that would prepare the squad sufficiently for the competition, should they progress.
Was Franco Foda the right man for the job?
LFC: He will certainly leave a legacy, especially in Austria. All will be revealed shortly!
Justice: Outstanding indeed. It shall be interesting to see who is willing to hand Max the opportunity of management.
Maguire: Time will tell.
Smooth as silk. Great read as always.
With Max's career his views and analysis would be interesting to see. The move may also help him in management with a different view of sides from the role. It will be interesting to see what team give Max his chance!
Austrian FA confirm Kofler appointment
The Austrian FA have confirmed the appointment of 2010 World Cup winning captain Max Kofler as assistant to head-coach Franco Foda.
Max Kofler will undertake his first coaching role since retiring from professional football in 2013. The midfielder won the Premier League with Manchester United that season, adding to a remarkable collection of trophies from stints at SV Werder Bremen and Inter Milan, as well as success on the international stage with Austria.
The 36-year-old lifted the World Cup in 2010 - a triumph labelled as one of the greatest sporting accomplishments in history - after beating Spain in Johannesburg, courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from the captain.
Since retiring, Kofler has appeared as an analyst alongside Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher for Sky, a role in which he accepted at the start of the 2013/14 season. He was a regular fixture for the network before retiring at the end of last season. Alongside this, the Austrian obtained his UEFA Pro License earlier this year.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Austrian FA said:
"We are delighted to announce the appointment of Max [Kofler] as Franco Foda's assistant. He is somebody who has played at the highest level - and succeeded - in recent years, working under a number of excellent coaches during his playing career. His accomplishments are both impressive and plentiful and everybody is aware of the success he had whilst in possession of the captain's armband in 2010."
"It is a decision which we believe makes a lot of sense, but a decision that Franco wholeheartedly agreed with. We gave him the freedom to find a suitable assistant and we are pleased with the candidate he put forward. Max's appointment promotes a positive atmosphere around the camp, but also for the supporters. He is familiar with the squad - even those who are on the cusp of selection - and will be the perfect person to aid Franco in improving these players and delivering success, we believe."
It is believed that Kofler will be contracted until July 2018, having agreed a two-year-deal.
Maguire: I don't need you to start on the puns. I already have Justice doing that, ffs.
tenthree: Thanks mate. I appreciate that, especially coming from a writer such as yourself.
Justice: Up those f*cking Wieners.
LFC: It should give him even more insight. Let's see how he fairs as number two with the Austrian national side.
Working under Foda will be yet another important learning point for Max. Hopefully the international stage will give Max even more knowledge of what it takes to be a world class manager.
Hopefully Franco can take Max even Foda as a manager and under his guidance, take him to the top of the managerial pyramid.( sorry for the pun, his name is asking for it, blame his ancestors.)
There were a large number of travelling fans expected to make the trip to Tbilisi, as Austria began their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign against Georgia. Whilst it would be the beginning of Austria's road to the World Cup - a competition we were desperate to qualify for after the disappointment of failing to qualify in 2014, after winning the tournament the previous edition - it would also mark the beginning of Franco Foda's tenure in charge of the national team, with myself by his side.
It was a prospect I had been looking forward to for a very long time. When the FA decided to appoint Franco, I was quietly impressed. He was a young, yet somewhat experienced coach given his numerous years in charge of Sturm Graz in the Austrian Bundesliga, and I immediately knew that he would not make the mistakes of previous managers, who were often conservative and stuck in their own methods - this was not Franco.
Instead, Franco was a dynamic manager, who sought to bring change to the setup. This was something he demonstrated at Graz, which attracted the FA's attention. Since Karel's departure after the 2012 European Championships, there had been a tendency to stick to the same formula and expect for the success to replicate - not realising that the formula would just simply not work once the Czech had departed the dugout. The side needed to be shaken up and revitalised, in which only Franco seemed willing to observe and act upon.
As such, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to work alongside him, especially in such a role. It would be an honour to represent my country once again and seek to bring through a new pool of talent. Franco explained that my knowledge, experience and tutelage would be key to his policies for change. I was to be a key-adviser.
It would be the ideal opportunity for me to begin my coaching career.
The Georgian crowd were vocal for their side, but the Austrian's support could be heard by both myself and Franco, who applauded them for making the trip. The floodlights beamed onto the pitch below on a chilly September's evening in the capital and after the formalities were complete, the game was underway.
The captain's armband was placed on midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger, who had recently signed for Bayern Leverkusen from Mainz. He had been a constant presence throughout the Austrian setup - continually appearing for the youth sides - prior to making his senior debut in 2009, alongside myself. I was a keen admirer of his talents, in which were clear as day, as he was just twenty-one when he debuted and he had transformed into an excellent ball-winning-midfielder, since, as well as being a competent box-to-box option.
We set-out to play expansive, free-flowing football, something which the fans wanted to see. Previous regimes in recent times had failed to deliver the two most important things in football; results and entertainment. It was a change that needed to be made, in order to refresh the supporters and silence the naysayers.
Before half-time, we were two-nil to the good with Martin Hinteregger and Marc Janko on the scoresheet. It was an ideal position to be in and we were pleased with the first-half performance. Georgia had a reputation for being a different opposition to face - with an aggressive, direct-style - especially in home encounters, which furthered this idea. Therefore, the idea for the second-half was to continue to play as we did in the first and see out the result.
The second-half certainly lacked inspiration, though. We seemed devoid of ideas in comparison to the first-half and Georgia were happy to entertain that, bringing themselves back into contention with a goal twelve minutes from time. The home crowd, who were thoroughly supportive anyway, were boosted as a result, and for the remaining twelve minutes, it certainly heaped on the pressure, but thankfully, we walked away unscathed and came out 2-1 victors.
Franco was more reserved in his approach, shaking the opposition manager's hand before turning down into the tunnel, whilst I was happy to embrace each individual player after the result, congratulating them on the win. It certainly wasn't the most comfortable, nor greatest, performance, but it was a winning start and that was all we wanted. We both knew it would take time to install our beliefs in each player, individually.
I turned to the fans and instructed the players to appreciate their support. I recognised a select few faces from the crowd and smiled before pumping my fist into the air in celebration. Wales awaited in our second fixture of qualification in just over a month's time. It would give us the opportunity to return to Vienna and seek to add to our advantage, something we were both keen to do.
LFC: More experience certainly won't harm Max and a winning start is a pleasing start.
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