Eintracht Frankfurt trainer Thomas Schaaf will join an elite club at the weekend when he takes charge of Die Adler for their home Bundesliga clash with Schalke. He will become only the fifth coach to have racked up 500 games in charge in the German top division.
The former Werder Bremen trainer joins the illustrious quintet of Otto Rehhagel (832 games 1974-2002), Jupp Heynckes (642 games von 1979-2013), Erich Ribbeck (569 games 1968-1996) and the late Udo Lattek (522 games 1970-2000) to have reached the 500 match mark.
Following his playing career as a defender with Werder, during which he featured in over 360 matches in all competitions (and a subsequent apprenticeship as youth and Werder II coach), Schaaf was called upon to succeed Felix Magath at the Weser Stadion in 1999 as the Grün Weißen struggled at the wrong end of the Bundesliga table. His first match on the Werder bench saw Bremen secure an important 1-0 win over Schalke. Top flight status achieved, he then took the North Germans on to glory.
The league and Cup double was achieved in 2003-04, while the Pokal was also won in 1999 and 2009. European glory was almost achieved in 2009, but Werder lost out to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup final.
Champions League regulars under Schaaf, things gradually faded for him and Werder after so long at the club and after 14 seasons at the helm, the unthinkable happened and ‘Mr Werder’- the one-club man left by mutual consent after a 14th place finish in 2013.
A year out of football suitably recharged his batteries and Eintracht Frankfurt appointed him. He now finds himself about to take charge of his 500th game against the club he faced in his very first.
Bundesliga legend and fellow 500-club member Jupp Heynckes has paid his own tribute to Schaaf saying: “As a person Thomas was and is always honest, authentic, correct and predictable; and as a trainer absolutely professional and pragmatic. For me he is one of the top coaches in the Bundesliga. I always found him pleasant and a great colleague”.
Never one to blow his own trumpet Schaaf himself has played down the significance of his achievement. “It makes you realize everything that you have experienced, and achieved,” he told journalists. “This week, I haven’t even had time to think about it” he added.
While he will no doubt take the plaudits at the Commerzbank Arena on Saturday, the 53-year-old will prefer three Bundesliga points for Eintracht over any self-aggrandizement.
Nevertheless, Thomas Schaaf- we salute you.
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