SYDNEY (Reuters) – Former German international Markus Babbel was named as the new coach of Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday, charged with writing a new chapter in the already remarkable story of the A-League expansion club.
Babbel, who won Euro 96 with Germany and the UEFA Cup with Liverpool during a successful playing career, most recently coached Luzern in the Swiss league after spells in charge at Stuttgart, Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim in Germany.
The 45-year-old takes over a club which became Asian champions in only its third year of existence and reached the A-League final in three of its first four seasons under inaugural coach Tony Popovic.
The former Bayern Munich defender coached former Wanderers striker Tomi Juric at Luzern and said the Australia international had given him an idea of what to expect.
“Tommy Juric was telling me that the crowds are totally crazy and after Switzerland (where) the supporters are very quiet … I’m really looking forward to good support,” Babbel told a news conference.
“I am ready for a new experience and I thank you for the trust, I will give 100 percent to bring our vision nearer and nearer.”
Babbel takes over from Spaniard Josep Gombau, who was sacked when Wanderers failed to secure a spot in the playoffs at the end of last season.
Wanderers have become one of the most fanatically followed clubs in Australia over their first six seasons and the club is clearly keen to get back among the frontrunners before their new 30,000-seater stadium is finished next year.
“Today we have made a statement about our future,” said club chairman Paul Lederer.
“In the next 18-months we will have our new training facility finished, our new stadium open and our club ready to take another giant (leap).
“Having a coach like Markus involved with this club will make us a force in this league as we strive to win trophies, return to the AFC Champions League and make a statement not only in Australia but internationally as a football club.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)