Felix Magath has admitted he will find it hard to leave Wolfsburg after leading the club to the Bundesliga title, but insisted the new German champions are capable of defending their crown.
Wolfsburg's 5-1 win over Werder Bremen means they finish the season two points clear of second-placed Bayern Munich at the top of the table. Magath, who took over in January 2007, now leaves the champions to take over as coach and team manager at Schalke 04 and says the team he has forged is capable of retaining their crown.
"I think that VfL will be in the running for the title in the future too," said a delighted Magath. "We have put together a young and hungry team with fantastic prospects. It's a dream, I never believed we had the chance to win the title, but the boys deserve it. And leaving now will be very difficult."
Magath said the key victory in capturing their first Bundesliga crown was the 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund on 12 May that injected some much-needed confidence following their shock 4-1 defeat at Stuttgart the weekend before. "The game against Dortmund was the turning point," said Magath.
"Just three days after we'd been beaten in Stuttgart, that was certainly a crucial point. That gave the team some real self-confidence and it's exactly that confidence that we took into the Bremen game."
Unheralded Wolfsburg, founded in the grim aftermath of World War II and cursed by a history of mediocrity, have secured not just their first-ever Bundesliga crown but also their first place in the UEFA Champions League. Traditional powerhouses Bayern can only look on in envy.
Magath is having the last laugh over the Bavarian giants after they dismissed him two years ago. Despite leading Bayern to back-to-back league and cup doubles, Magath was sacked in February 2007 with his side near the top of the league.
While Bayern won the league and cup double again last season, Wolfsburg slipped under the radar to finish in a respectable fifth and reach the UEFA Cup. It was an astonishing turnaround for a club who were just one place above relegation in the preceding seasons.
Before this year, Wolfsburg's biggest achievement had been when they finished runners-up in the 1995 German Cup. But it has been a vastly different story this term.
While Bayern eventually sacked coach Jurgen Klinsmann on 27 April, after just ten months in charge, Wolfsburg were enjoying an 11-game unbeaten run. Magath has now won his third Bundesliga title as a manager and will be suceeded by ex-Stuttgart coach Armin Veh. The celebrations will be long and loud for the club which was founded in September 1945 as a team for Volkswagen workers.
League leaders since 4 April, the foundation of Wolfsburg's success has been based around playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic, who scored the first goal against Werder, combined with the lethal finishing of Brazilian striker Grafite and Bosnia's Edin Dzeko. As an added bonus, Dzeko and Grafite have become the Bundesliga's most prolific strike partnership of all time.
Grafite scored twice against Bremen to finish the season as league top-scorer with 28 goals, with Dzeko netting his 26th to set a new record of 54, eclipsing the mark set by Bayern's Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness in the 1972/73 season.