Thumbs up all round: David Wagner enjoyed great success since leaving Borussia Dortmund, where he once worked under now-Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp, for Huddersfield in 2015 - © Getty Images
Thumbs up all round: David Wagner enjoyed great success since leaving Borussia Dortmund, where he once worked under now-Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp, for Huddersfield in 2015 - © Getty Images

Who is new Schalke coach David Wagner?

Freshly appointed Schalke coach David Wagner has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight in recent years, having performed wonders at Huddersfield Town after a career spent honing his skills in the Bundesliga.

How did Wagner go from being a previously unknown member of Jürgen Klopp's coaching staff at Borussia Dortmund to crossing the Ruhr Valley divide to take charge of Schalke? Allow to fill in the gaps.

"Somebody, I don't know how it happened, put us together in a room and that was the start of a lifelong friendship," Klopp said in a Sky Sports documentary. "It's like family, so we consider each other brothers and it also feels like we are because we've known each other so long."

On the field, Wagner enjoyed a relatively successful spell in the second division at Mainz, scoring 19 times in his four years at the club. "He wasn't very consistent, even if he does not want to hear it," said a typically forthright Klopp of his former team-mate's ability. "He was a big talent, but not every day. He was very a young player when he came from Eintracht Frankfurt to Mainz, a very skilled boy, very quick, a good striker."

Wagner (l.) had a successful working relationship with Jürgen Klopp during their spell together at Borussia Dortmund. - imago

Pioneer at Huddersfield

With a burgeoning reputation in the dugout and the coaching foundations duly laid, it was no surprise that Wagner was rumoured to be joining Klopp at Liverpool in late 2015. Tempting as that may have been, he opted to forge his own path and although he did move to the north of England, it was to Huddersfield instead.

At the time the Terriers were in the midst of a relegation battle in the Championship - England's second tier - and after sacking Chris Powell, they were looking to revolutionise their working model.

"The first phone call I received was from [Huddersfield head of football] Stuart [Webber] and at the end of our conversation he said the club had to find a new way, that everybody wanted to go in a new direction, and were excited about what we did in Dortmund and how we tried to play," Wagner explained.

"He asked me: 'Is it possible to do this in England?' I said: ‘Why not?' It's possible to play this way anywhere in the world if you have open-minded players and an open-minded club."

A former striker, Wagner scored 19 times in four years at Mainz, before moving into coaching. - 2014 Getty Images

Wagner found fertile ground in Huddersfield, and, after overhauling the team's style, he led them away from the relegation zone by the end of the campaign. In 2016/17, his first full season at the club, Wagner took a team with one of the smallest budgets in the English Championship and achieved promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.

A one-off success, perhaps? Far from it. Wagner diligently built on that achievement in 2017/18, a campaign in which the Terriers were initially widely considered to be relegation favourites, before proving their doubters wrong and securing safety with a game to spare.

Not only that, but the manner in which they did so was also remarkable, recording draws away to Chelsea and Manchester City – Premier League champions past and present – in two of their last three fixtures.

The 2018/19 campaign proved tougher, and Wagner and Huddersfield went their separate ways in January with the team struggling against relegation, a fate they would not escape.

Schalke, however, have seen enough to convince them that the 47-year-old former USA international, who scored twice in 29 Bundesliga appearances for the Gelsenkirchen outfit between 1995 and '97, is the man to reinvigorate their side.

"We're delighted to acquired the services of a coach in David Wagner, who fits our job profile perfectly," said Schalke head of sports, Jochen Schneider. "He's a coach with a pro-active approach, his teams take the initiative, run hard and play with tempo. He also has the personality to build a team and improve individual players."