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Fulham fires Rene Meulensteen, names Felix Magath as new manager in relegation battle

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LONDON - Fulham fired manager Rene Meulensteen and appointed Felix Magath on Friday, saying "action was required" in its bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Magath, who has won three Bundesliga titles as a coach, signed an 18-month contract, the London club said in a statement. The German has a reputation for brutal training and fitness methods. His nicknames include "Torturer" and "Saddam."

Fulham's statement failed to mention Meulensteen at all, but he later said he had been relieved of his duties after less than three months in the job.

"They have hit the panic button on emotion and fear — but hey ho, that's football," Meulensteen told the BBC.

The firing came as a shock to many because the Dutchman appeared to be turning things around, getting a result against Manchester United and putting in a good effort against Liverpool despite losing in the last minute. But it wasn't enough for Fulham owner and chairman Shahid Khan.

"Our club has shown promise in recent matches, but the fact is we have not won a league match since Jan. 1," Khan said. "Given our form, we can no longer merely hope that our fortunes will finally turn. And with 12 matches remaining and at least four points separating us from safety, we certainly can no longer post empty results. Action was required."

The club is bottom of the table with 20 points from 26 matches.

Magath has vast Bundesliga coaching experience, guiding Bayern Munich to back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, and lifting the league trophy again with Wolfsburg in 2009. He has also coached other German teams, including Hamburg and Schalke. But he has never managed in the Premier League.

The 60-year-old Magath recently ruled out becoming coach again at Hamburg, which is in its own relegation battle and which he led to European glory as a player. He hasn't coached since leaving Wolfsburg in October 2012.

"Here we go again. I'm coming back into football," Magath said on his Facebook account. "I am manager of Fulham with immediate effect. It's a fantastic working environment for any coach and footballer."

Khan welcomed the German's experience, saying he had faith Magath could lift Fulham out of the relegation zone.

"I'm especially impressed with the reputation Felix has for coming into clubs at difficult times, often late in the season, and lifting them to their potential and beyond," Khan said. "Felix knows that is precisely the task awaiting him at Fulham, and he made it abundantly clear that he wants and is ready for the opportunity."

Fulham said it would make an announcement soon about the club's backroom staff. The team's next match is Saturday at West Bromwich Albion, which sits four points above the Cottagers in 17th place.

Meulensteen, who previously worked under Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, was hired as Fulham manager after Martin Jol was sacked on Dec. 1.

"I knew the owners were freaking out a little bit that there was the possibility of the club going down," Meulensteen told the BBC. "The way forward that we have discussed with the club was about longevity and in this case it is clearly an act of fear."

Fulham held United to a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday, but the team was beaten by a late penalty in a 3-2 loss to Liverpool on Wednesday at Craven Cottage.

"I have not had a lot of time and people who came to the Manchester United and Liverpool games could see what I was trying to put in place," Meulensteen said. "I couldn't care less what they put in the statement, to be honest."

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