He came as a man of the world and left as a loser: Roberto Di Matteo was the man brought in to kick start a new era at Schalke 04, but instead, the former Chelsea coach’s time in the Bundesliga has expired after only seven months.
The decision to release Di Matteo was taken less than 24 hours after the embarrassing end of season draw in Hamburg, the consequences of the miserable second half.
The long-time Premier League professional was always a foreign body in the Bundesliga, whether dressed in his suit on the sidelines, or later in a tracksuit.
The facts are clear: only 14 wins at Schalke in 33 competitive games since his vaunted appointment last October, and not a single away win since the winter break.
The Schalke team became a lifeless and dispassionate presence, not unlike their emotionless coach. The multi-million dollar team (ranked the 12th richest team in the world by Forbes in 2014) lost confidence in front of a bitterly disappointed set of fans. The season’s goal of Champions League qualification disappeared and their sixth-placed finish and a Dortmund Cup victory left them facing the qualification rounds for the Europa League.
Nevertheless, blaming Di Matteo alone for the decline is not entirely fair. The team showed a clear lack character. Of the many overpriced new players almost none of them fulfilled expectations, and there were no surprises coming through the talented ranks of players at his disposal.
It is Di Matteo’s sporting director Horst Heldt who must, ultimately, be held solely responsible for the apparently wrong compilation of the squad. It seems logical that he will go the way of Di Matteo.
Di Matteo is, for the time being, back in London with his family. Since the sensational triumph with Chelsea in the Champions League in May 2012 in Munich, it has been downhill for the Italian.
What his future is in the coaching business after his failure in Germany, remains to be seen.
Martin Volkmar is a member of the Editorial Board of leading German sports channel SPORT1 and Head of the Online Desk (www.sport1.de). He has covered, among others, two World cups, two European Championships and four Champions League finals.