Roberto Di Matteo is a good manager and, by all accounts, a very nice man. But a manager can’t win just three of the final 14 matches and take a team from the Champions League places to 13 points out and keep his job.
That’s what Di Matteo did, and that’s why Schalke (reportedly) fired him on Sunday.
Schalke’s once promising season fell apart in the final months. The team became a draw machine, conceded a ton of goals, and capped it all off with a sound loss at the hands of relegation candidate Hamburg. By the time it was all over, the Blues weren’t even close to the top four.
Di Matteo, though, wasn’t even close to being Schalke’s biggest problem. The club’s been a mess for years now, with many of its issues stemming from CEO and general manager Horst Heldt.
That’s the same Heldt who has churned through seven managers since taking over in 2010. That’s the same man who let the third-richest club in Germany sink. That’s the same man who spent $13 million on Kevin-Prince Boateng one summer, Sidney Sam the next and then kicked both off of the team before the end of this season in an effort to send a message to the team.
Somehow, Heldt has escaped the the bulk of criticism at Schalke. It’s always the manager’s fault, no matter how broken the team is. The fact that Heldt is the man who hires the managers who are later blamed and fired manages to go overlooked. All Schalke has to do is find a new manager and things will be okay.
So Di Matteo must go. Because it was his fault that Julian Draxler was hurt, or that Benedikt Höwedes still has to play fullback, or that the club made a complete mess of itself on the transfer market.
Schalke has balanced the use of veterans like Huntelaar and Höwedes with youngsters like Draxler, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka to stay competitive in Germany. The club has good financial backing and the support of 61,000 fans each week at the Veltins-Arena. It regularly finishes in the top half of the table and makes the Champions League more often than not.
But Schalke should be progressing. And yet it’s not. The team isn’t getting better and the team hasn’t been for awhile now. This week, that’s Di Matteo’s fault. Before long, it will be another manager’s fault. And then another’s. It doesn’t matter if they’re good managers like Di Matteo, or frightening ones like Felix Magath.
Eventually, Schalke will probably wise up, figuring out where the real trouble is. But for now, it’d Di Matteo that must fall on the sword.