Schalke 04 dismissed coach Mirko Slomka on Sunday, a day after the club suffered a 5-1 defeat at Werder Bremen. The team had recently been eliminated from the Champions League after a 2-0 on aggregate to Barcelona and the defeat against Werder saw them slip from second to third in the Bundesliga.
Slomka, 40, joined the Royal Blues as assistant coach to Ralf Rangnick on 4 October 2004, took charge of the club on 4 January 2006. Slomka had suffered speculation throughout this season that he would be replaced even though he had one of the better records in the league. Last season he guided Schalke to second place and in 2006 he led them to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. The club also sacked Slomka’s assistant coach Nestor El Maestro.
Schalke general manager Andreas Müller told the club’s official website:
“Over recent weeks I, too, have moved towards thinking it is right to part company with Mirko at the end of the season. But after yesterday’s game at Werder Bremen I came to the decision to take this step. A situation has arisen that I am convinced would have had a very negative effect on the team over the next few weeks and thus put our remaining objective for the season, that of qualifying for the Champions League, at risk. That’s why we have taken this sudden decision. Mirko has done a good job for us, as is documented by the success on the pitch. But over the course of this season we have gained the impression that the team has not progressed in footballing terms. We have therefore come to the opinion that this could be better achieved with a new coach.”
A key factor in the dismissal is said to have been unrest among the players. Schalke central defender and captain Marcelo Bordon was one of many to voice disapproval of Slomka’s repeated line-up changes. That the coach hadn’t even settled on a clear formation was another problem, as was the fact that good performances were often rewarded with spots on the bench next time around while out-of-form stars kept being picked. An example for that was Danish international striker Soren Larsen being overlooked or substituted for underperforming Kevin Kuryani. Larsen went public with his complaint a week ago.
I watched the Werder – Schalke game Saturday morning and I was shocked to see Werder put up 5 on the Königsblauen as they had been on a five-game unbeaten run in the Bundesliga run prior to Saturday’s match. What was even more shocking was that Schalke were only able to score a lone goal in reply. The match was very open and was one of the more entertaining games I’ve watched this season.
Schalke have some excellent players in the squad like keeper Manuel Neuer, Christian Pander (who scored a thundering goal against England on his Germany debut), Fabian Ernst and Kevin Kuryani to name just a few. Schalke is one of the most popular football teams in Germany and their fans are hungry for a league title. Their last win was way back in 1958 though they have claimed the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) as recently as 2002. It will be interesting to see who the club brings in long term to try and improve on their current position.
Mike Büskens and Youri Mulder have been given temporary control of first team affairs starting with a home game against Energie Cottbus on Tuesday. The duo were both part of the famous 1997 Uefa Cup winning side that surprised everybody by beating Inter Milan in the final on penalties. Büskens has been coaching Schalke’s reserve team since 2005 in the Westfalen Oberliga. He played 257 times for the Königsblauen and twice won the German Cup to go with the Uefa Cup triumph. Youri Mulder played for Schalke between 1993 and 2002 winning nine Dutch caps in the process. He had been recently working as a TV football expert for Dutch channel NOS.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that Schalke has three candidates for one of the most coveted jobs in the Bundesliga: Eric Gerets (Olympique Marseille), Fred Rutten (Twente Enschede) and Dick Advocaat (Zenit St. Petersburg). The last is the most intriguing as Schalke 04 and FC Zenit Saint Petersburg signed a partnership agreement to work closely on improving football-related issues.