After nearly two years out of the game, Roberto Di Matte is back in business.
The former Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion and MK Dons boss has taken over at Bundesliga side Schalke after the German club fired Jens Keller on Tuesday. Di Matteo has been without a job since leaving Chelsea in November 2012, despite leading the club to its first-ever UEFA Champions League title just months earlier while coaching on an interim basis.
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Di Matteo, 44, has signed a three-year contract with the club based in Gelsenkirchen who are currently languishing in 11th place in Germany’s top-flight but are unbeaten after two games in Group G of the Champions League.
Schalke lost 2-1 to Hoffenheim on Saturday and has been knocked out of the German Cup by third-division club Dynamo Dresden. Keller has been at the helm since December 2012 but has faced a tricky time with Schalke despite leading them to Champions League qualification. In a statement on the firing of Keller and hiring of Di Matteo, Schalke’s general manager Horst Held had this to say:
“The necessary consistency is missing in efforts to reach our set goals,” Heldt said. “That’s why we decided to take the step. We believe firmly that Roberto Di Matteo will bring stability to the team and will succeed in reaching our goals in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.”
Di Matteo has now been given the chance to help resurrect a giant club in Germany who possess several star players such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Julian Draxler, but have underachieved in recent seasons. Schalke was eliminated in the first knockout round in the past two seasons in the Champions League but Di Matteo will hope to change that in the final four group games which includes, of course, a home match against his beloved Chelsea.
The former Italian international and Chelsea star in his playing days struggled with the Blues in the UCL as they defended their title, as they failed to make it out of the group stage in 2012-13 and owner Roman Abramovich severed ties with Di Matteo. After reported legal proceedings in the two years since over his firing, Di Matteo has been linked with numerous jobs in the Premier League and abroad and has finally plumped for the Bundesliga.
So often seen as a league full of stability and continuity, Keller’s firing is the second managerial casualty in just seven games of the Bundesliga season so far after Hamburg’s Mirko Slomka was let go.
Di Matteo has now been handed a great chance to guide one of Germany’s biggest teams as Schalke sell out their 61,000 capacity home regularly and according to Forbes earlier this year, they have the 12th highest revenue of any club in the world, ahead of the like of Tottenham, Inter Milan and PSG. A coach known for defensive organization, this opportunity is a massive one for Di Matteo to show his UCL success with Chelsea wasn’t a one-off.