Gelsenkirchen - Roberto Di Matteo has stepped down as FC Schalke 04 head coach following the side's failure to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League.

The Royal Blues did reach the Europa League after finishing , but having collected just 21 of a possible 51 points since the turn of the year, discussions between the club's hierarchy and Di Matteo led to the 44-year-old's decision to vacate his position.

'The club's best interests in mind'

"[Sporting director] Horst Heldt and I haven't just worked in unison over the last seven months, but have also directed our attentions to the upcoming campaign," said Di Matteo on Tuesday. "I laid out a plan for a potentially successful future and outlined which conditions would be indispensable in my view. While the discussions with Horst Heldt were always constructive, it became clear that the club wanted to go in a different direction.

 

"Also, as a result of the backlash caused by an unsatisfactory second half of the season, I can't guarantee to be able to achieve the success the club is expecting and therefore felt the best decision for all involved was to have a fresh start. Not least for FC Schalke 04, a club and set of fans who will always have a place in my heart. Therefore I came to the conclusion to step down from my position as head coach." 

'Different views on the future of the club'

Though this week's discussions resulted in the Swiss tactician's resignation, Heldt paid tribute to his attitude. "Even after realising hat we had different views on the future of this club, his proposed solutions were always made with the club's best interests in mind."

 

Di Matteo was appointed as Jens Keller's successor on 7 October 2014 and initially managed to stablise a vulnerable defence, but in his 27 Bundesliga games in charge Schalke won just 11 times, drawing seven and losing nine. They exited the UEFA Champions League in the Round of 16, though, narrowly losing 5-4 on aggregate to holders Real Madrid CF.

Downward trend

"Roberto took over the club in October 2014 with the club in 11th and in a situation that was decidedly more difficult than it would have seemed from the outside," explained Heldt. "We had a lot of injured players and several more factors that complicated matters.

 

"Thanks to Roberto's work we were able to establish some stability, enough that we were able to climb into third after the first set of midweek fixtures at the start of the second half of the season. Furthermore, we reached the Champions League Round of 16 in which we, with a 4-3 away win, came close to knocking out Real Madrid. Unfortunately as a collective we weren't able to halt the downward trend that followed."