Berlin: Schalke released Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and Germany winger Sidney Sam on Monday with immediate effect, while suspending Marco Hoeger, as their latest defeat threatens next season's place in Europe. With one win in their last eight games, the Royal Blues' 2-0 defeat at Cologne on Sunday left Roberto di Matteo's Schalke sixth in the league.
They are in danger of missing out on a Europa League berth next season having reached the last 16 of the Champions League this year. With neighbours Dortmund hard on their heels in the league table, Schalke face relegation-threatened Paderborn and Hamburg, who are both desperate for points to stay in Germany's top flight, in their final two games.
Should Schalke finish outside the top six, questions will no doubt be asked as to whether ex-Chelsea boss Di Matteo and director of sport Horst Heldt are the right men for their jobs. After two seasons with Schalke, Boateng, the club's top earner, has struggled for form and was substituted just after half-time against Cologne, while Sam was not in the match-day squad having joined from Leverkusen at the start of the season. Heldt has confirmed both Boateng and Sam have no future with the club.
"It's not the case that he had a positive aura through his body language," Heldt said of Sam. "He only worries about himself and he doesn't give off positive energy, we don't need that for the next 14 days. "Sidney played very, very well at Leverkusen, but it just hasn't worked out here."
Hoeger is suspended from training "because of doubts about his loyalty to the club" until Saturday when he will have the chance to redeem himself in the final week of the season. More players could find themselves with a terminated contract unless results improve, according to Heldt. "That was the first step," he said. "We will monitor closely the reaction of the others this week. "I assume they have realised that we're getting down to business and that others may also be affected."