Rutten axed by ailing Schalke

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The Independent Football

Coach Fred Rutten has paid the price for Schalke's disappointing season after being sacked after less than a year in charge.

The Dutchman replaced Mirko Slomka at the Arena AufSchalke last summer but, with the pre-season title contenders currently languishing down in eighth place in the Bundesliga table, he has been axed.

Schalke have been plagued by off-field unrest in recent weeks following the previous departure of general manager Andreas Muller.

Muller's exit had also left Rutten's future at the Gelsenkirchen club in serious doubt.

"Fred Rutten is no longer head coach of Schalke," confirmed a club statement.

"In the current season, the Miners, by being knocked out in qualification for the Champions League, going out in last place in the group phase of the UEFA Cup and going out in the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal have missed all their expected sporting goals to date."

Rutten's backroom staff of coaches Mike Buskens, Youri Mulder and Oliver Reck will take temporary charge of the team.

However, former Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn has already been mentioned as a possible replacement as he has been involved in talks with the club over becoming their new general manager in recent days.

Meanwhile, Hertha Berlin’s general manager Dieter Hoeness has admitted the Bundesliga leaders face a fight to keep hold of Josip Simunic this summer.

The Croatia defender has been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League and Hertha have hinted they would be willing to listen to serious offers for his services.

"Joe is one of the best defenders in Europe," claimed Hoeness.

"Not long ago, some people doubted he had the fitness to play in Bundlesiga but now he has shown what he can do.

"He is an outstanding talent. Selling star players is always a possibility so that we can fund new signings.

"By selling, we have the chance to build our squad. It gives us a way forwards for the future."

Elsewhere, Borussia Monchengladbach have handed promising youngster Tobias Levels a new two-year contract.

Alexander Baumjohann has already agreed a deal to leave Borussia Park at the end of the season, while Germany international Marko Marin is also set to follow suit.

But club officials have made it a priority to retain the 22-year-old defender, who was out of contract in the summer.

"We have been holding talks for a while now and are delighted that we have been able to keep hold of Tobias, who is a product of our youth system and will now take his next steps with Borussia," said director of sport Max Eberl.