BERLIN, April 13 (Reuters) - Schalke 04 sacked coach Mirko Slomka on Sunday after the Bundesliga club were eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona and humiliated by league rivals Werder Bremen 5-1.
Schalke, who slipped from second to third in the league on Saturday after the drubbing in Bremen, announced the decision to part company with Slomka, who was promoted from assistant manager in January 2006, on their Web site on Sunday.
Slomka, 40, has suffered speculation he would be replaced for months even though he had one of the most successful 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.
General manager Andreas Mueller said in a statement the club had planned to part company with Slomka at the end of the season, 'but after the Werder Bremen match I decided to pull the plug now.'
Mueller said the decision was made with the aim of finishing at least third.
'We've got into a situation now that could have a very negative impact on the team and endanger our goal of qualifying for the Champions League. That's why we moved quickly now.'
Schalke, beaten by Barcelona 1-0 in each leg of their Champions League quarter-final, have one of the most expensive lineups in the Bundesliga.
'Mirko did a good job and that's clearly documented by his successful record,' said Mueller. 'But during the course of this season we got the impression the team wasn't developing further. We came to the conclusion a new coach could do that better.'
The club also sacked assistant coach Nestor El Maestro.
Schalke said they would name a successor later on Sunday. It was not clear whether that would be an interim appointment.
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).
Slomka, sometimes criticised for being too much of a 'nice guy' at Schalke, reacted angrily to fresh speculation on Saturday that his days were numbered.
'I've had it with defending myself -- either you can see the quality of the team and the work I've done here or you can't,' Slomka told Premiere Television.
'The discussion is pretty much limited to certain groups (in the club management) that have something against me.
'We were in second place before the Werder Bremen match and made it to the top eight in Europe and yet there's still a discussion about my future. I don't have any desire to face this discussion every week any more.'