SINGAPORE - Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad has been relieved of his coaching duties at Malaysian Super League (MSL) side Johor Darul Takzim (JDT).
The 51-year-old confirmed with The New Paper on Tuesday that he had received a letter from club president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, who is the Crown Prince of Johor, on Monday to inform him of the news.
It is believed that the termination of his coaching duties takes place with immediate effect.
When contacted by The New Paper on Tuesday, Fandi declined to elaborate, and would only say: "This is football. I don't want to comment further as I don't want the team to be disrupted."
Former Atletico Madrid and Valencia coach, Spaniard Cesar Fernando Jiminez, has been named as the new man in charge for next season.
Azmi Mohd, coach of second-tier Malaysian Premier League side Johor FA, will take over the reins for the Malaysia Cup, which starts this month.
Fandi is still the team manager, although it remains to be seen if he will stay on in the role.
He still has almost 1½ years left of his three-year contract.
After joining Johor FA as technical adviser last year, Fandi went on to coach the second-tier side and led them to the Malaysia Cup group stages before taking over the MSL side this season.
It is believed that the team's poor end to the season was a major contributing factor to Fandi's downfall.
Johor Darul Takzim failed to catch Singapore outfit LionsXII at the top of the MSL standings and even fell to third, behind Selangor, thus losing out on a spot in next year's AFC Cup - Asia's second-tier club competition.
Fandi's side were also distinctly second-best in their 1-0 loss to Kelantan in the FA Cup final.
Just two weeks ago, Tunku Ismail had said: "We will have a new manager next season. Fandi Ahmad will remain part and parcel of the set-up and will be the assistant coach as we move to revamp the team for next season."
But the latest news means the former Singapore international will have no coaching duties with the team whatsoever.
A source close to the club told TNP: "Fandi is disappointed to learn about this latest development because the original target was for JDT to win the MSL next season.
"He was told in writing that once the new coach comes in, he would be in charge of development and talent-spotting, but that is not his forte.
"Fandi would much rather be given the chance to see out the season by fighting for the Malaysia Cup before any judgment is made."
JDT have spent a fortune drafting in some of Malaysian football's biggest names, and also hired a couple of big-name foreign players.
When asked if the season so far has been a failure because of a lack of silverware, another source said: "The coach has to take some part of the blame, but you can't pin it all on Fandi.
"Safiq Rahim, Safee Sali, and the Abdul Razak twins, Aidil Zafuan and Zaquan Adha, are some of the best players in Malaysia and they didn't perform.
"The foreigners - former Spain striker Daniel Guiza and ex-Lazio midfielder Simone del Nero - did well, but were replaced by an overweight striker Leonel Nunez and Andrezinho, a playmaker from the second division. You wonder how much control Fandi really had.
"I imagine it must be like working for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich." Shahril Ishak, skipper of MSL champions LionsXII, was surprised to hear the news.
The 29-year-old forward, who was coached by Fandi as a Young Lions player in 2005 and 2006, said: "I think it's a bit unfair.
Of course, with the players they had, most people tipped them to win something.
But this is just one season.
"We (LionsXII) also finished the last season empty-handed, but our coach (V Sundramoorthy) stayed on and we became MSL champions this season.
"Sometimes, patience pays in football." Former LionsXII assistant coach Kadir Yahaya also felt that his former international teammate should have been given more time.
He said: "A managerial role, an office job dealing with paperwork is not his niche. He likes to be out on the field, running and working with the players.
"It now looks like his future lies elsewhere, but Fandi is a fighter.
"He will bounce back, and I believe he is a good coach who will still be in demand."
Get The New Paper for more stories.