SINGAPORE - He has a huge reputation and he had big names in his roster but the formula apparently did not work in Fandi Ahmad's favour as he lost his job as head coach at Johor Darul Takzim on Saturday.
The Malaysian Super League (MSL) football club announced - via a Facebook posting from their president Tunku Ismail Idris - that the Singapore great had been redesignated to assistant coach after less than a season in charge.
Tunku Ismail, who is also the state's crown prince, wrote: "We have decided to appoint a new Spanish head coach, who is very experienced in the game. He has coached teams like Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Fandi Ahmad will remain with the team, but on an assistant coach capacity."
Fandi, regarded as one of Singapore's greatest footballers, could not be reached for comment. But a family friend told The Sunday Times that the 51-year-old is currently in Santiago, Chile, to visit his sons Irfan and Ikhsan, who are on a two-week training stint.
It is unclear if Fandi will continue his career with Johor in his new assistant role.
The Malaysia Cup starts on Aug 20.
Although no names were mentioned by Tunku Ismail, it is believed that Johor's new head coach will be Cesar Ferrando Gimenez, who coached both Valencia's B team (2000-2002) and Atletico Madrid (2004-2005).
It appears that Fandi paid the price for failing to lead the team - dubbed the "MSL's Manchester City" for their free-spending ways - to any silverware thus far.
This year, former Spain international striker Daniel Guiza, who was reportedly offered between between US$1.5 million (S$1.84 million) and US$2 million to play for the entire season, and former Lazio midfielder Simone del Nero were added to the line-up.
Johor also went on a recruitment spree of top Malaysian internationals such as national skipper Safiq Rahim (from Selangor), striker Safee Sali (from Indonesian club Arema FC) and striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (from Kelantan).
But despite the wealth of talent at Fandi's disposal, they finished only third in the MSL with 40 points - three behind the champions from Singapore, V. Sundramoorthy's LionsXII.
Johor - who are believed to have had the biggest wage bill among all 12 MSL clubs; Safee for instance, earns more than RM100,000 ($40,100) a month - also lost in the Malaysian FA Cup final, beaten 1-0 by Kelantan.
There were also problems off the pitch. The star signings were gone by April, with the league not even midway through. Guiza, who scored eight goals in 13 games, left as his loan from Spanish club Getafe expired. Del Nero was released owing to injury problems.
There was also unrest in the dressing room, with Fandi openly voicing his unhappiness with some of his players.
After a poor display in a 1-0 win over T-Team in February, he blasted Safiq, calling him a "disappointment" and an "ordinary player".
When contacted by The Sunday Times, Safiq said he does not know what led to Fandi's demotion. Former Singapore midfielder Malek Awab, who is one of Fandi's best friends, said the news came as a shock to him.
"He has done well enough in the league and got to the FA Cup final in his first season," Malek said.
"Still, Fandi shouldn't jump ship because of this setback. Who knows, things might work out again for him at Johor?"
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.