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Thursday, January 12, 2006
Strugglers Ajaccio part company with coach Courbis

Patrick Vignal

MADRID, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid sacked coach Carlos Bianchi on Thursday after a poor run of results left the Primera Liga club four points above the relegation zone and on the verge of elimination from the King's Cup.

The former Boca Juniors coach, who signed a three-year deal when he arrived in June, will be replaced on a caretaker basis by reserve team coach Pepe Murcia, the 12th man to take the helm since Radomir Antic left the club in 1998.

"We have arrived at an agreement with Bianchi to terminate his contract with immediate effect," club president Enrique Cerezo told a news conference.

"As everyone knows we started the season with high hopes in him and the team. We did all we could to construct a great side to improve on last season's disappointments.

"But clearly things have not worked out as we had hoped. Results are the most important part of the job and they have not materialised."

Atletico visit struggling Real Betis in the league on Saturday.

Bianchi, 56, had an impressive track record when he joined Atletico having led Boca out of lean spell to become the dominant force in South American football, steering them to success in three Libertadores Cups and two World Club Cups.


But just five months into his new job, Atletico are 12th in the Primera Liga and without a win in their last nine league outings.

On Wednesday they suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Real Zaragoza in the first leg of their last-16 tie in the King's Cup.

Bianchi, who had an unhappy spell as coach at AS Roma, joins a long list of South American coaches who have failed to translate their success to a different continent.

Last month Brazilian coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo was sacked by Atletico's city rivals Real Madrid after only 12 months at the helm.

Atletico have struggled to find a successful formula at the club since returning to the top flight in 2002.

Current Spain boss Luis Aragones, Gregorio Manzano and last year Cesar Ferrando have all been and gone, though this year promised much.

Atletico brought in players of the calibre of Serbia & Montenegro striker Mateja Kezman, Bulgaria winger Martin Petrov as well as Argentina internationals Maxi Rodriguez and Luciano Galletti.

But despite recording an exhilarating 2-1 victory over champions Barcelona in September - the league leaders' only defeat this season - the season has slowly unravelled with a series of morale-sapping displays.

Half-empty stadiums have greeted the team in their last couple of matches and fans have vented their anger against both the coach and the directors.

Media reports suggest Osasuna coach Javier Aguirre is being targeted as a replacement as well as former Deportivo Coruna boss Javier Irureta, a former Atletico player.

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