SUNDERLAND’S director of football, Roberto De Fanti, has been sacked.
The axe has fallen midway through the January transfer window – which is probably the oddest thing about the dismissal of an always controversial figure at the club.
But the truth is that his position has been openly questioned inside and outside the club in recent months following what has been perceived as a disastrous summer transfer window – the former Italian football agent’s first in the newly created post.
De Fanti was chairman Ellis Short’s appointment and was part of the American’s own connections.
Short wanted to improve the structure and organisation of the club in the transfer market after becoming concerned about the lack of improvement the £200million he has invested in the club on fees and contracts has brought.
But right from the start, the creation of the post and the person chosen to fill it, was a contentious issue.
De Fanti’s failure to give media interviews and the club’s decision not to push him forward only increased the shadowy feel to the appointment of a man Short personally knew well, but was very much a mystery to the supporters.
That sense of things going on behind the scenes did not impress fans, but what has really done for the Italian is the failure to get value for money or success in the one transfer window where he was given carte blanche.
Sacked head coach Paolo Di Canio complained before his dismissal that when things go wrong in the system which has been widely tried in Italy, it is always the head coach rather than the director of football who pays the price.
And Di Canio claimed afterwards that he had little say in the acquisition of the 14 new players who arrived in the summer.
Many of those new signings have proven outright flops, others have struggled to hold down first-team places.
And with Di Canio gone and the finger of blame pointing firmly at a disastrous transfer window which also saw the departures of Simon Mignolet, Stephane Sessegnon and on-loan Spurs defender Danny Rose, the position of De Fanti, who cut a slightly comical figure, was always going to come under scrutiny.
New head coach Gus Poyet said he was happy to work under a Director of Football system if it was operated properly – though he never personally endorsed De Fanti.
And the expectation was that the system, with Valentino Angeloni operating as chief scout, would continue until the end of the season at least, at which time a major inquest is planned into all levels of Sunderland Football Club.
Instead, the club appears to have decided that with the system not working and the impressive Poyet being firm in exactly who he wants to bring in and more than capable of operating to recruit players, De Fanti has been deemed surplus to requirements sooner than expected.