Africa Cup of Nations hosts Equatorial Guinea have fired coach Andoni Goikoetxea with just over two weeks to go before the tournament.
Goikoetxea - known in his playing days as the Butcher of Bilbao’ - departed on Thursday after the election of a new president for the Equatorial Guinea Football Federation last week.
New federation president Andres Jorge Mbomio confirmed the sacking of the former Spanish international, who had been in charge for the last two years, but gave no reasons in a statement on Friday.
Goikoetxea, who earned infamy in his playing days as a tough-tackling defender, tweeted a thank you note to players "for their work and many good results".
But failure in a recent regional competition for the Equatorial Guinea side plus defeat in two warm-up games in Portugal last week likely hastened his departure.
Equatorial Guinea, who last month stepped in as emergency hosts of the African championship in place of Morocco, have been preparing in Portugal but lost to fourth-tier Villafranquense and Benfica's B team.
The hosts play Congo in the opening game of the 16-team tournament in Bata on January 17. The country also co-hosted the tournament with Gabon in 2012.
Mali hitman out
Meanwhile impending knee surgery has ruled Mali striker Cheick Tidiane Diabate out of the tournament and for the next four months, his French club Girondins Bordeaux said.
Diabate, who helped Mali to third-place finishes at the last two Nations Cups, made the decision to undergo surgery after consultation with doctors who felt an operation "was essential to the success of the rest of his career", a club statement said.
Diabate is the top scorer for Bordeaux this season despite playing irregularly because of pain in the knee.
Mali have called up Sudan-based forward Mohamed Traore to their 23-man squad, coach Henryk Kasperzack told the MaliFootball.com Twitter feed on Friday.
They are in Group D with Cameroon, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.