Mexico's national soccer coach, Hugo Sanchez, was fired Monday after only 16 months on the job.
During a three-hour meeting in Mexico City, owners of the Mexican soccer league decided that Sanchez was not the right man to lead Mexico into the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, which begin later this year. The move comes after Mexico failed to qualify in the regional Olympic qualifiers in March in Carson.
Mexico named as its interim coach Jesus Ramirez, who was coach of Mexico's U-17 club that won the World Cup in 2005.
The search for Sanchez's successor will begin immediately.
Sanchez, 49, was hired in November 2006 and became one of the world's highest-paid soccer coaches, earning an estimated $8 million during his short tenure as Mexico's coach. His predecessor, Ricardo LaVolpe, earned almost $10 million in four years on the job.
Most of Sanchez's money was earned outside of his monthly salary, which was about $100,000 a month. But according to reports in Mexico, Sanchez also pocketed a percentage of sponsorship deals, ticket sales, promotional events and merchandising. Overall, Sanchez took home $1.5 million in salary, plus an estimated $6.2 million in side deals, according to the Mexican newspaper El Economista.
On the field, though, the results were mixed for Sanchez.
He led Mexico to a third-place finish in Copa America last year, but Mexico did not win the Gold Cup and did not qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
"We don't like to take backward steps," said Justino Compean, president of the Mexico soccer federation.
Overall, Mexico was 14-8-4 in 26 games under Sanchez.
Sanchez made his name as a goal-scoring forward with Real Madrid; he led the Spanish league in goals five years in a row. He began his coaching career in 2000.
Early reports say that Mexico will seek a proven coach on the international level. Among the names mentioned are Luis Felipe Scolari, who coached Brazil to its 2002 World Cup title and whose contract with Portugal runs out this summer; Marcello Lippi, who coached Italy to the title two years ago in Germany; and Jose Pekerman, who coached Argentina two years ago and is currently the coach of Toluca in the Mexican league.
Another name that has been mentioned is former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre, who coached El Tri in the 2002 World Cup and is the coach of Atletico Madrid in Spain.
After Mexico plays China on April 16 in Seattle, El Tri doesn't play again until June, when it plays two exhibitions in the U.S., including a match June 4 against Argentina in San Diego. Mexico also plays two more World Cup qualifying matches in June.
Last-place Club America, once the pride of Mexico soccer but very much the doormat in the Mexican league this season, on Monday saw President Guillermo Canedo and Coach Ruben Omar Romano announce their resignations, effective in June.
The moves came after a 4-0 loss to Veracruz on Saturday and only a couple of days before Club America plays River Plate of Argentina in a crucial Copa Libertadores game in Mexico City on Wednesday.
"I take responsibility for what is happening," Romano said.
Times staff writer Grahame L. Jones contributed to this report.