Club Brugge has fired coach Carl Hoefkens despite him leading the Belgian club to their first-ever place in the last 16 of the Champions League this season.
His sacking was announced on Wednesday and comes after a run of poor domestic form, including an embarrassing 4-1 home defeat by St Truiden in the Belgian Cup last week and a 1-1 home draw with OH Leuven in the league on Tuesday. That left the champions in fourth place, 12 points behind leaders Racing Genk.
The 44-year Hoefkens had only been in the job six months, stepping up from the role of assistant to take over from Alfred Schreuder, who left for Ajax Amsterdam after winning the Belgian league last season.
Hoefkens, whose playing career took in spells at Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, made an impression with Club Brugge in the group stage of the Champions League, where they won their first three matches and were early qualifiers for the last 16.
They ended the group in second place behind FC Porto, eliminating Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.
But the club said results in Belgian competition were not satisfactory and that they were now looking for “the best possible successor”.
“Carl is a club man down to his blood,” said a statement from general manager Vincent Mannaert.
“His contribution and commitment to the youth academy and as an assistant were greatly appreciated. His part in this season’s successful Champions League campaign cannot be underestimated either. But our decision in the summer (to make him coach) did not deliver the desired level of play and results in the Belgian league and cup.”
Brugge next plays away at league leader Genk on January 8 and in February face Benfica home and away in the last 16 of the Champions League.