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Struggling Black Cats axe director of football

Sunderland's director of football Roberto De Fanti is to leave the club after owner Ellis Short decided to dispense with his services.

The Italian, who oversaw a summer overhaul of the squad under which 14 players were brought in under former manager Paolo Di Canio, is set to leave with two weeks of the current transfer window still to run.

A club statement said: "Sunderland AFC has announced that the club has parted company with director of football Roberto De Fanti."

De Fanti was drafted in along with chief scout Valentino Angeloni and an extensive network of scouts in June last year in a move designed to revolutionise the club's recruitment wing.

However, despite heavy investment, the Black Cats find themselves still fighting to stay in the Premier League.

It is understood that Short may not yet be ready to abandon the director of football post, but that there is currently no ready-made replacement waiting in the wings.

In the meantime, chief executive Margaret Byrne, who conducted the administrative side of transfers before De Fanti's arrival, will resume that responsibility, with Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini having arrived in England on Thursday with a view to tying up a move.