REUTERS: Chelsea dismissed Frank Lampard following 18 months in charge on Monday after the man at the heart of much of their greatest success as a player failed to deliver as coach despite spending over 200 million pounds (US$273.28 million) in the close season.
Former Paris St Germain manager Thomas Tuchel is the favourite to replace Lampard, British media reported.
The 42-year-old Lampard, who led the west London club to a top-four finish and the FA Cup final in his managerial debut 2019-20 campaign, leaves with Chelsea trailing ninth in the Premier League after a run of five defeats in eight games.
"This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him," Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich said in a statement https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/2021/01/25/statement-on-frank-lampard on the club's website.
"He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers."
Lampard, a former England midfielder who won three Premier League titles and the Champions League and is the club's record scorer, becomes the 12th Chelsea manager to be fired since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over in 2003.
He was hired in 2019 after a stint with second-tier Derby County and won praise last season, giving several youngsters a chance after inheriting a squad that could not be strengthened due to a FIFA-enforced transfer ban which was eventually lifted.
However, despite a massive outlay on new signings in the summer, Lampard's second season tailed off badly after a positive start in which they went on a 17-game unbeaten run.
Lampard issued a statement later on Monday saying he was "disappointed" not to have been given more time.
"It has been a huge privilege and an honour to manage Chelsea, a club that has been a big part of my life for so long," he said.
"When I took on this role I understood the challenges that lay ahead in a difficult time for the football club.
"I am proud of the achievements that we made, and I am proud of the academy players that have made their step into the first team and performed so well. They are the future of the club."
Chelsea beat off strong opposition to sign some of the game's most sought-after emerging talent in the close season but most have struggled to make an impact.
The biggest outlay was for Germany duo Kai Havertz (71 million pounds) and Timo Werner (50 million euros) but both have remained somewhat peripheral.
Moroccan Hakim Ziyech (38 million pounds) has failed to establish himself after an injury-hit first season, while Ben Chilwell (50 million pounds) has only sporadically shown the attacking verve that elevated him to the England squad.
Despite all the big-name arrivals it is youngsters Mason Mount and full back Reece James, two players nurtured by Lampard last season, who have been relied on to create chances.
The signing of experienced Brazilian defender Thiago Silva on a free transfer provided a calming influence at the back but elsewhere Lampard's side lack a commanding presence.
It all looked so different at the end of last year when Chelsea's long unbeaten run boosted Lampard's credentials as they reached the Champions League knockout stage, while sitting third in the league and being talked of as potential champions.
But Chelsea's form began to implode midway through December and they have plummeted down the table after two wins in their last eight Premier League games, underlined by Tuesday's lacklustre 2-0 defeat at Leicester City.
Chelsea, who have 29 points from 19 games, 11 behind leaders Manchester United, host Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru, additonal reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)