Everton have spared manager Roberto Martinez the ignominy of a thoroughly hostile reception at Goodison Park on Sunday (15 May) by confirming his dismissal after three years at the helm. The decision comes less than 24 hours after the Toffees, who have won just one of their last 10 Premier League matches but did reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup last month, were brushed aside 3-0 by Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
While that result secured a 10th consecutive top-flight campaign for the Black Cats after yet another close encounter with relegation, for Everton supporters a woeful defensive performance only served to further highlight how badly their 12th-place side have underperformed in the league this season. It was the second time in as many games that they had conceded three goals, following an emphatic defeat against champions Leicester last weekend.
After reportedly reaching an agreement over a severance package, Everton, who have cancelled their end of season awards evening, revealed in an official statement: "Everton Football Club regrets to announce that Roberto Martinez has left his position as First Team Manager with immediate effect. The Chairman and the Board of Directors would like to place on record their thanks for the dedication and commitment Roberto has shown during his three seasons with the club.
"Roberto has been a great ambassador for the Club, conducting himself, at all times, with the utmost integrity and dignity. He secured the Club its highest ever Premier League points total, a place in the last 16 of the Europa League and appearances in both domestic cup semi-finals. He has also played a key role in the development of several young players, managing their progression to the Everton First Team and International honours."
Martinez guided Swansea City to promotion from League One before taking the reins at another of his former clubs, Wigan Athletic, in June 2009. It was there that he achieved the greatest moment of his career to date, stunning Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final to lift the first major trophy in the Latics' history.
Wigan were relegated during the same season, but that failure did nothing to taint the Spaniard's growing reputation and he was soon appointed as successor to Manchester United-bound David Moyes at Everton. He enjoyed a prosperous first campaign at Goodison Park, guiding the club to a fifth-place finish and 72 points. They finished 11th last term and reached the last 16 of the Europa League after signing loanee Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal for a club-record fee of £28m ($40.6m).
The need for Martinez to improve was increased in February when Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri, formerly a shareholder at Arsenal, purchased a 49.9% stake in the club from Bill Kenwright. Criticism of affable left-back Leighton Baines following his assertion that the Everton squad lacked chemistry was seen as a major turning point, although the 42-year-old did not seem resigned to his fate ahead of Sunday's season finale at home to relegated Norwich City.
"We need to win football games, when you don't do that [pressure] is normal," he told Sky Sports after that dismal display on Wearside. "You cannot be happy with not winning football games. I'm pleased with the effort and the intent of the players. What we have to do now is in front of us, we have the game against Norwich and we want to make sure we get a performance that gives us a good feeling to finish the season off."
Speculation is already raging as to the identity of Martinez's successor, with Frank de Boer's agent having claimed that his client "would love to join a club like Everton" after leaving Ajax. Other early frontrunners include Stoke City's Mark Hughes, departing Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini and Ronald Koeman of Southampton. Rafael Benitez and Moyes could also be in the mix.