MADRID (Reuters) -- Atletico Madrid finally put coach Gregorio Manzano out of his misery on Thursday when the La Liga club's unpopular board sacked the 55-year-old following their midweek King's Cup elimination by third-tier Albacete.

Manzano's departure, after less than half a season in his second stint at the helm of Madrid's second club, was widely flagged in local media and former Atletico midfielder Diego Simeone has said he would be ready to take over after he quit as coach of Racing Club in his native Argentina on Tuesday.

"The executive board of Atletico Madrid, in a meeting on Thursday to assess the sporting situation, decided unanimously to dismiss Gregorio Manzano as first team coach," Atletico said in a statement on their website (www.clubatleticodemadrid.com).

"The club will now focus on completing the hiring of a coach to lead the first team."

A fan favourite as an Atletico player, the 42-year-old Simeone was quoted as saying in Spanish media on Wednesday that he had not signed any preliminary accord but the club had called him and he was hoping a deal could be agreed.

Manzano, who has coached La Liga clubs including Real Mallorca, Sevilla and Malaga, returned to Atletico in June, coinciding with the departure of prized forwards Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan and the arrival of striker Radamel Falcao and midfielders Diego and Arda Turan.

Known as 'the professor', he has overseen an erratic campaign, including a 5-0 drubbing at Barcelona in La Liga.

The club, who would usually be challenging for a European qualification berth, are mired in 10th spot with only 19 points from 16 matches.

At his post-match news conference on Wednesday, Manzano apologised to the fans, who had targeted him, his players and the club's board with disgruntled chants during the game.

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