Boca Juniors manager Miguel Angel Russo has resigned, team officials said Friday, forcing South America's club champions to hastily find a replacement to prepare for the 2008 season.
Russo left the Argentine club late Thursday, days after Boca lost to Milan in the Club World Cup final on Sunday.
Russo reportedly rejected a demand by Boca team chief Pedro Pompilio to fire his two assistants.
Pompilio confirmed the departure Friday, but Boca officials had no immediate comment on candidates to replace Russo.
Among those linked with the job are former Argentina national team striker Gabriel Batistuta, and veteran former Boca coach Carlos Bianchi.
Under Russo, Boca won the Copa Libertadores this year, beating Brazil's Gremio. But the Buenos Aires club finished a disappointing third in the domestic Apertura season, lagging behind unheralded clubs Lanus and Tigre.
Batistuta, who scored a record 56 goals in 78 matches for Argentina's national team, is eager to take the job.
"I've always had a desire to coach Boca and still do," he told Argentine radio station Belgrano.
Batistuta, though a standout in his playing days which ended in 2005, played briefly with Boca before departing for a lengthy career in Europe. He has coaching qualifications but no senior coaching experience.
Bianchi, currently without a team, was the most successful coach in club history during a 1998-2004 tenure. In that era, he led Boca to four Argentine first-division titles, three Copa Libertadores crowns and two Intercontinental trophies.
But his return is opposed by former Argentina superstar Diego Maradona, who is an influential advisor to team executives.
Bianchi is a friend of Maradona's former representative, Guillermo Coppola, with whom Maradona has broken off professional ties and is locked in a legal battle over a long business relationship that turned sour.
"I don't want anything to do with Bianchi," Maradona was quoted as telling sports daily Ole, warning he would sever his advisor role if Bianchi were brought back.
Maradona said he had no aspirations to be coach himself.
"Truth be told, it's not in me," he said on a local television program.
Jorge Ribolzi, who served as an assistant to national teach coach Alfio Basile, is also regarded as a candidate.
Pompilio on Friday didn't return calls nor publicly comment on the search process.