De Fanti oversaw a pre-season player splurge that saw 14 new faces brought into the squad under former manager Paolo di Canio.

However, the influx did little for the north-east side's fortunes and di Canio became the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season when Sunderland dismissed him in September with the club, currently level on points with basement side Crystal Palace, then bottom of the table.

Ever since it seemed just a matter of time before Sunderland's US-based owner Ellis Short decided di Canio's fellow Italian de Fanti was also surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light.

And even though there are still a couple of weeks left in the transfer window, a club statement issued on Friday said: "Sunderland AFC has announced that the club has parted company with director of football Roberto De Fanti.

"The club would like to place on record its thanks to Roberto and wishes him well for the future."

Sunderland, now managed by former Uruguay international Gus Poyet, could climb out of the relegation zone if they win at home to Southampton on Saturday.