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Keegan leaves Manchester City post

Speculation about Keegan's future had been building up in recent weeks

MANCHESTER, England -- Former England manager Kevin Keegan has left Manchester City after four years in charge and is set to walk away from football.

The 54-year-old former Newcastle United boss had been due to retire from football management when his contract at the Premier League club expired at the end of next season.

"Manchester City football club announces that by mutual agreement our manager Kevin Keegan will leave the club with immediate effect. We all believe that this is in the best interest of the club," a statement on City's website said.

City are 12th in the 20-team league after a largely disappointing season.

Keegan, one of England's finest post-war players and twice European Footballer of the Year, had said only recently he intended to stay until the end of his contract, after rumours that his players were unhappy with the coaching situation.

City coach and former England defender Stuart Pearce will take charge for the remaining nine games of the season and could be in the running for the permanent position.

Media reports have also linked Celtic's Martin O'Neill and former Southampton boss Gordon Strachan with the job.

Keegan made shock resignations at Newcastle and famously as manager of England after a 1-0 defeat to Germany at Wembley in a World Cup qualifier in October 2000.

His club management career may best be remembered for his Newcastle side throwing away a 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League in 1996 to gift Manchester United the title.

Keegan led Manchester City back into the Premier League in his first season in charge in 2002 after being appointed after their relegation from the top flight.

Since then City have moved to a new stadium but have failed to make any impact on the Premier League, finishing ninth and then 16th last season.

"Kevin has brought stability to a club that was very much in need of solidity and consolidation," the City statement said.

"Kevin's professionalism, infectious enthusiasm and drive for success have benefited all areas of the club.

"The board and staff of the football club would like to thank Kevin for his valued contribution to all aspects of our organisation and wish him and his family all the very best for the future."

A sluggish 1-0 home league defeat to local rivals Bolton Wanderers on Monday proved to be his final game in charge, though City chairman John Wardle said Keegan's decision was not made on an impulse because of it.

"I have sat with Kevin over the past few days discussing the future of the club," said Wardle." We felt it was in the best interests of the club that he left.

"But he has not run away and not quit. There has been none of that. If I had insisted, he would have stayed until the end of his contract.

"He has been a very good manager for this club and I hope he stays in football."

Keegan brought former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel to City and favoured popular creative players like Israeli Eyal Berkovic.

Temperamental French striker Nicolas Anelka, Keegan's highest-profile signing at City, started well before his form dropped away and his relationship with Keegan soured. He was sold to Fenerbahce in the January transfer window.

Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips has flourished under Keegan to reach the fringes of the England first team.

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