After seven days of lurid disclosures about the England football captain's sex life, it took coach Fabio Capello just 12 minutes to lance the festering boil threatening to poison his painstaking World Cup plans.
John Terry, who was unmasked in the High Court last week as the top sportsman seeking to ban reports of an affair with a French underwear model, was informed yesterday afternoon that his services leading the national team would no longer be required.
It ended a week of intense pressure which has seen the reputation of the Chelsea defender, numerous colleagues and the national game subjected to unprecedented levels of rumour and salacious innuendo.
Terry, no stranger to tears on the pitch – he wept after missing a decisive penalty in the 2008 Champions League final – was "deeply upset" as he left Wembley, where he had been told the news in person by the Italian coach.
Sleeping with the former girlfriend of a teammate had crushed his long-held dream of emulating Bobby Moore by lifting the Jules Rimet trophy for England in South Africa this summer.
When he arrived at the FA headquarters in a blacked-out luxury 4x4, the star was greeted by a phalanx of photographers. Any hope that the hysteria may have been dying down was dashed when his advisers found Terry at the centre of fresh allegations yesterday morning. The Daily Mail claimed that his personal Wembley box was being inappropriately offered for hire at next month's England friendly against Egypt for £4,000 in cash.
Capello was immediately hailed for his steely decisiveness. The disciplinarian boss, who has already banned WAGs, mayonnaise and the recording of a World Cup song as unhealthy distractions for his team, named vice-captain Rio Ferdinand as his team's new leader – despite mounting concerns over the player's physical fitness.
The new vice-captain is the Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, who was last summer cleared of affray despite admitting punching a man in the face following an argument in a bar.
As news of Terry's sacking leaked out, the woman at the centre of the allegations, the French underwear model Vanessa Perroncel, stood mute beside her publicist, Max Clifford, while he insisted that she would not sell her story to the newspapers, despite intense media interest in her relationship with Terry, who is married with twins. It was reported last night that Terry, who earns £170,000 a week at Chelsea, may have paid Perroncel as much as £400,000 for her silence.
Terry was a close friend and teammate of her ex-boyfriend Wayne Bridge, who is the father of her three-year-old son. Bridge, another England regular, is said to be considering his future with the national team as he would be forced to play alongside Terry.
Ms Perroncel, 33, gasped, "Oh my God" as she saw the news of Terry's dismissal flash up on the TV screens in Mr Clifford's London offices. Dressed in a purposefully sombre black quilted jacket and matching black skinny jeans, the model bit her lip and stared at her feet as the veteran publicist read out her statement in a deadpan voice.
Mr Clifford said her "friendship" with Terry had resulted in her being subject to "unsubstantiated and false claims". It has been reported this week that the footballer paid for her to have an abortion, and offered her money to keep quiet during their five-month affair.
She said: "The media has sought to pore over my private life and that of my family, which is very upsetting. I have decided that I do not want to speak publicly about the speculation since it only seems to add more fuel to the fire."
Capello returned from Switzerland on Thursday where he had been undergoing knee surgery. In a statement, he praised the outgoing captain for his "extremely positive behaviour" on the pitch, but he said wider considerations had inspired his decision.
"After much thought, I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry ... I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad." As he returned home last night Capello would say only that he had had a "busy day".
In a terse statement issued after his meeting with Fabio Capello, Terry said he "fully respected" the coach's decision and vowed to stay loyal to the team. "I will continue to give everything for England," he said. The player will apparently seek to rebuild his relationship with his wife, Toni, who is on holiday in Dubai with the couple's children.
Gordon Brown, speaking at a Cabinet away-day in Exeter, said: "This decision must be for the manager and Mr Capello has made that decision. I think people will abide by that decision."
After much thought, I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry. As a captain with the team, John Terry has displayed extremely positive behaviour.
However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad.
John Terry was notified first. When I chose John Terry as captain, I also selected a vice-captain and also named a third choice. There is no reason to change this decision.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the FA, particularly [chairman] Lord David Triesman and [chief executive] Ian Watmore, for allowing me to make this decision in my own time and in the best interest of the team.
This statement was read on her behalf by publicist Max Clifford
In recent days I have been the centre of a great deal of press speculation and comment.
The details of my friendship with John and his family have been the subject of intense and wholly unfair and untrue media speculation.
As Max has already said, much of the material in the press is inaccurate. I now find myself subject to other unsubstantiated and false claims which have appeared in the papers over the past few days. This has only added to the pressure which my family and I have been under.
The media has sought to pore over my private life and that of my family, which is very upsetting.
I have decided I do not want to speak publicly about the speculation since it only seems to add more fuel to the fire.
I have a three-year-old son and he is my main concern.
I do not believe speaking to newspapers or the media is in his interest or my own.
I fully respect Fabio Capello's decision. I will continue to give everything for England.Reuse content