Prior to his expected appointment as the new Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti brought an era in Italian football to an end by leaving Milan, where he had spent 13 years as a player and coach.
"In agreement with the club, we have decided to bring forward the expiry of my contract. This beautiful adventure at Milan is over," Ancelotti said after Milan's 2-0 victory at Fiorentina clinched third place in Serie A and qualification for next season's Champions League.
"Today I was happy because Milan have made it into the Champions League and I want to thank everybody who has followed me along this beautiful path," he added. "Obviously there were some difficulties along the way, but it will always be a great memory. "
It was swiftly announced that the club's Brazilian sporting director Leonardo will replace Ancelotti as coach, even though the former Milan player has no managerial experience.
Ancelotti, who had a year to run on his contract at San Siro, was Serie A's longest serving coach. Having played for Milan between 1986 and 1992, he was appointed in 2001 and led the Rossoneri to two Champions League triumphs, in 2003 and 2007. However, his return of only one scudetto, in 2004, and Milan's failure to reach the Champions League last season meant the club were torn about offering him a new deal.
Before taking over at Milan, Ancelotti had spells as coach at Reggiana, Parma and, most notably, Juventus, where he failed to win any major honours in two years after taking over from Marcello Lippi.
Ancelotti's appointment has been linked with the arrival of Milan playmaker Kaka at Chelsea but the coach joked yesterday that the only player he wanted to take away with him was Paolo Maldini, who has just retired. Kaka himself paid paid tribute to Ancelotti. "He made me become great. It was him that opened the doors of the world to me," he said.