John Terry's reign as England captain looked to be coming to an end last night as it emerged that he is considering resigning his position when he speaks to Fabio Capello on Friday.
Sources close to the England captain said that he was mulling over whether he should quit when he meets his manager Capello at the end of the week following the revelations that Terry had an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-fiancée of his England team-mate Wayne Bridge.
His initial reaction was to dig his heels in and wait for Capello's decision but his stance has softened.
Capello has assured his bosses at the Football Association that he will make a decision by the end of the week, at the very latest after the Euro 2012 draw in Warsaw, which he is due to attend on Sunday. Terry has spoken to Capello's general manager, Franco Baldini, who is gathering information on behalf of the England manager.
Given the strength of public feeling against Terry, and the possibility of more damning revelations about his private life, he is thought to regard the possibility of resignation as a means of taking the sting out of the saga. It could well be the case that Capello will wish to sack Terry himself. Having come under more pressure yesterday to act, the Football Association finally broke its silence yesterday and released a statement, saying: "Fabio Capello alone will make the decision about John Terry's position". It was intended to convey the organisation's deference to Capello on all football matters, although it also underlined that there is a real quandary over Terry's future.
The FA has not been helped by Capello's schedule in Switzerland, which has prevented him from returning to London. Capello has had surgery on his knee and is due to see the surgeon who performed the operation tomorrow, which has meant that he had not been able to return earlier than Thursday.
Capello spoke to the FA chairman, Lord Triesman, and chief executive, Ian Watmore, yesterday morning, They told him they will back him in whatever decision he chooses to make. Capello told them that he understood that a decision needed to be made by the end of the week. It is expected that Capello will be back in Britain on Friday.
A source close to Capello said: "Fabio likes him [Terry] as a player and a skipper because his attitude has been perfect.
"Fabio is not the kind of person who feels under pressure – he is used to being under pressure all the time. In the end he will take the right decision from the football point of view."
Should Capello decide that Terry cannot go on, then he will not make an immediate decision on his successor. He would give himself time to think and then make an announcement in the build-up to England's next game, a friendly against the Africa Cup of Nations winners Egypt at Wembley on 3 March. Although Steven Gerrard is the bookmakers' favourite, Wayne Rooney is a more likely nominee.
When Terry was appointed Capello stressed that his captain needed a "big personality"to go with the job and it is understood he sees more of that quality in Rooney than either Gerrard or Rio Ferdinand, both of whom have been suffering from injury problems of late.
Terry, who is due to play for Chelsea against Hull City tonight, will not have been encouraged by new paparazzi pictures of Perroncel yesterday which suggested that she is enjoying her time in the limelight and is likely to exploit her situation with the help of publicist Max Clifford.