John Terry faces being stripped of the England captaincy over allegations he had an affair with the then girlfriend of Wayne Bridge.
Senior team-mates at club and country believe the Chelsea captain has over-stepped the mark and Fabio Capello, the England manager, faces a tough decision deciding how to handle this complicated problem which threatens to de-stabilise his side's attempt to win the World Cup in the summer.
Terry, the father of three-year-old twins, is alleged to have cheated on his wife Toni with Vanessa Perroncel, mother of Bridge's son, Jaydon. The England captain married Toni Poole in 2007, while Bridge is understood to have split from Perroncel, a French-born underwear model, at the end of last year.
Bridge and Terry were close friends when they were both at Chelsea. However, the Manchester City full-back, who is almost certain of a place in the World Cup squad, is so upset about the affair that he is considering announcing his retirement from international football. Bridge is understood to have the sympathy of several team-mates in the England squad, and has also received the backing of some players at Chelsea.
The Football Association will leave Capello to decide what action, if any, is to be taken against Terry, 29. Capello is a strict disciplinarian who encourages the squad to spend more time together as a group, rather than sitting in their hotel rooms playing video games. If he believes Terry's extra-marital affair has damaged the morale of the squad with the World Cup less than five months' away, he will want to act sooner rather than later.
The FA last night indicated that they are unwilling to make any changes to the captaincy based on newspaper allegations.
Terry spent last night at a hotel in Lancashire with the Chelsea squad ahead of today's Premier League game at Burnley. However, his judgement will once again be called into question after a set of embarrassing misdemeanours.
The latest revelations are likely to be the most damaging yet. Terry's lawyers Schillings had successfully applied for a high court injunction on 22 January to stop the public learning about the alleged affair which was to have been exposed by the News of the World. The newspaper appealed and yesterday the injunction was lifted by Mr Justice Tugendhat.
The alleged affair is a huge embarrassment for Capello who made Terry his captain in August 2008 after a trial period in which he also looked at Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand. Both those players could replace Terry as captain.
It is not the first time that Terry has brought shame on the privileged position of England captain. Only last month he had to be reminded of his responsibilities both on and off the pitch in a telephone conversation with a member of Capello's staff in the wake of reports he had accepted money for an unofficial tour of Chelsea's Cobham training ground. The club later denied that Terry received any cash in return for organising the tour.
That incident came shortly after The Independent revealed that Terry had enlisted the help of marketing company Riviera Entertainment Limited in a crass attempt to attract more sponsors. Riviera sent out an email that used the official Fifa World Cup logo without permission and carried an image of Terry in a Chelsea strip without the club's knowledge. Terry said afterwards he had not approved the email shot.
In March last year, Terry's mum and mother-in-law were allegedly caught shoplifting £800 worth of clothes and food from two supermarkets. In November 2009, Terry's father Ted was exposed by the News of the World allegedly agreeing to sell cocaine in a pub.
Capello and his management team still harbour concerns over why the experienced centre-half shows such a lack of discipline in his private life. The Italian is to wait until he has heard Terry's side of events before he makes any decision on his captain's future. He will not make any major decision on Terry's future until next week when he returns from Lugano in Switzerland where he is recuperating from a knee operation.
Capello has never backed away from making a tough decision in a 19-year managerial career but this could be the most important call he will have to make during his time with England.