Jose Mourinho last night left Chelsea ending one of the most extraordinary and tempestuous reigns as a manager of any football club.
It also means he loses the most lucrative job in the Premier League, with a salary of £5.2m a year, although his agent Jorge Mendes was yesterday negotiating a pay-off. The Portuguese manager, who looked for another job last season and wanted to move to Italy, is likely to receive a flood of offers. The fact that he is settled in London, and appears to love the city and his lifestyle here, will not go unnoticed by Tottenham Hotspur who are considering replacing their manager, Martin Jol.
Mourinho had always maintained that he wanted to fulfil his contract which runs until 2010. However that was simply to protect the money he feels entitled to and privately he has told friends that he would always leave Chelsea on his own terms.
Sources at the club claimed that Mourinho quit after yet another bust-up with the hierarchy, although he may have been dismissed anyway.
Last night he texted three of the senior players - John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba - to drop the bombshell that he was leaving. Ironically his departure coincided with the premiere of a film called "Blue Revolution" which is a documentary of the last three years at Chelsea during Mourinho's stewardship. The showing took place at a cinema on Fulham Broadway attended by the club's players. In the film chief executive Peter Kenyon hails Mourinho as the best manager Chelsea could have.
It appeared last night that he had walked out before he could be pushed, and the final straw appears to have been - rather than the 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League - the goalless draw with Blackburn on Saturday.
Discussions started then as to how Mourinho could be forced out especially as he appeared not to have followed through on promises to moderate his outspoken aggressive style and, crucially, create a more exciting team.
There has also been rising tension this season over Mourinho's treatment of Andrei Shevchenko, a hangover from last season. Shevchenko did not even make the Chelsea squad until the weekend.
The relationship between the two - even though Mourinho did not oppose the Ukrainian being signed for Â£30m from Milan - has been difficult almost since Shevchenko arrived last summer. The 31-year-old is a friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich but was accused, privately, last season by Mourinho of being "on holiday". Many of Abramovich's associates and friends have been appalled by Mourinho's treatment of the player and it has been a constant source of friction.
However, Mourinho has been a frustrated figure for some time and has threatened to leave on at least four previous occasions despite winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups.
Mourinho also grew exasperated at the various factions vying for control at Chelsea and, despite the unprecedented success he brought in his three years in charge, felt continually undermined. In fairness it was the most political club in the country with a number of figures trying to gain influence and the ear of Abramovich.
Mourinho will be followed out of Stamford Bridge by his loyal Portuguese coaching staff, including his assistants Baltemar Brito, Silvinho Louro, Rui Faria and Andre Villas Boas. Chelsea will also have to work hard to placate several players, such as Drogba, who are intensely loyal to Mourinho.
They will also have to find an interim replacement for the manager with the obvious candidate being the director of football, Avram Grant, although he would only be a short-term measure. The arrival of the Israeli, from Portsmouth, was a source of another of the disagreements Mourinho had with Abramovich.
The manager opposed the appointment especially as, originally, when the plan was mooted last January, Grant was to be employed to work on Shevchenko. There was also a suggestion that another Mourinho assistant, Steve Clarke, should be sacked which the manager blocked.
At the time relations were at the point of collapse with Abramovich denying Mourinho funds to sign players in the transfer window. The tipping point for Mourinho was Chelsea's refusal to sanction a swap deal he had personally brokered with Shaun Wright-Phillips moving to Aston Villa in return for the Czech striker Milan Baros.
Kenyon attempted to act as peace-maker - and even released a statement last May backing the manager - but was only papering over the cracks even though Mourinho accepted that he had to change. He also eventually accepted Grant, the signing of the Brazilian defender Alex - and a new tighter spending regime at the club. Mourinho promised to be more relaxed and friends say that he decided to change his priorities a little this season.
Abramovich was frustrated with Mourinho following the run of results over Christmas, when he had many of his VIP guests over to watch Chelsea's matches, and some of the manager's outspoken comments in which he has blamed others for his team's indifferent performances.
Mourinho also had a fiery relationship with Frank Arnesen, the club's chief scout and director of youth development, and the two clashed on several occasions with the manager accusing the Dane of attempting to undermine him.
After his threat to quit in January, Abramovich started to look for replacements and, at one time, courted Barcelona's Frank Rijkaard and Didier Deschamps who was then at Juventus. The Frenchman could be a candidate now but does not want to move to London. It is also believed that the Chelsea representatives have already made tentative approaches to Guus Hiddink, the coach of the Russian national team.
It was only after last May's FA Cup final victory over Manchester United that Abramovich decided not to sack Mourinho. Now that decision has been taken out of his hands.