William Gallas faces disciplinary action after failing to turn up for Chelsea's pre-season training camp here, and his future at the club must be in severe doubt.
Gallas, who was due in America on Monday, has been warned to expect a club fine and will miss Saturday's game against the MLS All-Stars in Chicago.
Although his agent, Pierre Frelot, claims it was due to a " misunderstanding" Chelsea are clearly angry at his behaviour, even though they are still trying to persuade him to sign a new four-year contract worth £70,000 a week.
Only three months ago, the 28-year-old insisted he had made a definitive decision to leave Chelsea after an approach from Milan, and it is only the match-fixing scandal in Italy that seemed to temper his view. Now, however, the situation is coming to the boil again.
A Chelsea statement said: "Gallas will not be joining up with Chelsea for the pre-season tour of the US. Gallas was due to join the team with the other Chelsea players who participated in the World Cup semi-finals and final.
"William requested extra time off following the World Cup but was informed he should still report to Los Angeles on the date previously agreed with him. He did not report and further action will now be considered as a consequence.
"Pre-season training and the tour is about building team spirit among our squad and extra leave is only granted for valid football-related reasons.
"Discussions between Chelsea and William about a new contract are already welcomed documented and are ongoing. He has one year left on his current contract."
Frelot added fuel to the fire last night by backtracking on an earlier statement that Gallas simply needed "more rest to recover from the World Cup than was first forecast by the club". Instead, Frelot claimed "family reasons" were at the root of the defender's absence.
The agent refused to confirm Gallas that would stay at Stamford Bridge. He said: "I am waiting to speak to him. He's still got a year on his current deal so is still a Chelsea player. He should be back Friday, but I will meet with him to discuss his future and whether he wants to stay at Chelsea."
Jose Mourinho's mind games have started almost three weeks before the Premiership season begins after he ruled Liverpool out of the title race and declared himself unimpressed by their style of football.
The Premiership champions and Liverpool, who will meet in the Community Shield on 13 August, have a history of antagonism, having played each other 10 times in the past two seasons. Rows during that time have included accusations that Arjen Robben dived to get Jose Reina sent off; vitriol over a horrific tackle by Michael Essien on Dietmar Hamann, and a heated debate over a crucial Luis Garcia goal that appeared not to cross the line in the Champions' League semi-final won by the Anfield club in 2005.
Tactically, Liverpool's Rafael Benitez has given Mourinho more problems than any other of his managerial counterparts in England and so no wonder the Portuguese bridled at suggestions from his own captain, John Terry that the Anfield club would be title contenders this time.
"I still believe that Man United and Arsenal will, in spite of the fact Arsenal finished fourth and Liverpool third last season, be the better teams, " he insisted. "The quality of their football, the way they play, the improvements in their squads is key. Man United will improve a lot by having Michael Carrick. He's a very good player and I think they can be a very strong team.
"Arsenal were not successful in the Premiership last season but had success, you can say that, because they reached the final of the Champions' League playing always very good football. They have a very good group of players, and some young players with great motivation. [Tomas] Rosicky is also a very important signing for them and they are a very strong team.
"Liverpool are different. They are very competitive it's very difficult to beat them. If they score a goal before you score it's very difficult to change it because they defend with 11 players very, very compact. They are tactically very good and they are potentially fighting for the front pack. But I still fancy more the way Manchester United and Arsenal play football."
Mourinho believes that Chelsea have only themselves to blame if they do not win a third Premiership title in a row. "The fight is against ourselves. We must challenge ourselves. But I don't believe it will be easy for other clubs to stop us because we are building a very strong football team and also a very strong family."Reuse content