Carlo Ancelotti last night discovered just how ruthless Roman Abramovich could be after being sacked barely an hour after Chelsea's final game of the season.
Ancelotti was denied the meeting he was expecting with the club's hierarchy this week and was, instead, given his marching orders by chief executive Ron Gourlay following the club's 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Everton.
It is believed the decision to axe the manager was pre-planned, with the club keen to resolve any uncertainty about Ancelotti's future before the players went on holiday next week.
The search now begins in earnest for the Italian's successor, who will become Chelsea's seventh manager in the eight years since Abramovich's takeover.
Guus Hiddink — who had a successful spell as caretaker boss — is reportedly the Russian's number one target, with Porto sensation Andre Villas-Boas also heavily touted.
But securing either of those will not be easy, opening the door for a raft of other candidates.
The timing of Ancelotti's sacking was the only real surprise, with the 51-year-old appearing a dead man walking at Stamford Bridge for several weeks.
Despite winning the club's first ever double in his maiden season last year, he followed it up with their worst campaign of the Abramovich era.
The Russian had never before tolerated a manager failing to win at least one trophy in a given year and announcing Ancelotti's departure on their official website, www.chelseafc.com, the club said in a statement: “Chelsea Football Club can confirm that Carlo Ancelotti parted company with the club today.
“The owner and board would like to thank Carlo for his contribution and achievements since taking over as manager in July 2009, which included winning the double for the first time in the club's history.
“However, this season's performances have fallen short of expectations and the club feels the time is right to make this change ahead of next season's preparations.
“Carlo will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge, where he will be given the reception and respect his position in our history deserves.
“Chelsea's long-term football objectives and ambitions remain unchanged and we will now be concentrating all our efforts on identifying a new manager.
“There will be no further comment until that appointment is made.”
Ancelotti was given the boot immediately after completing his post-match media duties at Goodison Park.
That press conference saw him reiterate his belief he would have a meeting with his bosses this week, during which he would learn his fate.
The Italian was in good humour, saying: “I am now on holiday — but I am not sure how long my holiday will be!
“We haven't arranged any meeting but I think in the next week, now the season is finished, the club can address my job and they will take a decision.
“I have to wait and see what happens.
“I don't have to say anything to the club —- they can judge me on my job for two years.”
Speculation Ancelotti was to be sacked began after Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage against Manchester United and his fate was ultimately sealed when their late Premier League title charge ended with defeat to the same opponents.
Ancelotti was recruited from AC Milan two years ago partly because of his reputation as a European Cup specialist.
But his two cracks with Chelsea at the trophy Abramovich craves the most arguably saw the club go backwards, as they twice suffered earlier-than-expected exits.
The popular Italian's departure will nevertheless elicit a great deal of sympathy, with there being several mitigating circumstances for
this season's failure.
The decision to allow five senior players to leave last summer and focus more on youngsters appeared to backfire when injuries struck the spine of the team.
That coincided with the shock sacking of assistant manager Ray Wilkins, which was immediately followed by the club's worst run in the league for almost 15 years.
The January arrival of Fernando Torres also arguably had a destabilising effect at a time when Chelsea looked to be getting their season back on track.
Ancelotti will at least leave having pocketed the final year of his reported £5million-per-season salary and is unlikely to be out of work for long, with former club Roma currently seeking a new manager.
He has expressed a desire to stay in England but, despite diplomatic responses to any interest he might have in taking over a team outside the top six, that seems a non-starter.