Blues in trouble with Terry leaving and no new manager in sight, says Neil Humphreys
With the impending departure of Terry and the identity of new manager unknown, Chelsea face biggest crisis yet
With his usual fondness for melodrama, John Terry declared that there would not be a fairy-tale ending.
There will not be a fairy-tale beginning either. The Chelsea skipper was referring to his impending departure, but the downbeat prediction could easily stand for the club itself.
The Blues are mired in mediocrity and struggling with an identity crisis.
As they prepare for the short trip to Watford tomorrow morning (Singapore time), the reigning league champions are quietly facing the biggest crisis of the Roman Abramovich era.
The ghosts of managers past are finally coming back to haunt them, casting long shadows across an uncertain future. As one legend prepares to live, another will soon be on his way to Manchester City.
The contrasting fortunes of Terry and Pep Guardiola hint at Chelsea's internal strife, a burgeoning mess that is almost entirely of their own making.
The only coach with a chance of marrying Roman Abramovich's silverware demands with his aesthetic aspirations was Guardiola, but the Spaniard was never going to place his chrome dome on the Russian's bloody guillotine.
Too many years of chopping off heads has denied Abramovich the opportunity of signing the one manager who might have kept his.
And just about every other manager who might satisfy Chelsea's stringent job criteria has already had his head removed previously by Abramovich or he's currently turning Manchester United footballers into living statues.
Guus Hiddink, a rather nondescript presence, has put together a reasonable nine-match unbeaten run, but the Dutchman isn't viewed as a long-term solution.
Few managers are and therein lies the fundamental failing that threatens to tear Stamford Bridge apart from the inside out.
It's hard to feel sympathy for Terry, a man who fully embraced the riches that were available to any modern EPL footballer with a faulty moral compass.
But he made a telling point that betrayed Chelsea's ongoing instability.
The 35-year-old had negotiated each one-year contract extension in recent seasons in January. But the dysfunctional boardroom insisted on a delay this time because the executives wanted to wait and see if Terry featured in the new manager's plans, a new manager, incidentally, who hasn't yet been found.
So they procrastinated with their captain, a man who has given 18 years and 696 appearances to Chelsea. They waited in vain for the man upstairs to make a decision on the man in the dugout.
CONTROL IS LOST
When managers are hired and fired at the whim of one elusive, omnipotent owner, continuity becomes an unattainable commodity.
When Petr Cech, and other favoured players, can bypass the coach of the day and go straight to the benevolent autocrat, any semblance of dressing room control is lost.
Man City might have announced Guardiola's appointment with a characteristic lack of class, but his arrival will represent the conclusion of a four-year process that began when director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano were hired.
City were bringing over Barcelona's old boys, one by one, with the aim of building a dynasty to rival the Catalans. Guardiola was the final piece of the jigsaw.
Chelsea's processes barely last four months. It's one madcap, ad-hoc, dictatorial decision after another.
Mourinho was fired twice with no clear succession policy in place. Other managers were treated with similar disregard and lack of foresight.
Their academies are still waiting for the next Terry to emerge through the ranks, as panic-stricken coaches rely on desperate spending sprees to hold off Abramovich's steely blade.
Terry's decision now means Chelsea will lack leadership on the pitch, direction in the dugout and any sense of where the club are going and what the long-term objectives are.
Interestingly, the high point of Abramovich's ownership was also Terry's most embarrassing moment, when the suspended skipper changed into his kit to collect the Champions League trophy in 2012.
Only three players - Branislav Ivanovic, Jon Obi Mikel and Gary Cahill - remain from that triumphant side of just four years ago.
Terry's departure finally breaks the blue spine of Cech, Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, the men who built modern Chelsea under Mourinho's guidance.
They will soon all be gone for good, leaving a disjointed squad in search of a captain, a centre back, a holding midfielder, a revitalised No. 10 and support for Diego Costa (assuming he stays in the summer).
Most of all, they need to find a manager in a shrinking market, with the best coaches already occupied elsewhere.
Suddenly, and for the first time, Abramovich's money is no longer enough.
The Chelsea owner cannot buy a fairy-tale ending for his captain. And he may not be able to buy one for his club either.