Chelsea have confirmed that manager Jose Mourinho has left the Stamford Bridge club by 'mutual consent' after three trophy-laden years at the helm.
He is understood to have contacted five senior players yesterday afternoon to inform them of his departure and by midnight the entire first team squad had learned he was going.
Peter Kenyon, the club's chief executive, Bruce Buck, the chairman, and Abramovich's key aide, Eugene Tenenbaum, were called to an emergency meeting at Stamford Bridge last night to discuss the emerging crisis.
The club eventually confirmed Mourinho's departure in the early hours of this morning when they posted a statement on the club's official website.
The statement read: 'Chelsea Football Club and Jose Mourinho have agreed to part company today (Thursday) by mutual consent.'
Many of Chelsea's staff and players had been enjoying a relaxing evening at a Fulham Broadway cinema last night as they watched a screening of `Blue Revolution'` - a new documentary about the Abramovich years.
But senior players like captain John Terry and England midfielder Frank Lampard were absent and the remainder, except a reluctant England winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, refused to talk to the media.
Mourinho also attended the evening but ignored the waiting media and looked decidedly glum.
Former Chelsea player Didier Deschamps has emerged as one of the frontrunners to replace Jose Mourinho as manager at Stamford Bridge.
Deschamps, who captained France to glory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, is now one of the names in the frame to replace Mourinho.
Deschamps began his coaching career with Monaco before joining Juventus. But he resigned from the Italian club in May 2007 and is currently unemployed.
He spent a year with Chelsea as a player in 1999-2000 - winning the FA Cup.
It is understood the impasse between Mourinho and Abramovich came to a head after their 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa earlier this month.
Mourinho has been at loggerheads with the Russian since their disagreement over the lack of funds to sign players during last January's transfer window.
Mourinho's reluctance to play Andriy Shevchenko and the Russian's desire to bring in Avram Grant from Portsmouth to work with the misfiring striker only served to heighten the tension.
The former Israel coach was recruited in the summer as director of football and Mourinho is understood to have simmered ever since.
Now Grant is expected to be in charge for Sunday's clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Mourinho's departure will be followed by his backroom staff although assistant Steve Clarke is expected to remain on the payroll for now.
The Portuguese - whose £5.2 million a year contract was due to expire in 2010 - has been dismayed by the constant watering down of his authority.
Abramovich's decision to recruit Dane Frank Arnesen from Tottenham as director of scouting and youth development in September 2005 was compounded further by the arrival of Grant.
But their dismal start to the new Barclays Premier League campaign and their 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League on Tuesday only served to heighten the problems and Mourinho decided he had reached the end of the road.
He had won every domestic honour since his arrival in England in the summer of 2004 but the Champions League eluded him.
Although he won the trophy with Porto in 2003, Chelsea were twice knocked out of the competition at the semi-final stage by Liverpool during his tenure.
The club confirmed Mourinho's backroom staff have also left the club.
Baltemar Brito (assistant manager/coach), Rui Faria (assistant manager/fitness coach) Andre Villas (head opposition scout/first team coach) and Silvino Louro (assistant manager/goalkeeper coach) have all departed.