Roberto Mancini's place at the front of the queue to become Chelsea's new manager was enhanced tonight when Inter Milan finally confirmed he was no longer their boss.
The former Sampdoria and Lazio star's exit has been an inevitability for several days, but the confirmation of his departure from the San Siro means he is the best placed of the leading candidates to succeed Avram Grant at Stamford Bridge - with both Mark Hughes and Luiz Felipe Scolari employed elsewhere.
The Nerazzurri revealed the news in a statement on their website, adding that Mancini's announcement in the wake of their Champions League defeat to Liverpool on March 11 that he would step down at the end of the season had been a crucial factor.
Mancini reversed his decision 24 hours later and went on to lead Inter to their third straight Serie A title, but after much speculation his departure was confirmed this evening.
The statement on www.inter.it read: 'FC Internazionale have communicated to Mr Mancini his dismissal from the position of first-team coach, particularly because of the declarations made by the coach after the Inter-Liverpool match on March 11, (because) of what has followed, and furthermore the facts which recently emerged in the newspaper stories.'
Mancini and Inter president Massimo Moratti held a 25-minute meeting on Tuesday, with the coach's agent Giorgio de Giorgis subsequently claiming his client had parted company with the club.
Inter earlier reacted angrily to speculation over Mancini's future and threatened legal action if reports continued which 'do not correspond to the truth of the facts'.
Reports in the media suggested there had been a breakdown in communication between the coach and Moratti and that his client was to be replaced by former Blues boss Jose Mourinho.
The Italian champions claimed there had been some incorrect reporting on the situation and threatened further action should it continue.