It was last year when the Chelsea players first realised the sands at Stamford Bridge had shifted.
Antonio Conte’s side had been outclassed in their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, prompting a visit from owner Roman Abramovich to the Blues’ Cobham HQ.
During his time there, talking to Conte in the training ground canteen, a number of players tried approaching the Russian billionaire – only to be given short shrift.
The statement from Abramovich was clear – the days of a hotline to the owner, either in front of or behind the manager’s back, were over.
The likes of John Terry, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard may have been indulged in previous years to the cost of the man in the hotseat, but that culture had changed.
So when Diego Costa made his desperate appeal for Abramovich to overrule Conte’s brutal text message, telling the striker that his services are no longer required, the silence was deafening.
“It’s a shame.” said Costa, whose goals have been pivotal in helping the club to two titles in the last three seasons.
“I’ve already forwarded the message to Chelsea people to decide,” he said. “But it is clear that the coach does not count on me and does not want me there.”
The likes of Andre Villas Boas, Luiz Felipe Scolari and even Jose Mourinho were all undermined by the players at the Bridge, their importance outweighing that of the manager.
Abramovich had been particularly keen for Mourinho to succeed on his return to the club, to such an extent that the Russian took the rare step of issuing a public vote of confidence in the Portuguese to try and allay the pressure on him.
With the players continuing to down tools, however, the Chelsea owner was left with no alternative but to sack the boss previously known as The Special One. Technical Director Michael Emanalo confirmed he had gone over a “palpable discord” with his dressing room.
Abramovich appears to have learned from the experience enough to disconnect the hotline and allow his manager to manage.
So when – with Chinese club Tianjin Quinlan expressing an interest – Costa clashed with Conte’s fitness coach in January, the Italian dropped him and the die was cast.
Chelsea at the time had been well aware that Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, had been in China courting interest in the player.
Costa went on to score just three times in 11 games after the January window had closed. The disciplinary issues were also back. Conte dropped him again, this time to the bench for the FA Cup semi-final win over Spurs.
All the while the club were crystallising plans to move him on this summer and replace him with Lukaku, a player who would give them far less grief and just as much commitment.
Costa is unlikely to be the last big name to go this summer as Conte builds his own team. Branislav Ivanovic went in January. John Terry went at the end of the season. Nemanja Matic feared he could go last summer and could go this. Likewise Cesc Fabregas.
For the 30-year-old the past season was the sixth in which he has managed 10 assists or more – a feat no other Premier League player has managed.
It was an impressive response to learning the club had been willing to listen to offers for him last summer. So the former Arsenal star was surprised to be left out of the starting line-up for the FA Cup Final.
He has since admitted he wants to be playing regular first-team football with the World Cup coming up in 12 months’ time.
Ruthless Conte has already shown that no player is bigger than his team. The cycle of the current vintage has come to an end.
PREVIOUS CHELSEA REBELLIONS
Luiz Felipe Scolari sacked by Chelsea after losing the confidence of senior players at the club.
It was alleged that senior players had asked for the intensity of training to be stepped up in a bid to return to the high-tempo football of the Jose Mourinho era.
Portuguese midfielder Deco, speaking in 2015, said: “Some players, if they had a problem with the coach, didn’t speak with him but instead communicated directly with the directors. That isn’t good for a team.”
Drogba also revealed in his autobiography that he called Roman Abramovich to complain after Scolari insisted he would be sold.
Drogba wrote: “When I left the meeting, the first thing I did was call Mr Abramovich and explain the situation via one of his assistants.”
He was then told by the owner: “No, you’re not going anywhere. Who said you were going?”
Soon afterwards Scolari was sacked. Drogba went on to score in the FA Cup final win later that season.
Andre Villas-Boas sacked by Chelsea after less than a year in charge.
The decision taken after a run of just three Premier League wins in 12 games. He was replaced by Roberto Di Matteo who went on to oversee their remarkable Champions League win.
Villas-Boas appeared to have a difficult working relationship with senior players at the club, several of whom were only slightly younger than him. Ashley Cole went on to confirm in 2014 that AVB had not had the complete backing of the dressing room.
Cole said: “There were some players who didn’t want to work hard for Villas-Boas. But as soon as [Roberto] Di Matteo arrived, that all changed.”
Didier Drogba revealed in his autobiography, Commitment, published in 2015, that the club’s Champions League win was inspired by decisions taken by the players rather than the manager, Roberto Di Matteo.
“The players really stepped up to take responsibility,” wrote the Ivorian. “The manager (Roberto Di Matteo) was telling Branislav Ivanovic to play centre back but Jose Bosingwa said: ‘No, no, I will play centre back’, and carried on to say where he thought others should play.
“‘I don’t care’, I remember saying. ‘I can play left back if necessary. We don’t need a striker. I’ll play striker and left back, whatever it takes’.”
Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo confirms the club had to sack Jose Mourinho because of a “palpable discord” between him and the players.
Mourinho dismissed with the Blues 16th in the Premier League and just a point above the relegation zone – their worst start to a season since 1978. Following a defeat days earlier at Leicester, Mourinho accused some of his players of “betraying his work”.