Ancelotti suffers harsh fate
Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal as Chelsea manager immediately after the season's final game is ruthless even by Roman Abramovich's standards - coming barely a year after guiding the club to their first domestic double.
Chelsea's rivals revel in taunts claiming they are a club without history. Ancelotti created it by winning the Premier League and the FA Cup in his first season, but it counted for nothing when his second ended in empty-handed disappointment.
The Italian has brought decency and a tinder dry sense of humour to accompany a rich pedigree forged with two Champions League wins at AC Milan to the Premier League. There will be genuine sympathy inside and outside Stamford Bridge for Ancelotti, who was informed of his sacking shortly after defeat at Everton.
In the past fortnight he has also brought a sense of resignation as he gave every indication of realising his fate was sealed once, and possibly even before, defeat at Manchester United snuffed out hopes of retaining the title.
The decision to dispense with Ancelotti is the latest indication of Abramovich's impatience and a lack of tolerance of what he measures as failure.
It takes a leap of the imagination to believe a coach with Ancelotti's track record and proven ability to deliver success, as he did at Chelsea only 12 months ago, has diminshed powers and should pay for one fruitless season with his job.
Ancelotti had become increasingly resigned to his fate in recent weeks. Photo: Getty
And yet he has been on borrowed time almost from the moment Manchester United cut off another route to silverware this season and denied Chelsea - and more significantly Abramovich - his Holy Grail of the Champions League.
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin told me after hearing Ancelotti had gone: "I think pretty well everyone will say they are sorry to see Carlo go.
"I feel comfortable saying that because I don't think you will find anyone saying he was hopeless and they are happy he has gone. He was popular with Chelsea's fans and had won trophies for them.
"It is very disappointing as I hoped he would stay. Most would say he won the double and deserved more than another year, but Chelsea have a different viewpoint.
"If you follow Chelsea you have two choices. You have a management structure that includes Mr Abramovich's billions and change comes very quickly in a manner some will find annoying and would suggest is unfair. Or you have a situation where there is a more long-term view, somebody builds something and it doesn't matter if you don't win anything for a season - and you don't have Mr Abramovich's millions.
"This is the choice you have and what you accept if you also accept that Mr Abramovich is backing the club financially. This is the deal you make.
"They probably accept that although it is not always a satisfactory and comfortable situation they may also look and wonder where Chelsea would be without Roman Abramovich's money."
Nevin added: "Most importantly, over and above anything else, he was a very successful coach. You don't win a double by fluke and last season was the best in Chelsea's history when measured by winning the double."
It is all a far cry from the sunny day at Wembley last May when Chelsea beat Portsmouth to complete phase two of that double to ensure Ancelotti's name will stand forever in the Stamford Bridge record books.
The seeds of his downfall were effectively sown last summer when a succession of experienced and influential players such as Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti and, to a lesser extent, Joe Cole were allowed to leave Chelsea and were never adequately replaced.
Yossi Benayoun arrived but soon succumbed to serious injury while Ramires is promising but a work in progress. The squad was weakened and suffered further after a bright start when Frank Lampard was sidelined for months with a groin injury, Didier Drogba contracted malaria and John Terry also struggled for full fitness.
The blistering opening fizzled out and decline on the pitch was then matched by uncertainty off it when Ray Wilkins, a popular figure within the dressing room and the perfect buffer between Ancelotti and his players, was told in November his contract was not being renewed and left immediately.
It was a move that mystified many inside Chelsea, and very obviously sat uncomfortably with Ancelotti, as did the appointment of Michael Emenalo from his position as head opposition scout to assistant first team coach.
This was an appointment in name only as the rest of the season passed by without barely a hint of public consultation between Ancelotti and his supposed right-hand man.
Then came January and the flexing of Abramovich's financial muscle that saw Fernando Torres join Chelsea from Liverpool in a £50m British record deal - a move that has never at any point appeared to be Ancelotti's doing - and the £25m signing of Benfica's David Luiz.
Ancelotti has tried, without success, to integrate Torres either with or without Drogba, a task not helped by the Spaniard's failure to move within a country mile of the greatness that made him one of the world's most coveted players two years ago.
He became wrapped up in a tactical fog that descended on him with Torres' arrival, and subsequent disruption to a favoured 4-3-3 format, and yet in a season of "failure" Chelsea closed to the very shoulders of eventual champions United until they lost at Old Trafford a fortnight ago.
Ancelotti should leave without a scar on his reputation and will no doubt resurface swiftly given his standing. He also gave Chelsea a softer public image after the Jose Mourinho era, which brought moments of antagonism as well as its glories.
I attended Ancelotti's introduction as Chelsea coach at Stamford Bridge in July 2009 when he declared his love of "irony" - a quality that may have served him well as he pulled out of Goodison Road on Sunday evening.
The permanently-arched left eyebrow hinted at that mischievous sense of humour, telling the assembled it looked like John Terry's Chelsea career was over and he was on his way to Manchester City before announcing: "Naturally, I like to joke."
It is unlikely he will regard the stain of a sacking on his c.v. as a laughing matter but he appeared well prepared for what plenty in football regard as a grave injustice when he said: "If they decide to change, it's not a problem. You won't see me crying."
There was irony, too, in his handshake with Everton manager David Moyes shortly before he was informed his services were no longer required. Moyes, in his tenth year at Goodison Park, is an example of the continuity and stability that appears alien to Abramovich in his relentless search for trophies, particularly the Champions League.
Guus Hiddink, who won the FA Cup in his brief spell in charge at Chelsea and is currently Turkey coach, is now being touted as Director of Football with Marco van Basten as coach.
Stellar names in football, but with a rebuild required at Chelsea and Terry, Lampard and Drogba at the wrong end of their careers, no guarantee of an upgrade on Ancelotti. And will they pay a similarly heavy price for failure to win the Champions League?
Nevin believes the manager who inflicted Ancelotti's final loss would be a suitable successor - although reality and past choices suggest he will not enter the Russian's thinking.
He said: "I always choose these words very carefully as I have an Everton side as well as a Chelsea side, but if David Moyes was available and he was leaving Everton - which he isn't, I should stress - then the first club I would happily take him at is Chelsea."
The Premier League will miss Ancelotti's measured dignity and calm approach. Whether he will miss the Premier League after the manner of his Chelsea exit is another matter.