Michael Emenalo has shocked Chelsea by deciding to step down from his position as technical director.
While speculation has been raging over the future of head coach Antonio Conte, Emenalo has decided to bring his 10-year association with the club to an end.
The move may be viewed in some quarters as a victory for Conte, but Emenalo has remained supportive of the Italian who he helped to appoint last year.
Emenalo’s decision is a huge blow to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who counted the 52-year-old among the few people he trusts and takes advice from.
With his help, Chelsea have won the Premier League title three times, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Europa League and the Champions League while Emenalo has been at the club.
Conte is the 10th manager Emenalo has worked with and the former Notts County player has been a vital element of the Abramovich era.
Abramovich visited Chelsea’s Cobham training ground last week, when it is likely Emenalo will have discussed the matter with the Russian.
Chelsea suffered a frustrating summer transfer window, which caused tension between Conte, Emenalo and director Marina Granovskaia.
Sources have suggested that Emenalo does not wish to engage in a three-way power battle with Conte and Granovskaia who are known not to see eye to eye.
Emenalo first joined Chelsea with Avram Grant in 2007 and worked as an opposition scout and assistant first-team coach under Carlo Ancelotti, replacing Ray Wilkins.
Abramovich’s decision for Emenalo to take over from Wilkins and sit on the Chelsea bench caused controversy and thrust the former defender into the spotlight.
He was promoted to technical director in 2011 and has been largely responsible for player recruitment and Chelsea’s vast youth network.
Emenalo has often been blamed for signings that have not worked out and the number of youngsters sent away on loan, but he has also enjoyed great success in his job.
Eden Hazard is one of his most successful signings, but Emenalo has also been responsible for the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku joining Chelsea.
Emenalo was left frustrated that the likes of De Bruyne and Lukaku were not given a greater chance under former manager Jose Mourinho before they both decided to leave Chelsea.
Often remaining in the background, Emenalo made headlines after Chelsea sacked Mourinho in 2015 by blaming “palpable discord between the players and the manager.”
It is unclear what Emenalo plans to do next or whether Chelsea will immediately attempt to replace him with a new technical director before the January transfer window.
He gained his Uefa Pro Licence this summer and his climb up the football ladder is one of the most impressive in modern football.
Born in Nigerian, Emenalo moved to the United States in 1986 where he graduated from Boston University with a degree in international relations with political sciences.
Having played college football in America, his career continued in Belgium with Molenbeek and Germany with Eintracht Trier before moving to England to play for Notts County in 1994.
During the same year he played in the USA World Cup for Nigeria and won a total of 14 caps for the Super Eagles.
It was at his last club, Maccabai Tel Aviv in Israel, that Emenalo played under Grant and that association eventually facilitated his move to Chelsea.