It took just a few seconds following Real Madrid's Champions League exit on Wednesday night for Jose Mourinho to turn on his heel, stick his hands in his pockets and walk down the tunnel of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
As gestures go, it felt entirely symbolic: the self-proclaimed Special One turning his back on not only the penalty shootout misery that had just unfolded, but, quite possibly, the two-year stint at the club that has brought him little joy.
Madrid's rousing start to the second leg of its semifinal against Bayern Munich put it in pole position to clinch a spot in the final and set up what would have been a dream showdown for Mourinho. His former club Chelsea and the owner (Roman Abramovich) who sacked him after three seasons of unprecedented success lay in wait and the Portuguese boss could surely taste blood and redemption already.
He reckoned without a stirring Bayern fight back, though, as the Germans responded to Cristiano Ronaldo's opening two-goal burst with an Arjen Robben penalty that leveled the aggregate score and took the contest to extra-time and eventually those dreaded spot kicks.
When it mattered, the nerve of some of Mourinho's most renowned lieutenants failed them, with Ronaldo, Kaka and Sergio Ramos all producing tame efforts and gifting Bayern a 3-1 shootout triumph and a place in the final.
Mourinho could be back of course, could choose to attempt to finish the business he started here. Or he could move on, like he did from Porto, then Chelsea, then Inter Milan.
The 49-year-old likes to go out a winner and his departure from both Porto and Inter came directly after a Champions League title. Some will refuse to believe he can walk away having failed to bring that prize back to Madrid, but heading for pastures new also comes with some logic.
Regardless of this outcome Mourinho has achieved with his Madrid project, with last weekend's El Clásico victory over Barcelona enough to all-but-guarantee the side's first La Liga title in four years and bring an end to Barca's monopoly on the Spanish domestic league.
His persecution complex regarding his treatment by the club's board and Spanish referees, both groups that he feels conspire against him, has only intensified his desire to return to the English Premier League, where there will be no shortage of options open to him in the summer.
Furthermore, he may feel he has done all he can at Madrid and could leave having upheld his part of the bargain. Mourinho's tactics against Bayern were solid, if somewhat uninspiring, and should have been good enough to progress. Of all the people to miss penalties, Mourinho could be justified in expecting better from two former World Footballer of the Year winners (Ronaldo and Kaka) and a World Cup and European champion (Ramos).
Wednesday's gesture could have been mere disappointment, but it looked more like goodbye – just like when Mourinho peeled off his winner's medal after Porto was presented with the trophy in 2003, when he knew he was already Chelsea-bound, and just like his muted celebrations as Inter won it all in 2010 ahead of his switch to Madrid.
Mourinho could have his pick of virtually any job that is vacant and many that aren't. But should he depart, England does seem likely to be his next destination. After going through a swathe of managers in the years since, Abramovich must now realize the folly of letting Mourinho go in 2007 and would love to have him back, though interim boss Roberto Di Matteo will get at least a year if Chelsea wins the final.
Liverpool, Manchester City (if Roberto Mancini fails to clinch the English Premier League crown) or Tottenham would all be viable options and hold different levels of appeal. Crucially, none have ever won the EPL, and Mourinho would be lauded as a hero if he completed that achievement.
Still, it is by no means certain he will leave Madrid, and even if he is leaning towards that decision there is still time for him to change his mind. But evidence that a piece of his heart will forever remain in a certain corner of West London could be found in his post-match comments.
"Chelsea means a lot in my life and I would like them to win the final," Mourinho said. "Of course I want the Blues to win. I think Chelsea boys were heroes, absolute heroes against Barcelona."
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, Madrid made a dream start. Ronaldo slotted home a penalty after six minutes when David Alaba was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, and Ronaldo added another eight minutes later.
Bayern though, refused to quit and forced their way back into the game. Robben was calm with his penalty after Pepe fouled Mario Gomez on 27 minutes and the match remained in the balance through the rest of regulation and extra-time.
In penalty kicks, Ronaldo's miss with Madrid's first attempt set the tone for a disastrous shootout, and when Bastian Schweinsteiger slammed home the decisive strike for Bayern, Mourinho's dream evaporated, that walk down the tunnel began, and the speculation about the future of the world's most talked-about manager could begin.
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