Jose Mourinho checked out on Real Madrid on Tuesday, just as the famous old Spanish club checked out of the Champions League at the hands of its most hated rival.
Mourinho is still in charge of Real, which drew 1-1 with Barcelona in its semifinal second leg to crash 3-1 on aggregate score out of the tournament it craves more than any other. But by not even turning up at Barca's Camp Nou, allegedly because of security fears, the Special One showed that mentally he has already moved on to his next challenge, whatever that may be.
The Portuguese manager, one of the finest and most enigmatic coaches in soccer's modern history, was banned from taking his usual place on the sidelines after receiving a red card during the first leg for protesting too much at what he perceived as unfair refereeing.
Yet his no-show was still nothing short of extraordinary. While in charge of Chelsea in 2005, he arranged for a uniform attendant to wheel him into the locker room in a laundry hamper in order to give his side a pre-game pep talk and violate a UEFA directive banning him from contact with his players before or after a Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich.
Even last week he surreptitiously passed notes to an assistant once he had been sent to the stands. This is not a man who countenances fear, either that of official rebuke or physical harm from rival fans. He should have been there.
This result, which was effectively sealed when Pedro scored for Barca early in the second half before Marcelo equalized soon after, was the end of a painful road in what has been a disappointing first season in Madrid for Mourinho.
He not only is a coach who sets himself the highest of standards, but also one to whom the soccer public looks to for excellence, because he has produced it so often in the past.
Never mind that Real hadn't won the Spanish league since 2007-08, the second place they are destined for once again is seen as a failure, with Mourinho held culpable. Never mind that it had lost in the Champions League round of 16 six straight times, a semifinal defeat is not good enough when compared to Mourinho's victory in the competition with a weaker Inter Milan team last year.
The Spanish Cup is now all Mourinho and Real will take from this campaign, with the fact that victory in the final came at Barcelona's expense little more than scant consolation.
Real chiefs could tolerate Mourinho's moods and irascible nature if he was winning the biggest prizes on offer. But his public comments, private and not-so-private tantrums and general demeanor have rubbed so many the wrong way. So much so that a divorce between club and boss now seems inevitable.
It will surely be mutual. It seems that Mourinho hankers for a return to England, where the Premier League captured his heart before he was prematurely fired by Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.
Manchester United would be his preferred destination, and the only chance of that happening might be if the Red Devils ease past Schalke in Wednesday' semifinal, find a way to outwit Barca in the final and see off Chelsea's late challenge to win the EPL for the fourth time in five years.
Only then would Sir Alex Ferguson, the only unsackable manager in European soccer, be tempted to bring an end to his incredible 25-year spell in charge at Old Trafford.
Mourinho will have other options – countless clubs want a man with his pedigree and reputation. Plenty of managers' positions in England would become that much more untenable if Mourinho made it known he was available.
Roberto Mancini may not feel so secure at Manchester City, Kenny Dalglish's temporary role at Liverpool may remain just that, and even Chelsea, where Carlo Ancelotti has recovered somewhat from an atrocious middle part of the campaign, could welcome him back with open arms.
Mourinho's reputation is not really impinged by the events of the past two weeks, but it should be. He has been crass and belligerent and Tuesday's no-show is unforgivable and disrespectful. If Spanish police are capable of keeping thousands of baying fans away from each other, surely they could have protected one man.
The team talk he was said to have given via speaker phone is not enough, and Mourinho's professional status should be affected. But even though he will end the season empty-handed save for one little-regarded trophy, soccer is not ready to write Mourinho off yet, even if Real decides it can and must live without him.