A tackle from Cesc Fabregas on an under-21 player reportedly provoked a heated confrontation in training on Wednesday—the day prior to Jose Mourinho's sacking as manager.
According to Matt Hughes of the Times, "a strong but fair challenge" from Fabregas "provoked a physical reaction" from the youngster and caused the training session to descend "into a shoving match," with a number of players needing to be separated by the coaches.
Mourinho's involvement in the scuffle is unknown—if he was even involved at all—but it paints a sorry picture of his final days in charge following a turbulent campaign.
The news follows a report from Andrew Dillon and Shaun Custis of the Sun on Tuesday that Fabregas has attracted criticism from his team-mates following a series of poor performances this season.
The 28-year-old is one of many players at Chelsea to fail to live up to the standards set last year, per Sky Sports News HQ:
Sky Sports News HQ @SkySportsNewsHQ
Cesc Fabregas has struggled to live up to his standards from the first 16 games last season #SSNHQ https://t.co/lwMa5knYyR2015-12-15 23:59:09
Football writer Nooruddean Choudry was scathing in his assessment of the midfielder's performance against Leicester City on Monday in what turned out to be Mourinho's final game in charge.
Did someone tell Fabregas this was a testimonial of some sort? I've seen Jack Whitehall put in more effort during a Soccer Aid game.2015-12-14 21:55:42
Meanwhile, the Spaniard isn't being helped by the supporters of his former side Arsenal, who are joking that he is a "secret agent," working for the Gunners to bring down their rivals from the inside, according to Metro's Jamie Sanderson.
Nevertheless, Fabregas sent a heartfelt message of thanks to Mourinho on Twitter following his sacking:
Cesc Fàbregas Soler @cesc4official
Thank you for all you have done for me. I owe you a lot and we will all miss you. Good luck in the future. https://t.co/RQlOTFrtzU2015-12-17 16:57:37
Further, after the Leicester defeat he urged his fellow players to stand up and be counted in a bid to turn their season around. Per BBC Sport, he said:
If you are a big player and paid like a big player, you must play like a big player and behave like a big player.
I am not saying you can't have a bad season and bad games but the attitude must be spot on.
We must always be at the top of our games and the behaviour has to be better than what we are seeing right now from every single Chelsea player.
Training ground bust-ups often tend to be fairly divisive. For some, it will be a further indication of Mourinho's failure to keep his players working in harmony toward salvaging their campaign; for others, it will show the players care about their situation and are passionate about turning things around.
If the players are at each other's throats, Mourinho's successor will need to solve that problem first and foremost or risk their season spiralling further out of control.
For the players themselves, regardless of their feelings on the previous manager and his exit, a new boss represents a new start.
Fabregas is certainly one of those players who could use a clean slate when it comes to performances, so how he and his team-mates respond in the coming weeks will be very telling.