Barely three weeks after winning their first Serie A title in 11 years, Inter Milan and Antonio Conte have separated.
It might not be understandable to fans, especially after the two sides decided to continue together at the start of the season and then exchanged messages of love on the way to success.
The reality is different, however, and sees Inter and Conte on two very different wavelengths.
So why did this happen and where does that leave Inter and in fact the whole Serie A landscape?
Why did Conte leave?
The club and its owners have been hit hard by the pandemic and its economic consequences.
Rumors that Chinese owners of Inter have been looking to sell have been circulating for a few months and a recent € 275million (£ 215million) loan from a US investment firm was needed to help the club get through this very difficult time.
The money will be used to cover costs and salaries for this season, as well as to provide a little wiggle room for the next. And it will have to be repaid.
But hiding a problem doesn’t eliminate it: Inter are short of money and need to reduce their ambitions immediately, which is not compatible with Conte’s goals.
Conte met the club managers ahead of the last game against Udinese on Saturday and was briefed on their plans.
Inter intends to increase its cash reserves and reduce the payroll by 20%.
A delegation of Inter supporters have obtained confirmation from the club that they will not sell their players too low or give up their title defense, let alone look bad in Europe.
Nevertheless, their change of perspective will have massive consequences.
Is everything Inter created this season falling apart?
Selling at least one of their best players will be necessary, and some are interested.
Alessandro Bastoni has emerged as one of Serie A’s best defenders at the age of 22, Stefan de Vrij has been the most consistent center-back throughout the season and Achraf Hakimi has more than proven his worth.
Then there’s top scorer Romelu Lukaku and striking partner Lautaro Martinez, who had a long flirtation with Barcelona last summer and now appears to be a target for Real Madrid.
And what about Nicolo Barella? Some say he is currently the best midfielder in Europe and Italy boss Roberto Mancini will only agree.
With less than three weeks to go before the European Championship, some of the most important players could be distracted by future opportunities.
And although most of the players have contracts until 2023 or 2024, their agents have already knocked on Inter’s door for answers.
Is Conte’s reputation stronger?
In the eyes of Italian fans, Conte’s reputation is actually weaker than stronger.
Conte has his goals and ambitions, which are legitimate and understandable, but there are those who believe that money and personal fame are his main motivators.
Some Juve fans have this opinion of their former manager, while some at Inter will share it as well.
Inter recognize, and rightly so, what Conte has done over the past two years: a Serie A title and league and Europa League finalists, and the technical, tactical and economic development of many players.
This is why they will part ways with disappointment and even sadness on both sides, for what could have been but never was.
What about Serie A as a whole?
Italian fans are all having a funny feeling in their stomachs right now.
Inter finally won after 11 years and their manager and main character leaves; Juventus are set to sack an icon like Andrea Pirlo and lose their most important player to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Italy’s number one goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is just a stone’s throw from leaving AC Milan, even though he has finally qualified for the UEFA Champions League – and all this after one of the most exciting seasons of over the past 10 years.
Add to that Juve continued refusal to denounce the European Super League, stimulated by a financial landscape which they find unsustainable, and the questions are numerous.
And after? It will be a summer of dilemma for all the top Italian clubs, rather than certainties.