Niall Quinn says John Terry’s Chelsea career hangs in the balance after he was substituted at half-time in the 3-0 defeat at Manchester City.
Terry was replaced by Kurt Zouma at the break by Jose Mourinho after Chelsea had been run ragged by Sergio Aguero in the first half at the Etihad Stadium.
City went onto win the game 3-0 with Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho adding to Aguero's first-half strike.
It was the first time Mourinho had ever substituted Terry in the 177 appearances he has made under him at Chelsea.
Mourinho revealed post match that the decision was a tactical one and the second-half performance showed it to be the right one.
Quinn thinks that the 34-year-old Chelsea captain could struggle to regain his place in the side.
“I think it could be the start of the end for John Terry,” he said.
“I think he’s got a hell of a battle on now to get back in the team. To be taken off at half-time in a big game, he would be gutted. He’ll be thinking long and hard tonight about what it means for him.
“I think the manager made too much of a point about how right he was over the substitution. That’s telling.
“Terry looked a broken man when the cameras went to him in the second half. He must have been feeling the pressure and this doesn’t come out of the blue. He effectively got the blame for the first-half performance and the manager justified it afterwards by praising Kurt Zouma.
“I don’t think it bodes well for John Terry. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.”
Meanwhile, Graeme Souness strongly disagreed with Quinn’s notion, believing that the decision to take off his captain was Mourinho making a statement to the Chelsea board.
Chelsea have struggled to make serious inroads in the transfer window with left-back Baba Rahman, Asmir Begovic and Radamel Falcao the only signings that have been brought in to challenge in the first-team.
Everton defender John Stones is a target for Chelsea but they have yet to increase their bid of £20m that was rejected last month.
Souness thinks that Mourinho’s substitutions were attempting to make a point to owner Roman Abramovich to potentially loosen the purse strings on their transfer budget.
“I don’t think it was anything to do with Terry’s performance,” Souness said.
I don't think it bodes well for John Terry. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I am.
“John Terry is still the best centre-back out there. I think he’s trying to force the owner’s hand to go and buy John Stones.
“I think it’s a manager making a statement to the owner, saying ‘I need more players’.
“What enhances my argument is the fact Cuadrado came on, who is up for sale. I think the manager wants more players and I think he was emphasising that point today.”