THE Roman Abramovich era has been a time of unbelievable success at Chelsea.
But I reckon the club could be about to come crashing down to earth.
It’s not the departure of Antonio Conte as manager that will be the trigger.
That has been coming for months now.
Neither is it the poaching of short-fused Maurizio Sarri from Napoli as his replacement – though that may prove to be problematic down the line.
It’s not even the likely loss of star players like Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois once the post-World Cup transfer market hots up.
The biggest threat to Chelsea’s top-dog status is the prospect of the owner selling up and clearing off.
And, believe me, that could really happen.
Abramovich rejected an offer for the club from petrochemical boss Jim Ratcliffe – Britain’s richest man – just last month.
I’ve heard he has also knocked back an offer from China.
But there may yet come a point where the Russian billionaire decides he’s had enough of this country – and it may arrive soon.
His visa problems have been well-publicised, and I understand he’s absolutely fuming about the way he’s being treated by the British government.
He feels like he’s been dragged into a tit-for-tat diplomatic situation between the UK and Russia.
If it continues, he could easily call time on his life in London, a city in which he is no longer legally allowed to work.
If that happens, Chelsea could be in big trouble.
Blues fans have got used to success on Abramovich’s watch.
The Russian’s billions have bought them five Premier League titles, one Champions League, one Europa League, five FA Cups and three League Cups.
It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most-successful period in the club’s history.
Some terrific managers and players have played key roles during the glory years.
But all of Chelsea’s success can be boiled down to Abramovich’s money.
Should he walk, it’s unlikely Chelsea will plummet like a stone.
But when you’re used to competing for titles every season, finishing outside the top four starts to look like a disaster.
Frankly, I reckon that could be on the cards this season.
Their new manager, Sarri, is a notorious hot head, so there’s just as much chance of him sparking a crisis as mounting a title challenge.
He managed the latter at Napoli last season, only to see his side pipped to the Serie A crown by Juventus.
But the fact is that Sarri has never won anything as a manager – and winning things is demanded of Chelsea managers. Just ask Claudio Ranieri, Luiz Filipe Scolari, Andre Villas-Boas, or any of the other managers Roman Abramovich has sacked.
The pressure is on Sarri immediately.
And when you chuck in the fact that the 59-year-old might have to attack this season without Belgian World Cup stars Hazard and Courtois, it looks like an even tougher challenge.
Whether he gets to replace them like-for-like depends on Abramovich.
And if you believe the owner is considering selling up, it seems unlikely he would plough money into the transfer coffers.
All in all, it looks to me like Chelsea could be in for a tough season by their standards.
But if Abramovich walks, it could become an absolute nightmare.