Chelsea have begun to discuss the possibility of sacking manager Jose Mourinho, but are mindful that his departure would cost the club £30 million, sources have told ESPN FC.
Mourinho, 52, only signed a new four-year contract this summer after winning the 2014-15 Premier League title, however Chelsea slumped to a fifth defeat of the season on Saturday as they lost 2-1 at West Ham United in a match that also saw Nemanja Matic, coach Silvino Louro and Mourinho himself sent off.
That loss kept the Blues in 15th place in the table and, while refereeing decisions going against the team is seen as a mitigating factor, there is growing distaste at the amount of controversy engulfing every game.
Mourinho did not speak to the media at all in the aftermath of the weekend's defeat and sources told ESPN FC that the dismissal of the Portuguese has already been tentatively discussed by the club's hierarchy.
However, sources say Mourinho's representatives would insist on his contract being paid in full -- at £10m per year -- which has caused more hesitation about ending his tenure early, and could yet buy him more time.
Owner Roman Abramovich has already given him a vote of confidence after the 3-1 defeat to Southampton and is keen to stand by the man he first brought to the club in 2004, but that stance is being increasingly tested by bad results, performances and conduct.
Sources have told ESPN FC that a number of Chelsea players have questioned Mourinho's management and decision-making this season, although John Terry, Cesc Fabregas, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta and Diego Costa remain part of a decreasing group still fully behind him.
Mourinho has not been given an ultimatum to avoid defeat to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, however another loss could well force the club's hand to take a heavy financial hit on the most successful manager in their history.