The Chelsea futures of captain John Terry, England left-back Ashley Cole and record goalscorer Frank Lampard remain uncertain after manager Jose Mourinho insisted there was no urgency to agree new deals with the trio.
THE three have been integral figures in the team for eight years and more and are in the final weeks of their current contracts.
Tears were shed on the lap of appreciation following yesterday's goalless draw with Norwich which effectively ended Chelsea's Premier League title hopes.
A blunt performance in a goalless draw with relegation-threatened Norwich saw Chelsea denied the win required to restore them to the top of the standings entering the concluding week of the season.
Whether the farewell after the final Stamford Bridge match of the season is temporary or not remains to be seen, particularly for Cole, who has fallen out of the first XI this season, and Lampard, who is 36 in June and is showing signs of slowing.
"They are with the club on their future," said Mourinho, who says he wants all three to stay.
"Now it's time to wait a little bit. The summer is a long summer for us.
"For the players involved in the World Cup it's a different story, but for us, as a club, it's a long time to be calm, to discuss and to analyse options and the market and possibilities."
Mourinho has been tasked with guiding Chelsea through a transitional period, with the most difficult decisions involving the ageing players who served him so well during his first spell.
Terry, who has performed well this term, could be the last survivor as Petr Cech, Lampard and Cole could all exit.
Goalkeeper Cech, who faces shoulder surgery soon, could be succeeded by Thibaut Courtois next term after the Belgian contributed to Chelsea's Champions League elimination while on loan at Atletico Madrid for a third season.
Mourinho will also demand a 'killer' striker this summer, with Diego Costa hotly tipped to be that man.
Curiously Chelsea have beaten title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool twice each, but they have lost to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland and drawn with Norwich in recent weeks when the onus is on them.
The necessity for a prolific goalscorer was illustrated once more against Norwich as a blunt Chelsea attack failed to fire.
"Our strikers are good strikers, but they are players with some specific qualities," Mourinho said.
"They are not the kind of players who in five square metres, with three or four players around, who can get the ball, dribble on, see the space and shoot.
"So when the team is in a difficult situation they are not able to, normally, resolve the situation for us."
Edin Hazard collected the Blues supporters' player of the year award on the pitch before kick-off but was only a substitute. The Belgium forward, who has been continually linked with Paris St Germain, was criticised by Mourinho in the wake of the Blues' loss to Atletico Madrid.
Mourinho admitted Chelsea were improved after Hazard's introduction.
"The team was much better in the second half," he added.
Norwich's relegation could be completed on Wednesday despite a battling draw.
A draw between Sunderland and West Brom - two and three points above Norwich, respectively - would all-but seal their fate as they have such an inferior goal difference that a win at home to Arsenal next Sunday would be immaterial.
Canaries boss Neil Adams said:
"Now we keep our fingers crossed and hope for a few results.
"If we go into the last game of the season, Arsenal at Carrow Road, needing to win the game, that's all we can hope for."