The absolutely vital thing to remember when considering Chelsea is that there is always more to it
It goes without saying that anyone who truly wishes to understand what's happening at Chelsea football club these days requires an adviser in the mould of the Gabriel Byrne character in Miller's Crossing. Tom Reagan "knows all the angles", in that Coen brothers classic, and I think we can assume he'd be the first to tell you that only a lunkhead would look at Stamford Bridge and conclude: "It's just one of those transitional seasons."
The absolutely vital thing to remember when considering Chelsea is that there is always more to it, with an ability to see all the angles the most righteously prized quality in modern football criticism. Oh, I know there are some people who swallow official lines, the same ones who claimed that Ashley Cole was acting alone when he shot the work experience kid at the club's Cobham training ground. But just as insiders will tell you there had to be a second gunman on the grassy knoll, so they will imply darkly All Is Not As It Seems in the current mass debate over the interim manager Rafael Benítez.
The smart money couldn't agree more. One of my own theories is that Roman Abramovich has recently begun playing the commodity markets, and is attempting to cause significant fluctuations in cotton prices by keeping Benítez in place, thus ensuring a biweekly run on bedsheets, on whose threadcounts fans can inscribe messages that appear to insult his appointee, but in fact trigger huge dividends for the inscrutable Russian. Is the John Lewis bed linen department in on the plot? It's not talking, but can it honestly be a coincidence that global cotton prices took a reversal of fortune and began rising last November – the very month that Benítez took charge at Stamford Bridge?
That reading, of course, suggests that the master plan is Abramovich's. But following Rafa's so-called rant during the press conference following last week's win over Middlesbrough, I note other high level analysts offering different schools of thought. "This wasn't a rant," parsed the erstwhile Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow a few days later. "It was a planned outburst, as Rafa plans everything."
Aha! Angle upon angle! Indeed, Rafa would have known the Chelsea website would have felt unable to mention a single word of said outburst in its report on his press conference – as it duly did in its Pravda-shaming report – so the upshot is clear. He is gaming it into the most savage self-parody. Yes, Rafa Benítez is actively living his life as a satire on managing Chelsea.
It takes a certain level of self-regard to turn one's life into a performance, but I am given to understand that Benítez is not without the necessary qualities. The question, creatively, is where he goes from here. Almost inevitably, he will instruct Chelsea opposition analyst Xavi Valero to compile one of those famous dossiers on each banner-waver, or perhaps begin retaliating with banners of his own. ("Interim, interim! You've all got it interim" etc). But my fervent hope is that whatever the result in Bucharest on Thursday, Benítez will resign, delivering a broadside that makes last week's rant look like … well, look like the press conference the Chelsea website reported.
And then? Why, then he should turn up to training the next day as if nothing had happened. Seinfeld fans will recognise the move from an early episode called The Revenge, in which George regrets quitting his job in anger one Friday afternoon, and Jerry suggests just going back without mentioning it. "You mean just walk into the staff meeting on Monday like it never happened?" George asks. "Sure," deadpans Jerry. "You're an emotional person. People don't take you seriously."
Anyone who doubts such a move could happen in real life is reassured that it did, to Larry David, during the Seinfeld co-creator's unsuccessful stint as a writer on Saturday Night Live under executive producer Dick Ebersol. Immediately regretting quitting in fury one Saturday night, David recalled: "I went in Monday morning and just pretended the whole thing never happened. And Dick never mentioned it. I think maybe he said: 'Is that Larry David down at the end of the table?' But that was it. The writers were looking at me, that's for sure. I was getting some very strange looks from the writers – like: 'What the hell are you doing here?'"
Would this not be the logical climax to what feels like years of absurdist managerial theatre at Stamford Bridge? Mr Benítez is implored to consider it, and upgrade his master plan accordingly.
Elsewhere I am shocked – shocked! – to learn that Switzerland will not even bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite the country being the longtime home of the International Olympic Committee. Last weekend, a state referendum voted against funding even so much as an approach for the event, with a majority of Swiss declining to accept the traditional argument that the Olympics boost tourism and that the multibillion spend by any host nation trickles down the economy.
Naturally, it is to be hoped that the news has not ruffled the IOC chairman Jacques Rogge, much less taken the edge off the glass of exquisitely fine wine he doubtless enjoys while surveying the Alps from his palace on the shores of Lake Geneva. But if Dr Rogge feels the darkness descending even momentarily, he may console himself with the thought that successful crack dealers never partake of their own product, and hawkish Republican senators would not dream of encouraging their own teenage sons to join the military.