Chelsea: never-ending soap opera
"Eventually, even the press found out". - The Rutles, All You Need Is Cash (1978).
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Whichever way you turn, there are Chelsea stories. A proliferation. Some of them are even true. Even when the story is not about Chelsea, there is a Chelsea link – usually Jose Mourinho. It is Chelsea this, Chelsea that, Chelsea everything. The soap opera is unedifying but self-perpetuating. Whatever the opposite of a marketing operation is, this is it.
After three matches, Benitez is already under pressure. Two goalless draws and one defeat have led to suggestions that the Chelsea manager – official title “interim manager”, but every manager at Chelsea appears to be “interim” – might not survive the season. “I would think [the sack] is totally out of the question,” Ray Wilkins, the former Chelsea coach, said this week, giving legitimacy to the original question.
Then there emerged an even crazier suggestion: that Avram Grant, the former Chelsea manager, might return to Stamford Bridge to assist Benitez. “It is not true,” Chelsea said, giving legitimacy to the original story. Chelsea would have been better ignoring a headline so preposterous that it might have been a hoax.
Step forward Fernando Torres, the beleaguered Chelsea striker, to confirm that – yes, absolutely, and for sure – he wants to remain with the club. "In my first full season, we won the FA Cup and Champions League. What more can you ask? We have a chance now to win the FIFA Club World Cup. I have four more years on my contract so hopefully I can win many more things - the Premier League would be amazing. The Capital One Cup and the Community Shield also."
Newspapers have conferred upon Torres a new name: "Chelsea Flop Fernando Torres". The prefix sticks like hippopotamus manure. So does the perception that what he has gained in medals by moving to Stamford Bridge, he has lost in joy by leaving Anfield. Chelsea Flop Fernando Torres has not smiled since last summer. And this is the same Torres who said repeatedly, "I am not leaving Liverpool".
Around about now, we are due a “Torres wants to return to Anfield” story, but there would be more chance of Grant going to work with Benitez as a pair of Father Christmases at Selfridges on Oxford Street than of Torres moving to Liverpool. By selling Torres to Chelsea for £50million, Liverpool enjoyed their “Brooklyn Bridge For Sale” moment – but only until they fell for the Newcastle United “Brooklyn Bridge” moment, which cost Liverpool £35million and goes by the name of Andy Carroll.
Over in Madrid, Mourinho, who sometimes goes by the name of Former Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho, denied rumours that he would be leaving Real in the summer. "The story has no foundation and as I've always said, my relationship with the president is very good," Mourinho said, but by responding to the story, he gave it legitimacy. "The Lady Doth Protest too Much," Shakespeare said, although in this case the lady is a man and the man is the self-styled Special One.
There was barely enough time for observers to absorb the Mourinho-to-leave-Madrid fabrication when Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, suggested that the former Chelsea manager could quite easily end up taking over at Old Trafford. "He can manage anywhere, absolutely," Ferguson said. "I'm not going to put any forecasts on what is going to happen at this club. I won't last forever but Jose can manage anywhere, there is no question about that." For "anywhere", read Old Trafford.
The smart money is on Mourinho replacing Ferguson at some point and of Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona manager, replacing Benitez at Stamford Bridge. But in Roman Abramovich’s mission to turn everybody on earth into a former Chelsea manager, it is possible that he is busy on his yacht trying to redefine the word “interim”.