Meanwhile there have been worrying developments in the Premier League close season.
The fragile truce between Manchester United and Chelsea enshrined in the 2005 “Mikel Accords”, whereby Chelsea were limited to an equivalent of 3 Ballacks to every 5 of United Rooneys, looks to have crumbled, leading to a headlong arms race.
Like a demented Wilkinson Sword and Gillette adding more and more pointless extra blades, Chelsea and United have been acquiring offensive weapons with reckless abandon. Word has reached this reporter that United plan to play 10 strikers next term, with Christiano Ronaldo as a rush goalie. Indeed, throughout the long, hot summer rumours of diplomacy, contracted and severed alliances and mutual suspicion have been swirling around.
Chelsea’s battle plan, known as “The Kenyon Plan”, has been described as follows: upon United mobilizing for Kaka, Chelsea are forced to launch their own lightning Kaka offensive, before turning east for Ribery, to avoid war on two fronts. Once the tinderbox is lit with the onset of mobilisation, it cannot be undone, with terrible consequences.
If any reminder was needed of the stakes at hand a timely one is provided by the accidental detonation at Stamford Bridge in May of an Intra-Continental Ballistic Drogba.
Hopes of a peaceful resolution to the crisis were effectively scotched last summer when Chelsea unilaterally re-occupied the right back position (a de-militarized zone under the Accords) with the acquisition of Bosingwa, rendering United’s own O’Sheas and Wes Browns obsolete. Chelsea are also believed to be harbouring at least three of Essien’s cousins in a bunker somewhere in Cobham, in breach of sanctions.
But a super-power conflict is not the real nightmare.
As our great ex-leader said, the kaleidoscope has been shaken, and all the pieces are in flux. Non-club actors are hungrily circling, not bound by inter-club law, or normative behaviour.
Nobody in their right minds wants to see a Tevez being hawked round the arms bazaars of northern England, and this particular problem is exacerbated by failed clubs (such as Newcastle) flooding the market with lethal assets at fire-sale prices.
Some of these assets (such as the Duff ICBM, or the Owen 98 Rocket) may have been rusting in their silos for years due to a lack of funds for maintenance, but they are still capable of deadly strikes, and could be catastrophic in the wrong hands.
All this makes one nostalgic for the halcyon days of 2002; when, in those hot summer days, long uneven lines of pals with dirty fingernails and flat caps would wait patiently outside Stanford Bridge to watch a Ken Bates-owned Chelsea draw with Southampton.
Never such innocence again.