James Lawton: Granted, talk of Avram's return is laughable but joke is on club

Just when the affairs of Chelsea Football Club appear to have moved beyond parody, reports emerge that Avram Grant may reappear as a cool and steadying influence. The notion has been briskly denied but then who can really say what next is about to fly over the cuckoo's nest?

Imagine it, Rafa and Avram and Roman – football's answer not to the Three Musketeers but the Three Stooges.

No doubt this is extremely hard on Rafael Benitez, who alone among the bizarre triumvirate has a body of work behind him strong enough to survive even a fleeting association with what may lightly be described as the management structure at Stamford Bridge. But then he cannot claim to have enrolled in the circus unaware of its worst possibilities.

Grant was installed as a director of football in the first destabilising of Jose Mourinho and the idea of his becoming a nursemaid for the already seriously ailing regime of Benitez, though discouraged vigorously in some club quarters yesterday, is scarcely guaranteed to raise an eyebrow.

Reports that Andrei Shevchenko, who was also imposed on Mourinho, has been seen around the Surrey training headquarters might also stimulate speculation about a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks before he acquires his first badge.

What is known is that Grant, despite all his misadventures sinceleaving Chelsea, remains a football confidant of the oligarch.

Any suggestion that he might now be reimmersed in the Chelsea stew sounds ultimately weird only if you detach it from the club's behaviour over recent weeks. The firing of Roberto Di Matteo, the imposition of Benitez and the Clattenburg fiasco have certainly not discouraged the belief that the club are capable of just about any divergence from the realities of the football world.

That Benitez is already imperilled would be something impossible to avoid even without the orchestrated hostility you could be excused for thinking he is hell-bent on fuelling.

His tirade at West Ham, against a team which in other hands so recently won the Champions League and the FA Cup, seemed as perilous as playing Russian roulette with a full chamber of bullets.

No, you cannot sack a man after only three matches but Benitez, right, is threatening the belief, certainly given the culture of a club he has parachuted into with rather more pride than the necessary phlegm.

Of course, he was going to run a gauntlet of prejudice so deep that it could be effectively countered only by a great reservoir of self-belief and an understanding that some wounds take a little time to heal.

Benitez has never displayed a shortfall in that first quality but the latter attribute has regularly gone missing. After an impressive 45 minutes at Upton Park, Chelsea lapsed into a performance that Benitez said was lacking in confidence, character and leadership. In all the circumstances, it was surely something to think rather than say.

Undoubtedly, the expression of it could have done nothing to weaken Abramovich's so far unrequited passion for the services of Pep Guardiola. Correspondingly, if the most desired of football exiles has thought about joining Chelsea, his list of demands must be lengthening by the day. The basis of them all would be the kind of authority that was so quickly removed from Mourinho, with the help of Grant.

One interesting perspective on that old catastrophe has been provided by the man who has most benefited from the kind of long-term support denied to each one of Abramovich's managers.

Sir Alex Ferguson supplied it when he said, with minimal prompting, that he could easily see the Special One marching into his shoes. "He can manage anywhere," said the man who is once again bestriding the Premier League.

That would be the final rebuke for the methods of Abramovich, Mourinho going to the club that proclaims, year after year, that one fact about football success is quite immutable. It is the installation of a natural-born winner underpinned by the knowledge that in all football matters he will have the last word.

Ferguson talks of Mourinho's greed for success and the power of his personality. Such assets were in the possession of Abramovich. They were his reward for recognising the strength of Mourinho's impact at Porto.

It is something with which to balance our incredulity at the straight-faced suggestion that Grant might again intrude into the affairs of Chelsea. It might not happen, we are assured, but the fact is that we wouldn't be at all surprised if it did.

That is where Chelsea have placed themselves, beyond parody, beyond reason. It leaves the rest of us awaiting the next bad joke.

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