In the space of the sun rising and setting on November 21, 2012, Chelsea went from one Champions League winning coach to another, yet neither is the man their owner truly wants. By appointing Rafa Benitez as interim coach, Roman Abramovich has made it clear, without stating it directly that, if all things go to plan, the former Valencia and Liverpool boss is only warming the Stamford Bridge throne for Pep Guardiola. Perhaps Mr Abramovich should familiarise himself with the work of Rabbie Burns for an understanding of how the best laid plans of mice and men tend to unfold.
The problem is, in clearing the way for Guardiola, Abramovich may just have sent the worst possible signal to the Catalan. Similar warnings were there all along, of course, notably in the Russian’s ruthless cutting loose of Carlo Ancelotti with little rhyme or reason, but if Chelsea’s owner can’t even persist with the man who brought him the one prize he has always coveted, then no-one is safe. Not even Guardiola.
If the former Barça man didn’t know that before, he certainly does now, and it’s hard to see how there are more persuasive than dissuasive factors for Guardiola when weighing up a move to London next summer.
A wealthy man, he won’t struggle to find his next meal, and will be paid handsomely wherever he goes. If Guardiola proves true to form, certain key principles will be decisive in the choice of his next destination, with salary not top of the list.
There has to be something more on the table than cold hard cash to convince him that the most important move of his career should be to Stamford Bridge. It's hard to find such motivating factors however, and far easier to find those which could force him to think twice.
In a culture where your boss is habitually punted after the most minor of slip-ups, players could be forgiven for having little or no respect for the authority of a coach, and for thinking that his latest tactical revolution is meaningless in the long-term. After all, he's likely to be replaced in six months anyway.
Guardiola's honours list isn't likely to make him immune in that regard. Ancelotti certainly didn’t lack footballing baubles, but he was shown the door like the rest. Perhaps the attitude required to absorb Guardiola’s methods can be taught, but only with time, and time is the one commodity Abramovich can’t – and won’t - guarantee.
What too of the potential risks for Abramovich should he convince Guardiola to put his doubts aside? What if, despite his relentless efforts to take the coach to west London, the project fails? What if the owner once more gets tired of waiting for style and results to align, and Guardiola gets the same treatment as those who preceded him?
In that case Abramovich would be forced to admit his dream has failed, that transposing Barcelona’s methods onto a completely different club via their most successful manager was not the one size fits all solution he hoped for.
That may not only sting Abramovich, it could sting Chelsea’s supporters, too. If his ultimate ambition turns to failure, there may be little else left for the oligarch to pursue. Will he then tire of football altogether?
That's the problem with the Russian’s obsession with Guardiola and Barcelona - it is exactly that, an obsession. Obsessions aren't well thought out, nor do they tend to end well.