If we were Alan Pardew, we'd feel a whole lot better if Rafa Benitez took a job far away from the Premier League. He looks the most vulnerable to a Spanish coup...
Although Tony Pulis has been widely criticised for Stoke's style of football, he has also reminded us that there is more than one kind of successful manager...
The supposed divisiveness of Marmite is one of life's great lies. The majority of those exposed to the yeast-based infection/spread are indifferent to its noxious odour/heavenly aroma, unmoved by its nauseating texture/enchanting gloopiness, and unfussed by the strong taste of overcooked feet/overcooked feet. Yet the notion persists, thanks to the combined efforts of stupidity and advertising, and so anything from any walk of life that even vaguely polarises is immediately a Marmite thing. You either love it or you hate it!
With that in mind, consider Dimitar Berbatov. More Marmitey than Twiglets-on-toast, you'd think. But where the condimentalists are just trying to take your money, Berbatov, as well as being genuinely divisive, has a nobler goal in mind.
To the acolytes of the First Church of the Almighty Berb, he is a shaft of sunshine piercing the grey clouds that hang low and heavy over the English game. Where others labour, he strolls; where others hack, he caresses; where others stumble, he glides. His is a talent that bypasses the brain and speaks straight to the heart (which skips), the knees (which tremble) and the groin (which either stiffens or moistens, depending on your plumbing). A talent that finds its highest expression in the first touch, in that instep stitched from velvet and whispers. When Berbatov kills the ball, gossamer feels frumpy.
To the sceptics, meanwhile, he's a fundamentally lazy get whose occasional gaspworthy moments only demonstrate how good a player he would be if he pulled his finger out. That cliché's a bit weird, when you think about it. Pull his finger out ... of where? Where, exactly, is his finger? It's up his arse, isn't it? He's got his finger up his arse. No wonder he's not running around so much. That's got to be ... well, distracting at best.
Anyway, both sides are agreed that Dimitar Berbatov's purpose in English football isn't anything as straightforward as 'playing football': either he's doing something much more exciting, or he's barely bothering with it all. So what is he up to? Why is he here? Why does the Berb, berb?
Let's start at Tottenham. Cleverly, Berbatov placed himself alongside Robbie Keane, and used the scampering, scuttling Irishman to establish the languor and economy of movement/laziness and indolence that would become his calling card. He repeated the trick at his next club, Manchester United, neatly setting off his refined/indolent stylings with Wayne Rooney's huff and Carlos Tevez's puff.
Alex Ferguson, fine manager though he is, occasionally suffers from Hyacinth Bucket moments in the transfer market. In comes a rare and precious player at a thumping price, much cooing is made over Sir's exquisite taste, and then it becomes clear that he's got no real idea what to do with him. (See also: Verón, Juan Sebastián.) Despite Berbatov excelling in his first season and producing sporadic genius throughout, Ferguson grew mistrustful to the point of lunacy, and things reached a nadir when professional horse-botherer Michael Owen was preferred in the squad for the 2011 Champions League final.
Yet being regularly overlooked allowed Berbatov to realise the next stage of his plan. As he brooded within his bib he became a totemic figure, a beetle-browed avatar for those who like their football flavoured with something other than essence of winning. Is any victory worth missing out on potential Berbarotica? Should there be an aesthetic aspect to the whole business? While Manchester United might not have been quite as good a side if he'd been played regularly, the world would certainly have been a better place.
Now Fulham. Reunited with a manager who trusts him and sitting at the heart of a team that needs his skill, Monday night saw the unveiling of the third and final phase of Berbatov's plan. Confronted with a chilly evening by the river, he took to the pitch in tights. A country where a pink goalkeeping shirt or a pair of gloves can provoke paroxysms of spluttering, and he's gone out there in pantyhose. He's not the first, of course - Ryan Giggs, Nigel Clough, and even John Barnes have done so in the past - but he's undoubtedly the coolest. Look out for high-denier weaves on a five-a-side pitch near you.
Whatever you think of his football, you have to admire the man's body of work. In just a few season of louche/feckless lounging, he's managed to first challenge, then subvert the traditional norms of English footballing masculinity. Effort? Commitment? Endless, pointless running? Nah. Watch what he can do while barely moving. Efficiency? Effectiveness? Subsuming one's own nature to the cause? Pffft. There's more than one way to win a heart.
Unthinking stoicism? Hardman posturing? A brute, Victorian obsession with games that batter the body and scour the soul? Sod that. Watch him dance in tights. There are men's men, and then there is Homo berbatovia, an altogether different and vastly superior creature.