In a shock turn of the managerial roundabout at Europe's top institutions of football and religion, it was announced today that Rafael Benitez will immediately take up the vacant job of Pope, with the ex-Pontiff moving in the opposite direction to manage Chelsea until the end of the season.
"We certainly didn't expect the Pope," explained Chelsea Supporters Group leader Trizia Fiorellino. "We're giving this a cautious welcome, and he certainly can't do any worse than the last bloke."
Most independent observers agree that Chelsea seem to have got the better end of the deal, former Pope Benedict coming with a footballing pedigree far outshining that of Benitez. Before accepting the high-pressure role at the Vatican, Benedict made his England debut in 1984 and over the following eight years scored 48 goals, finishing as his country's all-time second highest scorer behind Bobby Charlton. After his retirement from football he moved into broadcasting, working as a pundit on Match of the Day.
Benitez, by contrast, has only a middling theological record, despite being highly regarded in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Many religious commentators believe his impressive CV to be largely due to luck, citing 2005's 'Miracle of Istanbul' when eleven men were improbably saved from being massacred - later analysis indicated the salvation to be less due to Benitez's faith than to the goalkeeping prowess of Jerzy Dudek. It is understood that his recent crucifixion by the press was a desperate last attempt to gain religious credibility.
Reaction from Catholics was scathing. "We're gutted," insisted Damian Thompson, former editor of the Catholic Herald. Pope Benedict has hardly had ten minutes in the job, and the Supreme Being decides it's his club and he can get rid of him. Who does he think he is, God?"