Entry Four: May 2013

I've been invited to the Football Writers' Dinner this evening, to meet the great and good from the world of football. It's a formal occasion at a grand London hotel. Gareth Bale is being awarded the Player of The Year Award, and various football writing luminaries are being thanked for their contributions to the media. The room buzzes and swirls with famous faces from the world of soccer.

The tradition is for newspapers to take tables at the dinner, and invite manager or players to join them. We have Rafa Benitez, the Chelsea manager, on our table for the evening because of the good relationship he's developed with our football editor - Rob Draper.

We arrive in the reception area and sip our drinks, waiting to be called down to dinner. There's a large gathering and in the distance I see the Chelsea party, with Benitez at the centre, regaling them with tales. He sees Rob and rushes over...pretty soon it's clear that there's a problem. It turns out that Benitez has been double-booked - he's agreed to sit on our table for the dinner while the media team at Chelsea FC have arranged for him to sit on the Chelsea table with them - and - crucially - some very important advertisers. Benitez siddles up to Rob Draper and takes him to one side to explain the dilemma. "But it's not a problem," he insists. "I'll be on both tables for the night - I'll move between the two - it won't be a problem, noone will notice."

And so begins one of the most humorous evenings ever, which involves Benitez scurrying from table to table like something out of a Fawlty Towers sketch.

First, he joins us at our table, and beguiles everyone with his talk about life in Madrid and the funny card games they play, his family and what life is really like at Chelsea. On the latter subject he's disarmingly indiscreet, witty and self-depricating. But after 10 minutes, he smiles warmly and says he has to go for a minute, would we excuse him? 

He stands, nods, then speed walks as fast as his legs will carry him, to the Chelsea table on the other side of the room, where he must woo important advertisers.

Meanwhile, on our table, the starters have arrived. "Is anyone sitting here?" the waitress asks, indicating the empty seat, recently left vacant by the fast-walking Spaniard. None of us is quite sure how to respond. "We think someone is sitting there, but not at the moment," we reply, helplessly. We're simply not sure whether he's coming back.

There is quite a performance while the cutlery is moved away, the vacant chair removed, the seats joined up and the starters served. We relax and enjoy the food, chatting amongst ourselves. Then, as the starters are finished, we catch sight of a fast-walking man, zooming over in our direction. He stands where his chair once was, and continues the conversation he'd been having as if his departure had never happened. The waitresses bring over his chair, re-set the table and serve the main course.

Benitez continues to chat, not referring to the fact that he's been away at all. Once the main course is finished, he rises, as before, nods and scuttles off again - speed-walking back to the Chelsea table. The bemused waiting staff are left to rearrange the table once again, and serve pudding.

This performance continues all night, as Benitez fights to be present at two tables. By the end of the night he looks exhausted.

"I ave eaten one starter, two main courses, two puddings and about three kilos of cheese," he says with a warm smile... "And I've walked about three miles."

Such class.