Were George Steinbrenner to skip a crucial Yankee game, rumors of his passing would no doubt kick into high gear (again). In the case of Chelsea moneybags Roman Abramovich, it’s all part of the mind games he’s playing with the Special One, according to the Independent’s Jason Burt.

Roman Abramovich (above) is due to fly to Israel this morning to attend a friendly tournament he is sponsoring, rather than be at Stamford Bridge for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final tonight.

The Chelsea owner’s decision to miss his second successive match, following his non-appearance at Anfield last Saturday, will fuel the growing crisis at the Premiership champions. It is clear that Abramovich is staying away from games because of his disillusionment with the club’s manager, Jose Mourinho.

The snub also fits with the pattern of Abramovich’s behaviour towards people he has fallen out with. The billionaire, despite his power and wealth, goes out of his way to avoid face-to-face confrontation. Such is the rift that now exists between owner and manager.

Abramovich has poured millions into the competition in Tel Aviv, the so-called First Channel Cup, which lasts a week and involves six clubs – two from Israel, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv; two from Russia, Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow; and two from Ukraine, Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk.

However, the competition does not start until tomorrow and there is no reason why Abramovich could not also attend the game against Wycombe Wanderers this evening and then travel to Israel. The League Two side drew the first leg 1-1.

Abramovich is believed to have contributed around £4m to the costs of the First Channel Cup, which is all the more galling for Mourinho following the Russian’s decision to balk at paying the asking prices for some of the manager’s transfer targets this month.

(After 20 minutes, there’s no score between Chelsea and Wycombe in the 2nd leg of their Worthless Cup semi-final, currently being shown on Setanta US)

(ADDENDUM : Chelsea 2, Wycombe 0, HT, Chelsea lead on aggregate, 3-1. It’s official, Schevy only scores in Shit Cups).

MetroFanatic points out that while MLS is willing to re-write the rules to allow the Galaxy to break the bank for the most assuredly-past-his prime David Beckham, a former member of Red Bull NY’s youth team, Gabriel Ferrari, is on the brink of becoming the first American to play in Serie A since Alexi Lalas’ uneventful spell with Padova. (link courtesy The Offside)

Race relations expert Ron Atkinson is the new manager at Kettering Town. Big Ron was hired by the same genius that brought in Paul Gasciogne last year, so perhaps there’s some masochistic streak about ending up in the papers for the wrong reasons.