It turns out that the question Mr Merciu, the Chairman of FC Saxan Ceadir Lunga (Moldova), has just asked – ‘Football management – is it not possible to engineer it?’ – is not a rhetorical one. He is looking at me, awaiting an answer.
Tempting though the pizza that has just arrived – capricioasa (sheep’s cheese, eggplant, and mushroom) – is tempting, etiquette requires that I respond to our host’s question before lifting my knife and fork. That doesn’t stop Karen, my wife, who is less well brought up than me, from tucking into her Veroneza.
‘Engineering football management? I’ve never heard of such a thing.’
Merciu looks disappointed, like a man who is wondering whether his investment in pizzas is going to be unrewarded.
‘But,’ I add, ‘I can think of ways in which it might be done.’
This prompts the order of a second bottle of the Comrat Merlot, while I rack my brains to think what on earth those ways might be.
‘Tell me,’ he says.