The tragic deaths this week of true entertainment icons in George Michael, Carrie Fischer and Debbie Reynolds have reduced the western world to a whimpering mess as we approach the new year, but Premier League fans - except those of a Crystal Palace persusasion, perhaps - may soon have their own irreparable loss to contend with.
On Wednesday, The Mirror reported that the cash-rich Chinese Super League had officially lost the arse with its latest move for an unlikely Premier League star. Alexis Sanchez? Oh, no. Wayne Rooney? Not quite. Instead, fresh from picking up the Ballon D'Or equivalent for match officials at the prestigious Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai, it was English referee Mark Clattenburg who was linked with a move to the Far East.
Oh, how we guffawed and scoffed at the absurdity of such a notion. But had we learned nothing from the year that was?
The 41-year-old ref has been speaking to The Guardian today, and the brief chat bore all the unmistakable hallmarks of one of football's most coveted off-field manoeuvres: the 'come-and-get-me plea'. The article - perhaps slightly through tongue-and-cheek - was even stylised in classic transfer gossip fashion. Clattenburg, it would seem, is at least 'open to a move'.
In his interview, Clattenburg even 'remained coy', but was shrewd enough to leave the door open - nay, agape - to potential offers from abroad.
He told The Guardian:
If an opportunity came along – I am contracted to the Premier League – but I have to look at my long-term strategy of my career.
There is no offer on the table but if they made an offer it would be under consideration. But at the moment I still enjoy working for the Premier League and UEFA.
It’s important to have the right quality of referee to go with the level of football. China is going to become a huge player in years to come … If they want to be serious about their league they are going to have to have the right setup. Refereeing is a huge part of football.
Clattenburg even went as far as to suggest that, when his spell in the Premier League does come to an end, he'd love to go abroad and assist with the development of refereeing 'like Howard Webb in Saudi Arabia', but insisted that money has never been a driver in his career.
Nonetheless, it would appear from the above quotes that he's put himself in the shop window should interest from China result in an official bid. And who the hell could blame him? Whatever about Carlos Tevez and other such stars, a move to the Super League would genuinely transform Clattenburg's life along with that of his family. Not unlike Tevez, the world's best referee has already reached the pinnacle of his trade, and so a move to China for an astronomical salary would be wholly understandable. More luck to him.
The real fear is that Chinese football will next swoop for the highly regarded 'plinths' upon which Premier League matchballs rest as both sides emerge from the tunnel, or worse still, Jonathan Pearse.
You can read Clattenburg's interview in full on The Guardian.