Benayoun conquers Chelsea hazing ritual

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One of soccer's most notorious hazing rituals was finally conquered this week as new Chelsea signing Yossi Benayoun turned the tables on his would-be tormentors.

Until now, every new player who joined the Chelsea squad faced the embarrassment of being forced to stand on a table in front of the English Premier League champion's entire playing and coaching staff, belting out a song of his choice at full volume.

Israel international Benayoun, who signed from Liverpool in an $8.8 million transfer, looked set to become the latest victim of ridicule as senior players ordered him up on to the makeshift "stage" for his performance.

He stunned his audience, however, by bursting into a rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Gerry and the Pacemakers, the anthem of the archrival Reds.

"I started to sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' but all the other players started shouting," Benayoun said. "They wouldn't let me carry on, so I had to do something different."

As well as clearly possessing a wicked sense of humor, Benayoun also has the ability to play a crucial role in the outcome of the upcoming EPL campaign, which starts August 14.

With Joe Cole having headed in the opposite direction by joining Liverpool, Benayoun's arrival brings some welcome creative spark in midfield.

After ending a three-year EPL drought by winning the title in May, Chelsea will enter the new season as favorite, closely followed by Manchester United.

While previous summers have seen the club lavish millions on several expensive new signings, this year has been more about investing in style — on and off the field.

The attractive, skillful midfielder should help head coach Carlo Ancelotti's ambition of making Chelsea not only the best but also the most free-flowing team in the league. And away from soccer, the side will certainly look the part after agreeing on a ground-breaking partnership with fashion label Dolce & Gabbana.

D&G has designed a range of formal wear for the players to use on the way to matches, and will deck out the club's locker room with a collection of opulent fittings far removed from the traditional players-area look.