The one who would appear the winner in the Aston Villa Takeover Saga is Martin O'Neill, because almost all the competing groups appear to want his services.
Including Doug Ellis and that raises an interesting scenario. If the Villa chairman manages finally to lure O'Neill, with the clock ticking towards deadline midnight, then it's unlikely Ellis will fade away gracefully into the background, his duty done.
Having seen off David O'Leary with due despatch, he will tell himself his stock has soared if he lands the most coveted manager in British football. He may be 83 next January, but Ellis will feel he can still cut it with the big beasts in the football jungle, having signed someone who will undoubtedly be popular with the fans.
Ellis has one advantage. He doesn't have to sell his controlling shares in the club. He can just sit tight, conducting an auction that will end in his financial favour or hope to hook the big fish, O'Neill.
Ellis knows that if O'Neill is to be tempted, it will be due to the imminence of the new Premiership season. He won't want to hang around, waiting for the legal wheels to grind on before a new regime starts.
Any sensible manager wants to get started immediately, on the pre-season tour, before the serious stuff kicks in on August 19.
Otherwise, he could be joining in October, with Villa languishing near the bottom of the table, lacking new players and investment with morale low. That would then add up to a wasted first year at Villa for O'Neill, because he might have to spend the rest of this campaign fire-fighting. He hasn't spent all this time out of the game, spurning other attractive offers, for that.
If there are competing offers for Villa, then the board has a fiduciary duty to accept the highest offer but all that backfires if there isn't an authentic competitive offer. If that's the sole criterion, then the American billionaire Randy Lerner can blow everyone else out of the water if it comes to an actual bid.
Despite their acrimonious parting after last Wednesday's meeting, I understand that Ellis and Lerner might talk again this week.
Keith Harris, the leading financial adviser on corporate football deals in this country, was instrumental in bringing them together and he's working on a rapprochement, despite his dismay at Ellis' alleged intransigence.
But what plans do the various consortia have for Ellis? Would he accept there is no executive role for him under any new regime? If that ruffles his powerful ego, then he could always knock any single bid into touch.
Jack Petchey, who owns 20 per cent of Villa's shares, is a key player. I'm told he's in this for the money, not for football politics. He will support whoever makes the highest offer and can deliver the deal.
So O'Neill surveys the confusing scene with the sceptical eye of a football man, not an economist. His sense of humour will get him through this.
He once told me about the time when he was short-listed among five for the Bradford City job. He was the only one to be invited back for another interview. Yet he still didn't land the job, it went to the caretaker manager.
So O'Neill has seen it all before. He didn't even get the Wycombe Wanderers job at the first time of asking. He had to wait a while before starting his outstanding full-time management career.
Every club he has managed has been improved by the charismatic Irishman. He would be excellent for Villa, if all the ducks are in order but don't assume that O'Neill will succumb in the next few days to Ellis' overtures, or anyone else's for that matter.
He learned about huge egos while working for Brian Clough 30 years ago and won't be fazed by boardroom bombast at Villa. If it's not right for O'Neill, then he'll pass.