|By Tom Sheldrick
It’s back to the day job for many players across Europe, returning from international fixtures. Carlos Tevez is expected back in Manchester – in different circumstances – as his two-week suspension is up.
As the story goes, Tevez refused his manager Roberto Mancini’s command to come off the bench, two weeks ago against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. His side slipped to a defeat which now makes progression from a very real ‘Group of Death’ an even harder proposition, Tevez has been scorned from all directions, and punished by the club.
Of course, the truth may be different, with the Argentine striker claiming he did not refuse to play, and a misunderstanding was to blame. Of course, he may not have changed the course of the game one jot. But – just about unique among City’s attacking talents – Tevez could so brilliantly have done something, reminded us that he is worth the effort. The most disappointing thing – for the admirer of all that the Argentine can do – was that he failed to make the most of an opportunity given.
The Allianz Arena was ready and primed to be his stage. The stage to confound those who chose not to pursue his signature in the summer, to confound his manager and to confound the watching millions who have increasingly written him off as not worth the bother; a doer of more harm than good. Manchester City were 2-0 down at the splendid home of one of European soccer’s genuine all-time heavyweights, being taught a lesson. On city’s big night in Europe, Tevez had been left out. But, even in the second half, the game wasn’t up – not with the attacking vibrancy of this new City, and the in-built fragility of Bayern Munich’s defence – and he was now being called upon to rescue the team that was once – and could again be – his.
If only Mancini could have got him on the pitch. And, indeed, that’s always been the crux of the Tevez problem. Between those white lines, he’s always been a model professional – fantastic ability allied to a willingness to chase every ball. Everything that’s gone on around them, though, has been a nightmare. There was an awful lot of fuss when he arrived, with compatriot Javier Mascherano, on British shores – as a player we knew very little about – back in 2006. It didn’t go well at first at West Ham United, but when he was given his chance, he took it, scoring against Manchester United to keep the Hammers up on the last day of the season.
The controversy around whether it was right that he and Mascherano played in the Premier League that year, given that they breached the league’s third-party ownership rules, rumbles on – especially if you put a microphone near former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock.
Tevez himself was allowed to go onwards and upwards, to Manchester United, where he won Champions League and Premier League titles – before leaving for their rivals two years later with some serious parting shots. On the pitch at City, he’s scored plenty of goals, and led the side to the first trophy of their new era in May. Off it, he’s expressed his distaste for the city of Manchester, the club, and its staff, and been stripped of the captaincy. That was before the recent shenanigans.
For Tevez, the very worrying thing right now is that he needs Manchester City more than they need him. Edin Dzeko’s showed at the start of this season how well he can lead the line. Sergio Aguero’s arrival must have been an even more chastening experience for Tevez, because in not just style and shape but nationality, he appears a direct replacement.
Then there’s the unmistakeable ability of Mario Balotelli – who now, in comparison, looks like the happy camper. Add in Samir Nasri and the genius of David Silva and this team’s going somewhere – with or without Tevez. He’s now 27 – and while he’s enjoyed success and acclaim with both Manchester clubs, he’s not played in Italy or Spain, nor have Argentina impressed on the world stage since he’s been in their ranks. Who would take him now?
If you believe what you read in the papers, West Ham would. That would be a sublime twist in, even the Tevez, tale. Offers from soccer’s new richlands could also be forthcoming.
Intriguingly, there’s the derby, City’s first encounter of the season with Manchester United, on October 23. Tevez has enjoyed considerable success against his former side in the past – but surely not again. Roberto Mancini’s words were decisive after the Bayern Munich farce, Tevez “finished” at City now. He could even be sacked by the club, who look set to make their decisive call on the player tomorrow.
The one thing we do know is that the Carlos Tevez story isn’t over yet. He’ll continue to entertain and to bewilder us.
Tom Sheldrick is a freelance writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org