It’s Tevez time!
MARCH 24 — Professional football is a mercenary, unsentimental business.
Managers are heralded as the most important person in the organisation... but then sacked by jittery chairmen after four or five dodgy results; players are idolised and rewarded with lucrative contracts... but then promptly binned as soon as they’ve outlived their usefulness; those same players pledge lifelong allegiance to their club... but then jump ship the moment they are relegated or refused a big pay rise.
That cut-throat, cold-blooded nature is nowhere better demonstrated than in Carlos Tevez’s recent return to action for Manchester City.
This is a player who, six months ago, sparked an almighty furore by refusing to play for his team (or refusing to warm-up from the substitutes’ bench, depending on which version you believe), and then repeatedly stated his desperate desire to leave the club and find somewhere he’d be appreciated and respected. “I must go! It is terrible here! Poor me, I need a new club. Preferably somewhere with better weather. And nearer my children. Just anywhere but Manchester City.”
City were outraged. “He’s a disgrace! He has tarnished our reputation and that of his entire profession! He will never play for the club again! Farewell, Carlos Tevez, do not darken our doorstep ever again!”
Both parties were in agreement: Carlos Tevez wanted to leave Manchester City; Manchester City wanted Carlos Tevez to leave. But only on the right terms: City would not give him away for nothing, and Tevez would not sacrifice his multi-million pound salary. An impasse resulted.
And so, with six weeks of the season remaining and the title on the line with City trailing at home against Chelsea, who’s that appearing from bench? Why, it’s none other than Carlos Tevez! “Our old friend Carlos! Come, my good man... in our greatest hour of need, we turn to you! All that talk of disrespecting the club and you must never play for us again... ’twas mere jest! Come and rescue our season!”
Tevez, in appropriate response, answered the call by giving wholehearted effort for the club that he had been so eager to prise himself away from. “Hola! I am back! You know I said all that stuff about not liking Manchester City and not wanting to play for Manchester City ever again in my whole life... ayyy let’s forget all about it, amigos! Come, let us be friends, give me a shirt and I will help you score a goal and win a match!”
It’s a great story, and the return of the Argentina international has led to a heated debate about the rights and wrongs of the situation, with pro-Manchester United voices insistent that City’s willingness to welcome Tevez back into the fold is an acknowledgment that the title is slipping out of their grasp; a desperate last move that will inevitably result in acrimonious and bitter failure.
But ultimately, none of the talk matters; none of it will make any difference to the outcome of the title race. Amidst all the hyperbole, the truth lies in one place and one place alone: on the pitch.
Will Tevez’s return be a good thing or a bad thing for City? Will it re-energise the team and hand them the title or does it display a nervousness and desperation that gives United a clear edge? That depends entirely on just one factor: how well he plays. If he continues to create and score goals and his team keeps on winning, no problem. Welcome back, Carlos.
Footballers, managers and even fans will forgive pretty much anything if their team is winning. Almost any sin can be overlooked for the sake of winning.
Then Tevez returned to the home team dressing room on Wednesday night, five minutes after playing a fundamental role in City’s match-winning goal, how do you think he was greeted by his colleagues?
Did they resent his presence on the pitch and find themselves unable to forgive the disrespect he’s shown to the club in the last six months? Of course not; he had just played a big part in winning an important game – it will have been backslaps and high-fives all around.
And if Tevez scores the winner at Stoke on Saturday evening, even those fans who booed his entrance against Chelsea in midweek will start to dig out their old ‘Welcome to Manchester’ Tevez t-shirts once more.
As I said at the top of the article, football is an unsentimental business, and nobody in the blue half of Manchester will hold any grudges against Tevez if he scores the goals that help them win the title. Memories are short, and forgiveness is easy to find if the player is good enough.
Difficulties will only arise if the Argentine plays poorly and City drop points. Then it could well become a divisive issue: Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko or whoever else might be left out to accommodate Tevez would be perfectly justified in thinking: “Hang on: why’s that guy playing and I’m not? He shouldn’t even still be here.”
Even then, of course, Roberto Mancini could still defuse that situation by swiftly dropping Tevez. If he’s playing badly, don’t play him. If he’s playing well and contributing, keep him in. It’s not difficult.
And the likelihood is that Tevez will perform well, because he’s an outstanding player. His six-month absence has inevitably left him lacking in match sharpness, but after two or three games that will return and he’ll be in peak fitness, a lot fresher than anyone else around him. There’s every chance that he’ll be a very potent weapon in the next few weeks.
So, in my opinion, the questions of whether Tevez should be playing again and whether he will help City’s title bid have a pretty straightforward answer: yes he should, and yes it will, because he’s a very good player. Is it really any more complicated than that?
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.