Kevin Henning bids a sad farewell to a controversial figure.
The most controversial player in Manchester’s recent footballing history left for Turin yesterday leaving behind him an entire spectrum of emotions.
Despised by reds to a man, Carlos Tevez’s relationship with City fans is nigh on impossible to summarise. Both sets of supporters have their own reasons to be glad to see the back of the Argentine but when the dust settles and Mancunians reflect on what Tevez brought to their teams, they’ll remember him as much for his footballing ability as his numerous talking points.
It all started for Carlos Tevez and Manchester when he left West Ham for Old Trafford in a loan deal back in 2007. Boasting a dream forward line of Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo, United won the Premier League in both seasons whilst Tevez wore their number 32 shirt. During his first season, Alex Ferguson expressed his wish to sign Tevez on a permanent deal stating “He’ll get me 15 goals this season and what’s more, they’ll be important goals”. Indeed, Tevez hit 19 goals for United that season and scored the first penalty against Chelsea in the Champions League Final. That Ferguson would make his move permanent was inevitable at that stage. The Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo trio had struck up such an understanding that United’s attacking play was spellbinding at times.
On the first day of September in 2008 though, two events on either side of Manchester would shape the future of Carlos Tevez. On the blue side of the city, the Abu Dhabi United Group bought out Thaksin Shinwatra and took control of the underachieving Citizens. With the money likely to be invested, City made their intentions to purchase the best players around clear to the footballing world by snapping up Brazilian playmaker Robinho. Whilst the Madrid forward was making his way to Manchester, City also had a bid accepted from Tottenham Hotspur for Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. The mercurial hitman headed North with the intention of signing not for City but United. Confused? Berbatov wasn’t, he had his heart set on a move to Old Trafford and despite Tottenham not accepting a bid from United, Alex Ferguson met him and whisked him off to his office at the stadium. At this point, Spurs and Daniel Levy had a choice to make. Should they stand their ground and report United to the Premier League for illegally approaching their player live on Sky Sports News or should they find a new and inventive way to roll over one more time for Manchester United?
Had the Londoners stood their ground, the additional venom injected into Manchester derbies 12 months later may never have manifested itself, but as Dimitar Berbatov put pen to paper, it signalled the beginning of the end of Carlos Tevez’s time at United.
Ferguson clearly rated Berbatov’s creativity over the industry of Tevez, ignorant to the fact that the Argentinian could conjure up just as much on a good day but still worked as hard on a bad day whereas when Berbatov’s magic didn’t work, neither did his legs. Tevez was being increasingly left out of United’s line up for key games and during the spring of 2010, something snapped between the United boss and his loan star.
Having settled his daughters in the area, Tevez made clear his intention to remain in Manchester and after a long transfer saga, joined hated rivals City to the delight of Bluemooners everywhere. Not only had they purchased a top performer, they’d snatched him from under United’s noses who despite the protests of Ferguson, tried their damndest to sign him permanently. The infamous “Welcome To Manchester” billboard went up and battle lines were drawn. City’s supporters adopted the Red Devils’ “Fergie Sign Him Up” chant and revelled in the knowledge that they’d poked their enemy right in the eye.
Carlos Tevez quickly got City fans onside and removed any apprehension the minority who had refused to celebrate the signing of a red by showing Paul Dickov like graft blended with Kinkladze-esque skills. As if they could have asked for anymore, Tevez provided a goal ratio to rival the Goat. The brace at Eastlands in the ultimately unsuccessful League Cup semi final which was celebrated with the mocking of Gary Neville who Tevez described as “a boot licker” was music to the cupped ears of the noisy neighbours. City had a new son.
During this time, United fans’ warnings to their rivals that Tevez was a trouble maker was seen as jealousy and fell on deaf ears but there would prove to be a wisdom behind the words in time. During new City manager Roberto Mancini’s first full season in charge, Tevez by now captain of the team, would rock the club by demanding a transfer on the very night of an away win at his former club West Ham which had sent City to the summit. Garry Cook and Khaldoon Al Mubarek refused to budge and Tevez was told there would be no cut price transfer to boyhood heroes Boca Juniors under any circumstances.
Mancini maybe saw further problems and signed what was deemed to be Tevez’s replacement at the end of that season in fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero. The 2011-12 season got underway with Tevez replaced both on the pitch and in the hearts of the fans by Kun. The team’s talisman of last season was being used as a bit part player. Something was going to give and during the much talked about night in Munich, the relationship between Mancini and Tevez seemed to have been broken forever. A return to Buenos Aires to reduce his par was deemed a step too far as Citizens turned their collective backs on the once golden boy and backed their manager to the hilt.
Tevez returned later in the season when the wheels looked to be coming off City’s title juggernaut. The club were obliged to play him and an uneasy peace was declared. The part he played in a seismic winner against Chelsea and the hat-trick complete with golf swing celebration at Norwich pushed City towards the bridging of United’s 8 point gap. Tevez was seen as the catalyst in the stunning late snatch that claimed the Premier League crown and all seemed forgiven.
Last season’s disappointing defence of the title can be put down to many reasons. A disastrous transfer window, the signing of Robin Van Persie for United, Mancini’s tactical stubborness…. the list goes on. One that has occured to a large portion of City fans though was that Tevez had seemed to have lost a yard of pace during his hiatus in South America. With a year left on his contract heading into his thirties, City saw it as the ideal time to accept a £10 million bid from Juventus and a deal was swiftly wrapped up.
Mancunians of both persuasions will look back on Carlos Tevez, the Tezmanian Devil with mixed feelings. A busy wasp of a player who drove at panic stricken defenders and invariably buried the ball in the net, Tevez caused as much trouble for his paymasters as he did back fours. As a blue, I can never forgive Tevez for letting my club down the way he did but at the same time won’t ever forget his impact on the glorious spring that saw my team become Champions of England. He gave me and my eldest son some of our happiest moments with his goals and for that, I’ll let the rough waters pass under the Victoria Bridge and wish him well in Serie A.
Adios Carlitos and buena suerte from the City of Manchester.