5 Reasons Why Argentina Should Not Take Juventus' Carlos Tevez to the World Cup
The exclusion of Carlos Tevez has been a talking point ever since the start of Alejandro Sabella's reign as Argentina coach. The man dubbed the "People's Player" has a large support in his native country, and the boss has consistently resisted pressure to put the Juventus man in his squads despite some excellent performances in Italy.
But is Sabella right to ignore one of the world's finest strikers? What seems at first glance to be a personal decision is actually based in solid fact for the man entrusted with winning Argentina's first World Cup in 28 years.
As Carlitos appears almost certain to miss out on the party in Brazil, here are five reasons why the Albiceleste are right to overlook the man who represented them in 2006 and 2010.
5. Argentina Do Not Lack Attacking Options
As the second top scorer in Serie A and a striker of proven international pedigree, Tevez would be an asset to most nations. Indeed, it is hard to name a single country who would not benefit from his presence in the starting line-up.
It is perhaps then a tribute to Argentina's sheer attacking brilliance that the Albiceleste, even without Carlitos, possess arguably the best forward line of any of the World Cup's 32 participants.
Alejandro Sabella has the luxury of calling on Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and of course, the incomparable Lionel Messi when he needs goals fast. Between the three, Argentina's terrible trio have smashed 91 goals for their respective clubs, a fearsome record.
Add Angel Di Maria's skills from midfield, and the considerable talents of Rodrigo Palacio, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Maxi Rodriguez on the bench, and the case for Carlitos looks a little weaker.
4. His Commitment Remains Suspect
Fine, critics of Tevez's exclusion from the Seleccion may say. The Juventus sharpshooter may have to fight for a place among the first XI, but surely he is good enough to at least make the squad. It is a fair point; the prospect of the Apache jumping off the bench as a supersub is enticing to say the least.
That moment and a subsequent five-month absence raised serious doubts over the striker's attitude. It is perhaps telling that Sabella took over just weeks before that Bayern no-show, and he never picked the immensely talented star for a single squad.
3. He Is Not on Team-Mates' Wavelength
Alejandro Sabella has lifted Argentina and South America's biggest trophies during a prolific coaching career, which included a long term as the assistant to former Argentina head Daniel Passarella and an excellent spell in Estudiantes. If there is one thing that the coach learned from his mentor El Kaiser, it was the value of pragmatism.
From almost his first day in the job, Sabella has valued team cohesion and consistency over individual dramas. That continuity was a big part of the reason why Argentina qualified with ease for the World Cup, in the process finding the first-choice defence that gave his predecessors such headaches.
For the coach to turn back on his mantra now and take a gamble on Tevez, completely unused to playing in the current team, would be a u-turn that could cause significant damage to squad unity.
2. 2011 Was a Disaster
There is a precedent to the build-up to this World Cup. In 2011, Argentina were in a similar situation over the "Tevez situation," as the team coached by Sergio Batista prepared to fight for the Copa America on home turf.
In Cristian Grosso's account of the Tevez saga (in Spanish), the La Nacion commenter describes how Batista was pressured by media scrutiny as well as the exhortations of FA officials and even Buenos Aires governor Daniel Scioli into playing the forward, who had fallen out of favour.
"There was pressure from outside for him to be there. I tried to deal with it until the end, but it was difficult... at that time I already wanted to leave," the coach admitted following the tournament.
Results with Tevez were an all-round disaster. Argentina squeezed through the group stage to face a humiliating exit in the last eight at the hands of Uruguay; in a moment of poetic justice it was Carlitos himself who missed the decisive shootout kick.
1. The Messi-Tevez Partnership Has Always Fallen Flat
It would appear to be a match made in heaven. Certainly there are many international managers who would kill for the chance to put two of the world's finest forwards, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, together in the same starting line-up.
Unfortunately for the Argentina national team, the partnership has never reached the heights it seemed to be capable of. Perhaps it is a question of personality clashes; both Tevez and Messi play at their peak when the team is designed to function around them, and having two playmakers of that style is a recipe for disappointment.
The pair's lack of co-ordination was evident in the Albiceleste's last two major tournaments. A double against Mexico was the height of Carlitos' goal-scoring prowess during the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America, while La Pulga fired blanks in each of the two competitions.
A spike in goals from the Argentina captain since being handed the armband by Sabella would seem to suggest that the coach is right to give the Barcelona phenomenon centre stage, relegating Tevez to the sidelines.