What a time for Carlos Tevez to declare he’s homesick and wants out of Manchester City. Just as Roberto Mancini’s overpaid mercenaries are making real impact on the Premier League at last, their top scorer slaps in a written transfer request.
City, who moved into second place above neighbours United with a 3-1 win over West Ham on Saturday, have rejected the notion of a move for their 10-goal Argentinian. The fans will be reeling. But then City supporters generally are these days.
For months they’ve had to put up with all the problems associated with going from struggling also-rans to Sheikh Mansoor’s well-oiled play-thing.
Getting rid of the popular Mark Hughes last season was just the beginning. Craig Bellamy and Steven Ireland felt they could stay no longer when Mansoor’s billions began to attract players from around the globe. Shaun Wright-Phillips and his dad Ian Wright constantly peck away at the club while talented winger Adam Johnson rarely gets a start. But the big name buys chosen by the Abu Dhabi sugardaddy continued to misbehave.
Former Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure, the best-paid player in the Premier on £220,000-a-week, stormed off at half time during a torrid home defeat to Arsenal. Then there was Emmanuel Adebayore having an ugly spat with Vincent Kompany. Two weeks ago, we had pictures of a training ground bust-up between two not-quite Ghanaians, German international Jerome Boateng and Italy’s Mario Balotelli.
No explanations, nothing to settle the fans. All they got was Mancini, struggling to do better than Hughes, claiming all was well. Things would be fine he said. In the middle of it all, Sky’s Soccer AM programme were asked to travel up to the club’s training ground and film an episode of “cross bar challenge” where the entire squad attempts to hit the bar from the halfway line.
Generally, such challenges are jocular, with everyone having a good laugh and showing their so-called team spirit. That’s why City invited Soccer AM’s crew to their Platt Lane base.
When they got there, David Platt attempted to assemble the players. But the highly-paid foreign stars just wandered away, ignoring the assistant managers pleas to stay. Apparently they just ignored the former England star and drove off. In the end just seven of the 25-man squad did the Challenge. It was a shambles. Soccer AM never aired the footage.
But then came the long-overdue current run of success culminating in a crushing win over the doomed Hammers on Saturday. Suddenly, things were turning up roses for City. And so much of it revolves around Tevez, the man who opted to leave big brothers United with “welcome to Manchester” posters controversially greeting his move.
Tevez has always been a fascinating study in modern football. Brought up in Fuerte Apache, the toughest slum in Buenos Aires, he first came to European attention when he arrived at West Ham “on loan” with Javier Mascherano in 2006.
The pair of them were apparently “owned” by Kia Joorabchian, and English-based Iranian and part of the Media Sports Investments portfolio of sporting stars. Apparently neither player owned their own names when they left Corinthians in Brazil.
Though he was never properly registered, Tevez scored the goals which kept the Hammers up, including the vital last-day winner against Manchester United in May 2007—and promptly decamped to Old Trafford that summer. I’ve always wondered...who pocketed that £25m transfer fee? West Ham or MSI? Nobody seems to know.
Tevez scored 19 goals in 63 games and earned SirAlex Ferguson’s grudging admiration. Then it was off to City, where the money was even better. There he has scored a phenomenal 39 in 60 games, despite having to compete with a galaxy of expensive strikers who have come and gone.
Robinho, Jo, Bellamy, Balotelli, Adebayor and the rest all failed to match the sharpness of the hard-working little Argentinian, who bears the scars of a childhood accident but refuses to have them surgically removed.
He’s no ordinary football mercenary. When the Terry Bridge handshake with John Terry never happened last season, it was Tevez of all people who squared up to the towering Terry, snarling and offering to take things outside. At 5'8", he was going head-to-chest rather than head-to-head, but the passion of the man is unquestioned.
Now, despite all the badge kissing and those vital goals for the Eastland’s light blues, the man slaps in a transfer request just as things were looking good for Mancini’s expensively assembled Blues.
But is it a shock? Hardly. Tevez and the cocksure Mancini were never a match made in heaven. They had a go at eachother when he was pulled off after scoring the only goal in City’s vital win over Bolton.
As a result, Tevez snubbed the club Christmas party. Suspended for the Hammers win on Saturday, he wants to go home for Christmas to see his two daughters, back home in Argentina after trouble with their mother, Vanessa. She left Britain after lurid reports involving Tevez and a woman called Marina Paesani.
Tevez, currently on an estimated £100,000-a-week at City, will be hard-pressed to find another club willing to match his earnings. Certainly, if he’s homesick, he’ll have to take a major pay cut if he returns to Argentine domestic football. But the question is, does Tevez make his own decisions or is he still a slave to his agency? Time will tell.
Who the hell is Neal Collins (nealcol on twitter)? See nealcollins.co.uk. And watch SuperSport in South Africa on Monday night, where he'll be doing the build up to the Manchester United vs Arsenal showdown.