7 May ~ The general consensus in the football press seems to be that Carlos Tévez will not be a Manchester City player next season. Various high-profile clubs in appropriately sun-kissed locations have been touted as his next suitors, and his departure is being treated as more of an inevitability with each passing week. What's more, many claim, City will be better off without him – he's impossible to manage, is constantly homesick and values the ever more obscene bank balances of both himself and his dubiously-motivated agent above anything even resembling loyalty to his club. In short, he personifies the classically spoilt, egocentric modern footballer that has so alienated the majority of today's fans.
These are certainly understandable criticisms – after all, if most supporters had their way, their sides would be comprised entirely of die-for-the-badge, play-with-a-broken-neck local lads in the Tony Adams and Jamie Carragher mould. As we know, though, this isn't possible. Playing top-level football is a profession, not a passion, and those gifted enough to do so are rewarded with a proportionally sized slice of an outrageously big pie. Resenting a footballer for being rich is like taking issue with a tramp for being poor. What's more, it is Tévez's importance to City, rather than vice versa, which should be the deciding factor when the club's fans make a judgement on the striker's more irksome tendencies.
Tévez has 22 goals this season for a side that is not among the most creative and he is one of a very small number of players in the league to have been consistently excellent over the entire campaign. Despite City's phenomenal wealth, replacing him would be a borderline impossible task, as he not only provides both goals and assists, but also plays the "false nine" role of the deep-dropping central striker – so integral to City's set up – superbly well. It's also worth bearing in mind that Mancini's past record of bringing in strikers is questionable at best, with Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko seemingly trying to out-mediocre each other during Tévez's recent absence. On top of this, regardless of however much supposed “personal baggage” he does indeed bring with him, when he's on the pitch, he never appears to be anything other than ludicrously committed to playing well. This is what should genuinely matter to the fans, more than him throwing a strop if he's substituted or jetting back to Argentina when he gets injured.
Tévez's symbolic importance to the City faithful should not be understated. No matter what his motivations were, as a proven top-class player, he left Manchester United to join Manchester City. Because of this decision, he now acts as a kind of physical embodiment of City's ultimate ambition to overhaul their neighbours .Were he to leave, City would not only be shorn of a phenomenal footballer, but also of the only asset they have whose value transcends money. Tévez, I would argue, is very much worth the trouble. Alex Hess