8 October ~ In case there was any doubt, the past few weeks have confirmed that Carlos Tévez is a footballer who provokes strong reactions. His disagreement with Roberto Mancini in the Allianz Arena on September 27 created upheaval within his club and a seismic response in the press, both in scale and strength. Take Oliver Holt's view in the Mirror that Tévez had been met with "a wave of revulsion" for the most calamitous crime a player can commit, with only "throwing a game" being a worse offence. I doubt he spoke to Alf-Inge Haaland before writing that.
No one could doubt the sincerity of the vox pop reactions on local north-west television or that the anger felt by fans and Mancini's volcanic reaction makes sense in the context of Tévez's continuous agitation for a move over the last two years. Managers were queuing up to offer support for Mancini's stance, from Graeme Souness's assessment of Tévez as a "bad apple" to Alex Ferguson's view that Mancini had "shown his strength of character". Even FIFA has been keen to get in on the act by speculating on the circumstances in which a worldwide ban on the player might be applied.
But, as Simon Kuper suggested on Channel 4 News the day after Bayern v City, Mancini's reaction was not inevitable as other managers have found different solutions to "gross insubordination" – notably Barcelona's handling of Lionel Messi when he failed to turn up for training after a match spent on the bench. Kuper went on to suggest that Tévez is far from unique, a point also made by Alan Pardew who believes "those situations happen more often than the media realise". Even Paul Scholes recognised that players do react to being "messed about" and he acknowledged his own reluctance to play in a League Cup tie for Manchester United.
None of this suggests that Tévez was anything other than disrespectful to fans and team-mates. The player's response in the aftermath, delivered with a casual indifference, eventually suggesting a "misunderstanding" did nothing to help his case. What the row shows is the way that power has been wrenched from clubs by players. Many have acknowledged that if Tévez is sacked he could make more money by moving away from the major leagues to the middle east. As Harry Redknapp says, the player "holds all the aces".
It may be the the history of Tévez's ownership and his association with newly wealthy City that make him such a lightning conductor. But perhaps it is also reflection of – for want of a better expression – the player's "otherness". The Sun was quick to remind readers of Tévez's nationality in referring to the "Argy striker". While the widely expressed view that "the sooner he leaves the country the better", might be a reference to Tévez's repeated desire to live closer to his family, but just as easily is recognition that he is not from the the British Isles. Would the reaction have been the same had the player involved been Scholes or even Joey Barton?
From all of this the events had one bright spot. The Daily Mail's desire to get ahead of its rivals by finding out what was actually said in the dugout brought a day's work for a multi-lingual "forensic lip-reader" who also offered an interpretation of an expressive shrug. Brian Simpson