Carlito’s way

Ian Farrell bids a grateful but unemotional farewell to Carlos Tevez as he looks for another move

If you filter out any stories containing the words “romp” or “affray” and only count the football-related, few Premier League players have generated as much news over the last five years as Carlos Tévez. Not that there haven’t been sleazier revelations along the way, but it’s at work that he is truly a leading headline-maker, with the success and salvation his goals have delivered accounting for only a fraction of the coverage.

But while the off-field issues of his early years in England generally involved things happening to him or around him, such as the controversies and legal battles over his eligibility and ownership, the last two seasons have seen the rise of Tévez as a serial complainer. The public rows have become wearying and, despite the great rewards his efforts have helped to earn, there are plenty of fans who will feel relieved that their captain is taking his baggage elsewhere.

Though he talked of his “absolute commitment” to Manchester City after withdrawing his transfer request in December, few believed that the differences had been genuinely resolved and a summer departure always looked likely. Given that he hasn’t stayed longer than two years at any club since leaving Boca Juniors, no City fan with any grounding in reality will feel let down by his decision to leave – even those sufficiently cynical to view the justification of missing his daughters as pure smokescreen designed for emotional leverage.

When you employ someone who has no problem with leaving a club for their bitter rivals, it is best to prepare yourself for similarly unsentimental treatment. United may have been astounded and incensed that he could make such a move and then criticise them for not trying hard enough to keep him, but that clearly delineated attitude to the business of football inoculated most sensible City fans against any future feelings of hurt.

Replacing him will certainly not be easy and there are many desperate for him to stay, regardless of any problems he may cause. In his two years at Eastlands, Tévez scored 29 and 23 in all competitions respectively. True, they total less than Lionel Messi and Ronaldo managed in one campaign, but taken against the average, those figures are hugely impressive. Judged against the 25 or so other strikers to play for City since the return to the top division in 2002, of whom only Nicolas Anelka ever surpassed 15 in a season, they are phenomenal.

But alongside those goals came the disruptive procession of negative stories about the hardship of life in Manchester and his treatment at the hands of “certain executives”. He can be hot-headed, as shown by flare-ups with Gary Neville among others, but in truth only the most trusting would see his “outbursts” as the honest words of a firebrand who can’t stop himself venting his feelings. Many of these comments can be taken as part of a wider game, with Tévez as a pawn in an on-going battle between his adviser Kia Joorabchian, once a key player in City’s dealings, and the latter’s former friend, the club’s abrasive and triumphalist chief executive Garry Cook.

Tévez’s criticism of the sacking of Mark Hughes may well have been sincere, but given that Hughes is also represented by Joorabchian, it had the feel of a calculated attack orchestrated from elsewhere. Despite grumblings about his family situation, it was ultimately promises supposedly broken by Cook that the Tévez corner publicly blamed for prompting last year’s transfer request.

Tévez has written himself into Manchester City history, helping to make them a “big club” in terms of achievement, not just infrastructure and ambition, but big clubs don’t tend to put up with their players’ power games unless they have to. On the pitch he gave the side something that was missing and for that the fans will always be grateful, but having taken it to the next level, the time is right to look to an easier-going replacement.

His half-decade in England has seen him keep West Ham up, play a key role in the most trophy-laden two-year cycle in United’s history, propel City into the Champions League and to their first silverware in 35 years. There have been plenty of great memories among the disputes, and should he not find the answer to his problems, it’s probable that we’ll see him here again. There is unlikely to be a shortage of Premier League sides happy to take his goals over peace, harmony and long-term planning.

From WSC 295 September 2011