Friday, 3 February 2012

Tevez: an apology of a footballer

A guest post by Murray Withers, which does a fine job of unpicking the complex tapestry that is the relationship between City and Carlos Tevez. You can also catch Murray on Twitter.

While there are transfer windows open in other countries, there is still hope we could sell Carlos Tévez. Maybe a loan to South America, maybe to Anzhi Makhachkala (not sure what the restos are like in Dagestan)? A loan to Liverpool was a weird call (especially when Carroll was being valued the same). The door to Italy is closed. PSG is a non-starter. Crawley? LA Galaxy? Now we hear he has been put in City’s Premier League squad for the rest of the season.

The situation as I understand it is this: Tévez, who is appealing the loss of his wages despite removing his labour through a lengthy and entirely self-imposed exile in Anywhere But Manchester, is ‘due’ to return to the club, maybe after Martin Palermo’s testimonial in Buenos Aires, or when he can be arsed in general. But Mancini would require an apology for him to resume with the first team, something his agent-parasite Kia Joorabchian has been adamant would not be forthcoming. The club back Mancini, don’t want to consider a loan and just want rid, but for the right price. The wider situation is that while City could do with someone of his graft and class, to bring Tévez back into the fold would be seen as a huge climb down and one that would be potentially destabilising for a squad who have bonded without him.

The Tévez fiasco is the highest profile casualty of City’s breakneck expansion since September 2008, and symptomatic of the modern abuses of player power, from someone who at one stage couldn’t even be owned by a club. Players are signed in good faith, and while it would be stupid to deny that the market-busting wages were the winning factor for some, especially in the first few seasons, you expect them to put in a shift. Much lower lights like Jerome Boateng floundered for this reason. Initially, that’s what we got from Tév, nearly two seasons’ worth of brilliance where El Apache would run through defensive walls to get us goals, nearly every game. For a while he was the fulcrum on which our game depended. Despite frequent grumbles about his unhappiness, he saw off £100m of talent in Robinho, Bellamy, Adebayor and Santa Cruz. A tw*t off the pitch, but a titan on it.

Yet there was always something unlovable about Carlito, shown by the fact that our main song about him was more about how he is no longer at our rivals. Sure, he’d ripped into Neville and co, but it was clear he was doing this for himself, not for the Blue cause. Then injury came, we beat United in the semi without him and realised he may not be indispensable. When Aguero was added to Balotelli and Dzeko all of a sudden he wasn’t automatic first choice and our play had changed. He started this season on the bench, from where the infamous refusal to warm up was played out in Munich. Since then Tévez’s star has sunk so low but this doesn’t seem to have bothered him. He thinks he just needs to turn up at a new club and get going again to be in the limelight for the right reasons. Maybe that’s true, but fans and clubs alike now know he’s only good for a few seasons and, like a child, only at his best when he sees himself as the biggest fish in the pond. If not, the sulks and the shrugs come with indecent and maddening regularity. Meanwhile on the Blue forums emotions still run high, with the general theme being that City should never consider bringing him back into the fold. This has gone way beyond the refusal to come to our rescue against Bayern.

The reality is that none of the more emotional stances of the stakeholders (club, manager, player and fans) are actually relevant to what is essentially an employer-employee dispute, the latter ruled by his ego and lack of nous. If Tévez were to return and start working hard at Carrington, the onus would then be on City to return him to the fold and if not we could be in the wrong contractually. We can’t run his contract down while he stagnates in training with the kids either. Like all workplace disputes, a bit of arbitration could put an end to the imbroglio. Put them all in a room with a player’s union rep, wrestle an apology from Tévez and a commitment from Mancini, and many of the problems could be solved.

That’s one scenario to deal with the situation as it currently stands, but the problem is that too much has been said, too much choppy water has flowed under the bridge, for the situation to be so easily recovered. And it’s not an outcome I’m in favour of. Tévez has not only been a disgrace to City but a disgrace to football and obviously the best solution is a sale at an acceptable price. Moreover, seeing him back in a sky blue shirt would provoke a further emotion. The one downside of us winning the cup was him lifting it, and as much as I could reluctantly accept Tévez helping us out the thought of this mercenary being anywhere near  our possible end-of-season celebrations makes me ill.

So I think unless the club budges on a loan deal what’s most likely to happen is a stalemate where Tevez is still tied to the club but essentially allowed to be AWOL (so we wouldn’t have to pay his wages) until the summer, when we finally get shot of him at a fraction of his value. I wish he was some other team’s problem now.