First things first: it does not necessarily follow that just because Carlos Tevez has clicked his fingers he will get his way. It will still need a potential buyer to find a transfer fee in the region of £50-million, as well as the small matter of a £250 000-a-week salary, and there are not too many clubs out there with that kind of financial muscle, particularly when you factor in X amount for Kia Joorabchian, the Mr Percentage loitering in the background.
But at least we know for certain now. Tevez wants out of Manchester City and, if it is all starting to sound vaguely familiar, it is because he sent a similar swarm of locusts heading towards Eastlands last December. On that occasion he blamed the club’s executives, saying their relationship had “broken down and is beyond repair” and becoming, in the words of Noel Gallagher, “the first person to want to leave a football club because he didn’t like someone in the office”.
This time Tevez has gone for a new strategy, talking of wanting to see more of his daughters, Florencia and Katia, by playing in Spain or Italy, on the basis that their mother, Vanesa, would be happy to move there from Buenos Aires. “Living without my children in Manchester has been incredibly challenging,” he says. “I hope people understand the difficult circumstances I have been living under for the past 12 months, in regards to my family.”
When a man talks like that it can make you feel a little uncomfortable, grubby even, about questioning his motives. But it is when you gauge the reaction at City that you quickly realise the level of scepticism, and that nobody is weeping for the Argentinian inside a club where they have learned the hard way of his remarkable capacity for attaching a cloud to every silver lining.
No, it is a reaction of weary disdain from the FA Cup winners and, in some quarters, open contempt and this, remember, from a club who have coddled Tevez to the point of risking their own credibility at times. One story is of Roberto Mancini allowing Tevez four days off last season — initially three until Tevez asked for another — so he could fly to Buenos Aires to spend time with his family. The club later discovered he went on holiday to Tenerife instead.
Mancini, like everyone else at City, has largely been willing to allow these things to pass because he decided long ago that Tevez, like all the best players, was worth the hassle. We are talking, after all, about the only man to make the Professional Footballers’ Association player-of-the-year shortlist for the past two seasons, someone who in that time has scored or set up 42% of his team’s league goals.
There are very few strikers anywhere in the world with his ability to make things happen, trouble opposition defences, shield the ball, run with it, harass and menace, and chase and fluster. Nobody should lose sight of the fact that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to the small, scarred, jagged-toothed Carlos Alberto Tevez – even if it is a close-run thing sometimes.
So why now? What possessed Tevez, currently playing in the Copa America, to choose this moment? City’s suspicion is that it could mean Tevez and the ever-present Joorabchian have another club lined up, with all the riches that would incorporate for both men. Otherwise, the club are perplexed by the timing of Tevez’s latest statement. Did Tevez realise that City had just announced Gael Clichy as their first summer signing? Did he care?
The real issue is of what happens next and, within the club, there is certainly not the sense of crisis that descended the last time. There will be no retaliatory statements, no one will be rushing out to South America to try to talk him round. The stance remains the same: Tevez will not be sold unless someone offers the right amount and, in many ways, City hold the aces here, with the player under contract until 2014 and earning the kind of money that is prohibitive to so many clubs.
Nonetheless, this still represents a telling moment for City in a summer that has had other difficulties for Mancini, already frustrated by the new restrictions placed on him by Uefa’s financial fair-play guidelines. Tevez may be high maintenance but he is also high quality and if he were to leave it is not alarmist to say it threatens to be a potentially fatal blow to the club’s chances of competing for the league title. Tevez has accumulated 53 goals in 86 appearances. Mancini has never once accepted the theory it would be better all round to let him go.
And yet there is a difference between being a brilliant footballer and a brilliant football man and at City there is undoubtedly the sense of a club growing weary of his games, the politics, the baggage, the mistruths, the sense that he may be easily influenced and allow decisions to be made on his behalf.
It is certainly a strange set of events, for example, that the captain of a football club that has just won its first trophy for 35 years should have to be badgered even to attend the trophy parade.
There is also clear evidence of his popularity diminishing in the dressing room. It was not a mutiny, but a delegation of three players felt strongly enough to approach Mancini in the spring and let him know they did not want Tevez to captain the side if he returned next season. Vincent Kompany would be the popular choice.
Tevez has had a nomadic career, now looking for a sixth club in seven years, and there is a feeling at City, and before then at Manchester United, that the 27-year-old will always think the grass is greener somewhere else.
Vanesa, we are told, disliked Manchester intensely when she was living in the city and would not contemplate a return. Tevez, whose level of English is mediocre and at a standstill, has also run down Manchester, describing it as “small and rainy” with “only two restaurants”.
The Manchester Evening News, rather pathetically, responded with their “Stick with Us, Tevez” petition urging him to stay, but this was the tipping point for many City supporters, the moment they started to wonder whether enough was enough and there was only so much leeway that could be afforded to one man. Mancini, on the other hand, has always maintained that Tevez will stay.
He may well be right, but what kind of footballer would City be getting next season? Tevez would effectively be returning to Carrington with one hand tied behind his back — and the other on speed-dial to Joorabchian. —