From starting in Buenos Aires to swapping red for blue and guiding the Old Lady to their first Champions League final in twelve years, it certainly has been an eventful career for Carlos Tevez to say the least. At the young age of 16, Carlos Tevez made his debut for Boca Juniors against Talleres de Córdoba. Yes you read that right, a professional first team debut at the age of 16. Yet even his young age and his prominence in the spotlight seemed not to frighten Tevez and with that, has led to some well publicised controversy over the years. So a decade and a half later at the age of 31, I ask what has Carlos Tevez brought to the game of football? Has he ever been worthy of being compared throughout the Argentinian media, placed in the same bracket and as a potential heir to Diego Maradona?
Well that question certainly isn’t as straight forward as it may seem. The potential was most certainly there. Not only did he make his debut at the tender age, in footballing terms, of 16 years of age, he soon became the most expensive footballer in the history of South American football at the time, signing for Brazilian Série A club Corinthians for a fee of $16M, valuing today at just £10.1M. Compare that with Andriy Shevchenko who was later bought by Chelsea the following year for a whopping £30.8M. At the time the Ukrainian was arguably Europe’s most feared striker, and as we all know money does talk. Therefore at the age of 21, his value spoke volumes of the potential of Carlos Tevez.
And Carlos Tevez, often compared to a bulldog for his dogged determination subsequently left Brazil after only thirty-eight games from who many would regard as Brazil’s biggest football club, to join Premier League relegation candidates West Ham United. The forward along with fellow compatriot Javier Mascherano arrived with big expectations and individual reputations’ to match and with good reason after scoring 25 goals in those mere 38 games. Despite finding goals relatively easy in Brazil the same can long be said for his experiences in London. Tevez joined The Hammers on the deadline day but it did take until the 4th of March 2007 before Tevez scored his first goal, coming in a 4-3 defeat to local rivals Tottenham Hostpur. Looking back you would think it would be this moment that would prove to be the turning point in West Ham’s season. And consequently, Carlos Tevez would somewhat predictably then go onto to score six more goals including the winner at Old Trafford on the final day of the season to help the Hammer’s fight off relegation.
Ironically Old Trafford was the strikers’ next destination after a complex saga of difficult transfer negotiations that went as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Thankfully for Manchester United, Carlos Tevez settled into life at the Theatre of Dreams very quickly. He scored his first goal in a 2–0 home victory against Chelsea; an early statement of intent from the club that would be eventually be crowned English and European champions nine months later that season. In fact in that famous night in Moscow during the UEFA Champions League final, it was Tevez who scored the first penalty in the shootout against Chelsea. Manchester United went on to win the shootout 6–5 after the match had ended 1–1 after extra-time.
His second season at Old Trafford however proved not to be as successful both individually and collectively as a team. The Red Devils did go onto win yet another Premier League title but Tevez’s role was reduced due to the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov who became the most expensive footballer in British football. It was with this frustration that Tevez became the first player to move between the two Manchester clubs since Terry Cooke moved from United to cross-city rivals Manchester City in 1999. Sir Alex Ferguson was powerless to stop him as the Argentines contract had expired, with fans undivided on whether more should be done to keep Tevez at the club. And it goes without saying that was to the peril of the red half of Manchester o say this annoyed the red side of Manchester and his ill feeling was only intensified when Tevez scored both goals in a 2-1 over Manchester United in the first leg of their league cup semi-final.
It was at Manchester City where the hard working striker became the prolific goal scorer that he once was in Brazil, returning to the Carlos Tevez of old. In my own opinion this a large reason why Tevez has gone from being a squad player at the European champions to the main man at the potential new European champions seven years later. Roberto Mancini made Tevez captain in 2010 and for me this was a turning point in his career. We often see how a player can seemingly become a shadow of their former selves when they join a bigger club or at least a club with a better quality of players. For me Kaka was a world beater at AC Milan and a worthy winner of the Ballon D’or. It was clear in the city known for its fashion, Kaka was the brand and everything else might as well have been a cheap knock off. When he moved to Madrid he had to play with players such as Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema, Raúl, so on and so forth. Kaka was no longer the main man was whilst the opposite experience had happened for Tevez. From playing in the shadow of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, he was welcomed to Manchester City as their poster boy and with great responsibility certainly came great power and prowess for the ‘noisy neighbours’.
In the production of this article, it’s been somewhat eye-opening looking through several match reports of Carlos Tevez’ time not just at Manchester United and City but also at current club Juventus as well. Alongside this, through assessing his performance in the Coppa Italia final and studied his role at Juventus compared to his time at his previous employers, it has left little to deduce, with formations and over-analysis offering little context to Carlos Tevez’ success. Therefore, I put it down to psychology and Carlos Tevez’ mind-set. When you spend so much time embracing the sport, it’s very easy to make the assessment of the ‘beautiful game’ that bit less pleasing, over-complicating the simplicities of the sport. With regards to the mental aspect of professional football, one cannot deny that the first ten yards are always in the head and this certainly can be applied to Carlos Tevez. Conclusively, in order to get the very best out of him he needs to feel like the man in the charge, the main man leading the line or at least the focal, central and pivotal lead-striker at a club – confidence is everything.
And if we take the example of Carlos Tevez, and compare it to Ricky Lambert, it does pose an interesting question as to how many goals he may have scored for Liverpool this season had Liverpool not signed Mario Balotelli? The English forward inevitably has proved he can do it in the Premier League for previous club Southampton, so why suddenly has his form dropped? Liverpool play a similar passing game to the one Southampton did that season so playing style can’t be it, meaning there’s plenty of other factors such as psychology that it could possibly be.
But with returning to Carlos Tevez, for me his career brings with it many moments to remember, although his somewhat inconsistent goal scoring pattern will be the feature which sticks most firmly in my mind. Some will argue it was his struggle to adapt to European football, but I am slowly becoming convinced that the problem is deeper. I ask the question how important is it for some players to feel they are the main man? Imagine somebody like Chelsea or Manchester United signing the prolific Charlie Austin, merely to act as a squad player, starting some weeks in lesser games and consigned to the bench during others. Consequently he may score five goals all seasons and suddenly, people question his ability and argue that he may not good enough. Yet surely logic and common sense would tell you that if he is able to score a whopping 17 goals for QPR, then clearly he could score far more for a side like Manchester United or Chelsea with a higher calibre of players assisting him and working alongside him?
Frankly, we will probably never get to see this happen, although it would be interesting to see a player in a lower standard of the game, perhaps not drastically lower but lower all the same, and then see how they do when they are propelled into the limelight as the main striker at a traditional top four side, in any league in the world. How much can the belief a club and a manager put into a player’s head effect his or her ability and essentially how much of talent is belief? Who knows what the summer may bring, in the turbulent sport we love and admire as football, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Carlos Tevez back in the Premier League to answer that question, although a move for somebody like Charlie Adam or Danny Ings to the upper echelons of top-flight football seems more likely.
Article written by: @Diarmuidii_mufc