by Ahsan Naeem
I first began writing this blog way back in October a few weeks after the Munich debacle and prior to Carlos’ “5 month holiday in Argentina” (copyright Slur Alex Ferguson). Unfortunately at the time the blog I presented it to declined to publish it on the basis that I’d more than likely become persona non grata and would probably have to change my phone number and living address, and potentially even my name, due to the strong anti Tevez feeling amongst my fellow Blue bretheren. Time has a way of heeling though, and I feel much safer writing it now. So, here goes.
The Carlos Tevez saga really took the wind out of my sails when it comes to MCFC. It’s a hard thing to acknowledge after everything that’s happened since that night, but, he was my King Carlos. The first truly world class player my generation of City supporters got to see grace the sky blues. He embodied everything I respected in a footballer. Hunger, desire, seemingly limitless energy, and at his finest, the subtlety which set apart players like Maradona, Pele, et al.
I’ll come to the whys and wherefores of Munich later, but we need to go back a little further to give the “Tevez situation” its proper context.
City CHOSE to keep Carlos last summer. His valuation (50 million pounds no less) was set knowing that nobody would match it, particularly with the astronomical wages which would come on top of the transfer fee. That’s the decision the club made, we have to assume in consultation with the manager. Certainly the noises made by Roberto Mancini were that he wanted 4 top strikers, and more importantly, wanted to keep Carlos because he was a “fantastic player”. It stands to reason that Carlos will have come back thinking he was going to get a fair crack at being an important part of the squad, even if he was no longer top dog or captain.
Now I’ve read all manner of character assassinations of him and one thing has stood out. “He wasn’t fit when he came back after the summer and when he was given opportunities he didn’t take them”. Fine, both points are on the face of it completely fair.
Casting my mind back to when Carlos first joined I remember similar things being said. Well, similar in the sense that he did look unfit and seemed a yard off the pace. The difference back then was we needed him, so he continued to play and in playing regularly, became the goal scoring force and talismanic figure he was for nigh on two seasons.
Let’s jump back to the run up to Munich. We played five matches in the space of two weeks, with Carlos starting the league game against Wigan (10th September) and the Carling Cup game against Birmingham (21st September). His first two starting appearances of the season. In the 11 day period in between those two games he played only 10 minutes against Napoli and 10 minutes against Fulham. It seemed logical to rest Dzeko before Napoli and give Carlos the run out at Wigan. Then post Napoli I expected to see Carlos again start at Fulham. Instead Dzeko got the nod again, even though he’d struggled against Napoli, with Carlos getting to start the subsequent Carling Cup match.
Yes, Dzeko and Kun started the season on fire. But in actual fact in the run up to the Munich game Dzeko seemed to be losing his form and touch. He wasn’t playing badly as such, but after his flurry of goals in the first three games of the season, hadn’t scored in five prior to Munich. Then he started against Everton (the weekend prior to the Bayern match) even though he’d been rested before Napoli. The logical conclusion at that point for me was, well Carlos played Wednesday in the Carling Cup, so Dzeko is fresher.
Within this context, I for one was absolutely certain that Carlos would start in Munich. It seemed logical to bring him back for such a big game. It would’ve been a statement to him that he was an important member of the squad, and more importantly, that Mancini trusted him on the biggest stage. It would’ve stung Dzeko for sure, but it would’ve reminded him that our squad is competitive enough that dips in form will lead to the coaching staff looking at other options. It would’ve justified carrying such an array of attacking talent, because lets face it, Balotelli and Tevez aren’t really here for the Carling Cup. Squad rotation. One plays Saturday, the other Tuesday. Hell we did it with the full backs and one of the centre halves in Munich.
Alas Mancini saw things differently. The inconsistency of resting Dzeko pre Napoli, but then playing him even though his form had dipped pre Munich, then again asking him to start in Munich even though he’d done little against Everton. I have to be honest, I saw it as the kind of thing you do when you’re letting a player know he’s the last port of call. Come in striker number 4, the Carling Cup and the odd run out against the league’s whipping boys awaits you. I think the message was received loud and clear.
So what of what happened next? I’ve never said this out loud, but I’ll say it now. I simply don’t believe that Tevez refused to take the field as Mancini stated immediately after the match. He refused to warm up (no, I’m not Kia Joorabchian) arguing he had already warmed up twice in preparation for Dzeko leaving the field. It’d already happened the season before. Mancini’s reaction was typical of his relationship with Carlos. A childish spat in which neither man is capable of looking at the greater good, both men lost in their own egos and their own sense of injustice.
Mancini’s subsequent proclamations that Tevez would never play for City again under his watch was again the emotional reaction of a man whose ego didn’t allow him to consider the greater good. He castigated the player, fed the press and the supporters enough ammunition to assassinate Tevez’s character a million times over, then sent him packing to train with City’s youth team. He shot himself in both feet in an instant, because as we know, Carlos simply packed his bags and flew to Argentina. He was made a pariah in English football, and a pariah at the club he had captained just the season previously. In many respects I’m not entirely sure what Mancini expected to happen. He’d made his bed by saying the guy would never play under him again.
I’m not here to try and absolve Carlos of his part to play. But the events of the last few weeks have left me wondering so much. Would Roberto Mancini have been as quick to banish his beloved Mario Balotelli in the manner in which he did Carlos? Would a fully fit and fully motivated Tevez have been as ineffective in City’s recent away performances as Balotelli and Dzeko have been? In our rush to castigate Tevez did we fall for the slight of hand of a manager who simply didn’t like his authority being questioned by a senior member of his playing staff and put his ego before what was the best for the club he was employed by? The irony is I imagine as Roberto Mancini did his post match interviews last Saturday after Sunderland and suggested he would have substituted Balotelli “after five minutes”, striker number 4 allowed himself a wry smile and a moment to ponder who’d laugh last.
For any Blues reading, I am currently in the process of getting myself a new identity, so your attempts to find me will be futile.