Updated: Sunday, 5th July 2020 @ 5:57am

Derby Debate: Carlos Tevez the mercenary? Probably, but he delivers what Manchester City need

Derby Debate: Carlos Tevez the mercenary? Probably, but he delivers what Manchester City need

Comment by Rob Lowson

With the fight for the title already a two-horse race, Sunday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium has gained a little extra spice than normal.

If City win, they will leapfrog United and top the Premier League table on goal difference. A United triumph however, would increase the gap at the top to six points, giving the Reds a huge lead going into the festive period and 2013.

Only one man can boast the unique honour of having won English football’s top prize with both clubs, and that man is Carlos Tevez.

Tevez has cut a controversial figure ever since he arrived in the UK in August 2006. Off the field he has never been shy to express an opinion, but on it, he has consistently displayed levels of skill and tenacity that make him one of the finest and most valuable players in the league.

If you believe quotes attributed to Tevez in a Daily Mirror interview of June 2011, we already know what he thinks about Manchester as a city.

He said: “I’m never going back to Manchester, not even on holiday. Manchester has nothing.”

But just 18 months later, Tevez is still a City player and now has a third Premier League winners medal to show for his supposed change of heart. Maybe he does love the odd rainy day after all?

But when he does inevitably leave for pastures new, and deep down he would probably admit that he is more Buenos Aires than Bury, what legacy will Tevez leave on the Manchester footballing landscape?

During his two seasons at Old Trafford, Tevez won two league titles, and more importantly, he also won the hearts of United supporters with his whole-hearted displays and more than respectable scoring record, notching 34 strikes in 99 appearances for the club.

His place in United folklore was sealed when, in the midst of doomed contract negotiations, he scored against his current employers at Old Trafford in May 2009, a goal that prompted the Stretford End to infamously chant ‘Fergie, Fergie, sign him up’.

Now, history tells us that Sir Alex is not a manager who lets players go when they still have their prime years to offer the club. When high-profile players have been jettisoned in the past, it is because Ferguson feels their best days have been and gone.

You only have to look at examples such as David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Ruud Van Nistelrooy to see that, in the vast majority of cases, his judgement has been spot on.

But maybe, when it comes to Tevez, Ferguson and the board will have to admit they got it wrong.

Although United claimed they were willing to meet the player’s £25.5million asking price-tag and give him parity with the club’s top earners, Tevez suggested he didn’t feel valued by his manager or the club.

Speaking at the time, he said: “I do not feel wanted. I don't think I deserve to be in this position but you realise if your time is up you have to go.”

And go he did. A distance of 3 miles and 1744.8 yards to be exact.

Whereas previous big-name arrivals such as Robinho had flattered to deceive, the Argentine proved to be a coup for City and he hit the ground running, scoring 29 goals in his first season.

And the City fans lapped it up, not only had they signed a world-class international, they had stolen a fans’ favourite from under the noses of their arch rivals. Their ‘Welcome to Manchester’ banner celebrating Tevez’s arrival said it all.

However, it would be ludicrous to suggest that Tevez’s time at City has been anything akin to plain-sailing. With numerous transfer requests demanded and ultimately rescinded, the player has performed more u-turns than the coalition government during his three and a half seasons at the club.

The most notorious bust-up came in September 2011, when Tevez allegedly refused to come on as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, eventually accusing Mancini of treating him ‘like a dog’.

When asked at the time if Tevez could ever play for the club again, Mancini said: “With me, no – it is finished.”

Yet six months later, with City’s bid for the title faltering and attacking impetus required, Mancini was forced to turn to his mercurial striker.

Tevez, with a fresh public apology and reaffirmed commitment to the club in tow, returned with a bang, and his creative nous, added to four crucial goals, helped City to their unforgettable Premier League title triumph last May.

Whereas Tevez still enjoys the adoring support of West Ham United fans, his first English club, the same cannot be said of the Old Trafford faithful.

Not helped by his ongoing spat with Reds legend Gary Neville, or the regrettable ‘R.I.P. Fergie’ sign held aloft during City’s title celebrations, United fans have turned against their former idol and their attitude towards Tevez is understandably hostile. 

When he made his disappearing act midway through last season, certain sections of the City support shared that bitterness, but having ridden back into town to help snare the title, all appears to have been forgiven – for now.

And what of Tevez himself? It is said that genius is often flawed, and is certainly seems that the flamboyant star is not the easiest player for managers to handle. Perhaps he would just prefer a quieter life spent on the golf course.

Right now though, he remains a lynchpin for City.

And with loyalty a dying breed among modern-day footballers, if you maintain he is merely a mercenary, City fans will argue that at least he is their mercenary, and if further goals and titles follow, will they really care?

One thing is for sure, while Tevez remains in Manchester, the derbies will never be dull.

As for Sunday, I’m going 2-1 City. With the winner coming from you know who. 

Picture courtesy of Yahoo UK, with thanks.

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