Never has the phrase “from hero to zero” rang more true than when applied to Carlos Tevez this week.
The Argentine’s stock with City fans plummeted faster than a Eurozone bond after he refused to come on as a substitute during City’s 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
But are City fans approaching this in the wrong way? Could it be that Tevez is part of a noble tradition of withholding Labour? A modern day Arthur Scargill? Should we be saluting the Argentina international for his bravery in standing up to The Man(cini)?
For all the sanctimonious hand-wringing about Tevez’s “strike” at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, let’s remember that Paul Scholes – lauded by the football community as the ultimate ‘model pro’ – refused to play in a Carling Cup game for United in 2001 after being dropped by Sir Alex Ferguson for the previous game at Liverpool. The player apologised, United fined him two week’s wages, and the matter was forgotten.
Admittedly, Tevez’s initial excuse for staying glued to the bench – “I didn’t feel I was right to play, so I didn’t” – seemed a bit vague. The trend for footballers to proclaim they are “not in the right frame of mind to play”, most recently wheeled out by Luka Modric after being denied his megabucks move to Chelsea, always struck me as a little strange.
Although there’s no doubting top-level football requires extreme concentration and positional awareness, it’s not as if they are about to perform an angioplasty. Surely if you’re feeling stressed, a run out is exactly what you need to blow away those cobwebs?
Amid the general cry of calls for Tevez to be sacked, beheaded or stretched on the rack, a few figures from the football fraternity did raise their heads above the parapet, whack-a-mole style, to give Tevez their backing.
Mark Hughes’ support was somewhat undermined by the fact he shares an agent with Tevez, but shiny foreheaded Geordie Alan Shearer popped up to share another one of his kidney stones of wisdom. “I understand Tevez’s anger because Edin Dzeko was brought off and Nigel De Jong had gone on,” said Shearer, seemingly failing to understand that a striker being taken off for a midfielder is not a slight on Tevez, it’s a tactical change.
But for all his arrogance and his ridiculous feathered boyband haircut, I can’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for Tevez. The fans are baying for his blood, his club are calling for a lengthy suspension, but no-one can doubt his full-blooded commitment on the field, having led City to an FA Cup and Champions League qualification last season.
This is part of a pattern for the Argentine striker and his agent Kia Joorabchian: move to a new club, win the hearts of the fans, then agitate for a big-money move away after two seasons.
Signed as an ambitious but uneducated teenager by Joorabchian, Tevez is the classic model for what Argentines call El Pibe de Oro – ‘the golden boy’, a raw, street smart youngster who gets by on his wits and his skill.
There remains the sense that Tevez has never really been at home at any of his clubs – a blue-chip asset to be shuttled between clubs for the benefit of his paymasters. If only Tevez had directed his strike against his owners, he might have elicited a great deal more sympathy.