I have met Carlos Tevez a few times since he moved to England. He lives close by in south Manchester and I like him. But each time I told him the same thing: "Enjoy your time at Manchester United because no other club compares to it." He was one of the best players when United won the Champions League in 2008 and scored key goals, such as the equaliser at Lyon in the same competition. He always worked so hard for United and looked happy to me.
But when United bought Dimitar Berbatov, I could understand why Tevez would be disappointed. He could not have done much more, yet he found himself out of the starting line-up. People can talk all day long about squad systems, but as a striker you want to feel like you will play every week. Carlos started just 18 league games last season, Berbatov 29. If he began to think about leaving I can understand why. I did the same when Ruud van Nistelrooy was brought in and I found myself on the bench at Old Trafford in 2001.
I was 30 and had the 2002 World Cup ahead of me which I wanted to play in. I was not going to get picked sitting on a bench. Tevez has a World Cup too - not that Argentina are guaranteed to reach it - but he is also a lot younger than I was. Players at 24 or 25 do not want to be anywhere near the bench. I left United and have regretted it ever since. Tevez left - and that is the only fact we really know. The truth has been muddied by opinions on both sides. Everyone puts their slant on things to suit their argument. Did United sell him or did he leave? What is the truth? Who knows?
All parties will have their side to the story - not that fans see it like that. You are either a hero or villain and Tevez has been cast a villain by United fans who booed him. That reaction surprised me, but I guess it is hard to be loved by United and City fans at the same time. I learned the hard way with agents. My brother acted as my agent, but we were pretty useless as a pair. Or rather I was. When I signed my first contract worth any money with Bristol City, he told me not to sign anything in the first meeting. I was impatient and signed a three-year contract straight away, worth £450 (Dh2,700) a week. I got a signing on fee of about £20,000. I thought I was minted.
It was when I moved to Newcastle that I got stung. Out of the blue, I received a call from a famous former player who was working as an agent. "Hi Coley," he said, all friendly. "How you doing, brother?" I'd never spoken to him before, but I listened to what he said because I knew that he'd been a top-level player. I also felt my brother would be out of his depth dealing with this transfer. I genuinely thought this man was trying to help me out when he said, "I've got someone who can advise on the deal."
My friend Michael Thomas had also put me on to the solicitor Michael Kennedy, who looks after Roy Keane and Niall Quinn, but I didn't end up using him. Instead, I ended up using the guy recommended by the ex-player and went up to Newcastle in his car. A deal was done to sell me for a club record fee. When it was concluded, he said, "That'll be £30,000 for my services." "Can I pay in instalments?" I asked.
"No, I want the money now." "I had to pay him out of my signing on fee. He obviously had a carve up with the former player. I've never heard from either of them since. The same man got involved when Ruel Fox signed for Newcastle, but Foxy didn't pay him. Maybe I was naive, but Newcastle wanted me and had already agreed a fee, so there was no need for any help. I would have got the signing on fee regardless.
I don't think that the very top players actually need an agent. They need a financial advisor and solicitor, but not an agent. Because if you play well the offers are going to come. I had a different agent for my time at United. He behaved like he was my best mate, but that all stopped when I finished playing, when I couldn't make any more money for him. It leaves a very bitter taste. email@example.com