x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The talent and turbulence of Carlos Tevez in the Premier League

Carlos Tevez's proposed move to Corinthians will bring an end to a productive, but unsettled, five-year spell in England.

The Argentine made this gesture toward Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United fans sung ‘Fergie, sign him up’. A chant ironically later adopted by City fans when he joined them.
The Argentine made this gesture toward Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United fans sung ‘Fergie, sign him up’. A chant ironically later adopted by City fans when he joined them.

Carlos Tevez's eventful career in England has been a compelling paradox. He has been both a team player and inveterate individual, a manager's dream on the pitch and a cause of headaches off it.

Few imports, especially from as far away, are as well suited to the British game but he found it a struggle to live in the United Kingdom for such an extended period of time. Tevez's troubles were both domestic and linguistic.

The much-documented inability of his wife and daughters to settle in Manchester was one issue; another was the player's English which, despite the best part of five years in the Premier League, remained basic, to say the least.

That Javier Mascherano, who arrived at West Ham United along with his Argentina teammate, spoke quick-fire if imperfect English long before he left Liverpool only highlighted his compatriot's reluctance to learn.

It always left scope for interpretation in the endless misunderstandings. In the transfer sagas that became tiresome, much could be lost in translation. Now the focus switches to what will be lost.

A diminutive figure leaves a sizeable hole in the Manchester City attack. A return of 43 goals in 62 league starts is admirable, even before the Stakhanovite work ethic of the one-man forward line is added to the equation.

There is a school of thought that Argentine players, technical talents able to excel in high-tempo football and often displaying a fighting spirit, are the best equipped of any South Americans to succeed in England. Certainly that was the case with Tevez.

Not since Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, perhaps, had anyone from the continent's southern tip made such an impact in England.

His next club, in a throwback to Victorian England, is named Corinthians. In that respect, it is an odd fit for a player who was always more of a competitor than a high-minded amateur. It was how Tevez endeared himself and why he became a crowd favourite at West Ham during a 19-match wait for his first goal.

At each of his three English clubs, fans have seen a commitment in the boy from Buenos Aires that suggested he was one of them, even if such feelings were dissipated by his regular departures. The lasting appreciation of managers, and the subsequent scramble for his services, came from more tangible signs of his quality than simply a sweat-soaked shirt.

As West Ham avoided relegation in improbable fashion in 2007, Tevez, with six goals in the last 11 games, was the crusading catalyst. His final day winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford completed a great escape and, to English audiences, forged a reputation as a big-game specialist. He was never to lose it.

On loan at United for two years, his goals tended to carry an importance. The first was against Chelsea. A winner against Liverpool followed along with invaluable equalisers away at Tottenham Hotspur and Blackburn Rovers, helping determine the destination of the title. Without his display of ceaseless harrying against Barcelona in the semi-final and calmly-converted penalty in the final shoot-out against Chelsea, they might not have won the Champions League either.

A second season in Manchester was notable for his elevation to cause celebre. The choruses of "Fergie, sign him up," - later gleefully borrowed by the City support - were the constant requests to Sir Alex Ferguson. When he didn't heed them, Mark Hughes did.

By crossing Manchester, Tevez became a modern-day Denis Law, albeit with fewer regrets.

His controversial switch from Old Trafford and his impact was a transfer to propel City into another dimension. The most significant and successful of 2009's signings, the eventual verdict may be that it was the move that sealed City's arrival as challengers. The subsequent and consistent flow of goals was all the more impressive given the weight of responsibilities Tevez took on, accepting the captaincy and often leading the line alone.

Indeed, he sometimes seemed happiest as the sole striker. In that, as in much else, Tevez was a man apart. In selflessly labouring for his colleagues, he was the ideal ally.

In forever eyeing pastures new, he became a deluxe short-term fix.

And as he takes his leave, it is with the contradictions in his character still more pronounced after his English sojourn.

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