If Carlos Tevez expected his return to Manchester would see him greeted like a returning prodigal, he was given the strongest indication yesterday he still does not feature in his manager's plans.
Roberto Mancini was said to be "hurt and angry" by comments that the Argentine felt he had been "treated like a dog" by the Manchester City manager, who said he had no plans to talk about him for the next three months.
Since a returning Tevez (right) would be the subject of fierce questioning, it suggests the 28-year-old will spend his time in the same way he did in the weeks immediately after his alleged refusal to warm up against Bayern Munich in September – training by himself. Mancini has been given full authority by the club's owners to deal with all football matters as he sees fit. The absence of genuine contrition in Tevez's interview with Fox Sports that so infuriated Mancini suggests he has seriously misjudged his manager.
"I will answer this question [about Tevez] only once and no more," said Mancini as he prepared to face Porto tonight without Tevez, who is not part of City's Europa League squad. "I totally disagree with what Carlos says because I have never treated him badly. Maybe it is the opposite and I have treated him too well. This is the last question I will answer on him for the next three months."
Only the second most controversial footballer in Mancini's squad was on the plane that landed in Portugal yesterday to face a side that has lost just one of its last 55 league matches. Mario Balotelli, a man whose antics Mancini has taken to describing with a smile and a resigned shrug of the shoulders, like a father talking about an errant child, was at the airport while Tevez was back in the city that he denigrates as possessing only two restaurants, knowing he will have to eat considerably more helpings of humble pie even to be considered for selection.
This is Balotelli's first match since he was banned for four matches for stamping on Tottenham's Scott Parker. It is also his first taste of the Europa League since a chest-high challenge on Dynamo Kiev's Goran Popov that was primarily responsible for City's elimination from the competition last season and which triggered such unrestrained fury in his manager.Reuse content