Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini declared last night that he is not convinced that Carlos Tevez wants to leave the club and that he believed he could persuade the striker to stay when they meet tomorrow.
Mancini has spoken to Tevez since the faxed transfer request sent by the player's lawyers reached Eastlands on Tuesday, but said that was the first time the Argentine had suggested he wanted to leave. That has reinforced Mancini's conviction that he can talk Tevez around. "I think we can change one mind, always," Mancini said. "I don't think he is unhappy, really unhappy. I don't think that."
The manager, whose side must first overcome Juventus in the Europa League in Turin tonight, was firm that Tevez has a professional duty to meet the outstanding three and a half years on his contract and that he "must" honour that. "I will say [tomorrow] that he should stay here," Mancini insisted. Though there may be a substantial difference between his private thoughts and public utterances, Mancini suggested last night that he wants Tevez available and in the right frame of mind to face Everton at Eastlands in the Premier League next Monday.
Mancini's words bore out the feelings of many around City – that Tevez does not resemble a man desperate to be on his way. The conflicting signals have certainly perplexed those who have watched him wander cheerfully into training over the past few weeks. Tevez told at least one of the ancillary staff at Carrington on Tuesday that he "wasn't leaving". Though not much can be read into that, the captain's affection for the blue-collar staff at his club is obvious. Last season when a delivery vehicle with "18 TVs for Tevez" bowled up, it transpired he had bought them one each. He was also quite willing to appear on City's Christmas video.
The player's manager, Kia Joorabchian, has yet to present a compelling case that Tevez's transfer demand is about anything but the Iranian's own rancorous feelings for the City chief executive, Garry Cook. Despite Joorabchian's extensively referring to the "promises" Cook purportedly made to Tevez and then broke, no details have been disclosed. As City's most famous supporter Noel Gallagher put it at Turin airport, the forward would be the first player to leave "because he didn't like someone in the office". Asked if he felt Tevez was being badly advised, Mancini replied: "I don't know."
Tevez trained keenly at Carrington yesterday, walking on to the field in what seemed like earnest conversation with midfielder Nigel de Jong before he was put through some sprints. Mancini rather boldly, in the context of Tevez's "pain" at missing daughters Florencia and Katie, suggested that if this was unhappiness in a player, then he wanted more of it. "If Carlos is unhappy at the moment, but has scored 10 goals, I hope he will be unhappy for the rest of the season."
Patrick Vieira, who is expected to start tonight in a side which may include the young Liberian-born England Under-20 striker Alex Nimely, said that he had noticed few signs of unhappiness in the club captain. "We haven't talked about it among the players, but in the last few days he has been the same Carlos that started the season," Vieira said.
Nimely, whose playing time for the club has been limited to the last seven minutes of City's 6-1 win at Burnley last April, has come into the frame because of the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor, whose heel injury kept him out of main squad in training yesterday, and Mario Balotelli, who also did not travel to play at a ground where he suffered racist abuse when an Internazionale player. Mancini said of Balotelli: "I decided to keep him at home because we have a difficult period of games, play every three days, so I'd like to preserve him for this reason."
City, already through their Europa League group, expect a tough test against Luigi del Neri's side, who are already out and may gain the dubious distinction of becoming only the second team in the history of Uefa club competition to draw every group game, if they hold City tonight. That could allow Lech Poznan in to win the group, though the Poles would need to beat Red Bull Salzburg by three goals, thus taking Group A on goal difference. "We want to win the group, We don't want to play a Champions League team in February," Mancini said.
The manager, unusually wearing a pair of tortoiseshell spectacles 24 hours after minor eye surgery, attempted to keep his focus on something other than Tevez, though it was not easy. Back in England, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, said that fans were "disillusioned" with players such as Tevez and Wayne Rooney seeking to break contracts and that he believed clubs would start fighting back through the courts. "Speaking to individuals at the club, they worry about how far they are going to be pushed and whether players and the people influencing them will go a step too far," Taylor said. "This is going to happen more in the law courts." Mancini hopes it won't come to that.
Oasis join Tevez debate
Noel Gallagher last night said Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford has contributed to Carlos Tevez's desire to leave Manchester City by raising the stakes in transfer negotiations.
Stretford has "set the bar when it comes to modern-day transfer requests", said City's most famous supporter while travelling on the club's flight to Turin. But the former Oasis man observed that, though the lure of City's greater wealth had given Rooney a negotiating ploy, there was no place higher to go for money than City. "The one thing that goes against Carlos is that he already plays for Man City so nobody can link him to us. He can't say, 'Oh, I want to go Man City because they are offering me £200,000 a week', when he's already getting £280,000 a week out of us."
Gallagher made light of claims from Tevez's agent that City's chief executive, Garry Cook, was the cause of the current dispute. "My own opinion is that he would be the first person to have left a football club because he didn't like someone in the office!"