There is something achingly sad about the story of how Carlos Tevez fell out with Corinthians five years ago. He felt that it was "like they don't want an Argentine to succeed in Brazilian soccer", he said at the time. "I would like to stay but I have to think about what is best for me and my family..." So the rolling stone moved on, gathering no moss, gathering no friends and is still in perpetual motion. That's why the gathering inevitability of his return to a club he was so anxious to leave is a tragedy – and not, as the received wisdom now has it, in everyone's best interests.
It's not in City's interests; that much is for sure. Tevez costs the earth in salary, of course, and as much again in maintenance, but don't let's suffer the delusion that the galaxy of names swimming around Roberto Mancini's mind this summer – Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero, Alessio Cerci, Samuel Eto'o, Samir Nasri – provide the guarantees that Tevez offers for a "second phase" season in which we're told Sheikh Mansour wants to "go for it". Nice for fans to watch rumoured targets on YouTube in July. Nicer still to have a 25-goal banker in August.
City feel, for good reason, that the situation is beyond their control, because talking to Tevez does not give them the faintest clue what the manager of Tevez's economic interests, Kia Joorabchian, will reveal next. For once, Manchester United empathise with them. But no one has seemed desperate to prise Tevez away from that manager of his economic interests over the past five years and become the self-appointed manager of his football interests. One last summer of shuttle diplomacy didn't seem worth the effort.
The odd, unscripted flight to Buenos Aires can have its benefits, as Keith Burkinshaw will attest. He managed to sign Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the only Argentines before Tevez in May to play in and win an FA Cup final, simply by flying to Argentina's capital 33 summers ago and discovering he had no competition. The journalist Nick Harris relates in his excellent history of foreign footballers in the English game, The Foreign Revolution, how Ardiles told Burkinshaw: "Give me the form and I'll sign it," and then added: "Would you like to sign Ricky Villa, too?" Ardiles was no Tevez, of course. He never knew the privations of Fuerte Apache, there was no entourage of agents and his adoption of the English nation – Ardiles has kept the same home in Hertfordshire for 25 years – reveals a radically different outlook. But Burkinshaw spoke to the footballer in him.
There was no such relationship to speak of with Sir Alex Ferguson. Tevez bore the insecurities of the fringes as best he could. Compare his experience with the day Ferguson broke the news to his beloved Eric Cantona that he was being rested for a League Cup tie against Portsmouth and then saw the look on his face. "If I left him out," Ferguson said, "I would probably never see him again." Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini have endeavoured more and the compassionate leave was there in the credit column for City, though keeping Tevez was more significant than how to let him escape.
Burkinshaw was certainly not that manager of his Argentines' economic interests: Ardiles and Villa were on a par with Spurs' best-paid players and no more. But he did attend to the little things. Though Tevez and Javier Mascherano went their own ways from West Ham, Burkinshaw ensured Spurs bought a large house near the club's training ground where his two Argentines were settled in together for three or four months. "Having them together made it a success," Burkinshaw told Harris. "After six or eight months they had their own friends and settled well." It wasn't a bed of roses. On the eve of Spurs' 1982 FA Cup semi final, the pair learnt their nation had gone to war with Britain over the Falkland Islands. Villa, whose heart was always in Argentina, would envisage the occasional picture he bought hanging on his wall back home. But Tevez has had no home to call his own in Manchester and the chaos he has left behind in some of those he has rented in the south of the city reveals an itinerant; a player passing through.
Bolo Zenden, who has played in four countries, tells Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski in Soccernomics how "it is the weirdest thing ever that you can actually buy a player for 20 mil and you don't do anything to make him feel at home". City, who always have everything covered, can't be accused of a dereliction of duty, although while filling a player's day is one thing – Mario Balotelli was offered safari-park trips and go-kart sessions because the club had researched his interests – helping fill a life is something else.
It's almost certainly too late now, in any case. Tevez, who might have been one of the legends of the Premier League for decades to come, will instead probably join the returning legions of South Americans who ran out of steam in Europe and took Brazil's "new" money. He will never be remembered as a force on this continent and we will never smile as he tells us, in the faltering words of an English language he's finally getting to grips with, that he is going to Wembley and his knees have gone all trembly.Reuse content