James Lawton: City's riches will be worthless if they do not win their duel with the ultimate gun for hire
With the pervading sense that his ultimate loyalty is to himself Tevez is as much aforce of potential destruction as triumph
Tuesday 14 December 2010
It has never been a walk in the park precisely identifying the nature and the purpose of Carlos Tevez. However, the job has become rather easier in the last few days.
This is not least because his club Manchester City has been forced to go public with details of the financial demands he has made while apparently burning up with sadness over the dislocation and the loneliness of his private life.
Some aspects of his situation suggest the old truth that if money is not the root of all evil in your life, and that of football, it can certainly complicate the hell out of it.
Others speak of the sadness of a clown while wiping away the make-up off his public face.
All we can be certain of is that in the last few months the two most important players of two of the most important clubs in English football – one the most successful, the other the richest – have looked a lot less like heroes of the people than old-fashioned shakedown artists.
Wayne Rooney now tells us that such was his emotional attachment to Manchester United he was never going to leave Old Trafford. This, however, didn't prevent his agent, with his blessing, throwing the club into the most terrible soul-searching, and money-scraping, in all the triumphant days of its empire-making manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Tevez, despite the admirable application he brings to the business of scoring goals, is not quite so able to make such a claim in view of the fact that, ever since he arrived on these shores, he has been the game's ultimate gun for hire.
His first stint with West Ham United was conspicuously successful but at the devastating cost of driving the equivalent of a great herd of pampas-bred beef through the Premier League's pretty idea that its regulations were written in stone and applied equally to every club in the land – a claim that still festers in the memory of Sheffield United and all those who saw clearly that they had been wronged as they headed south out of the top flight.
Apart from his instinct for the jugular of a rival team, Tevez has, of course, also the enviable talent of commending himself to a club's most passionate supporters. Yet, with the pervading sense that his ultimate loyalty is to himself and those who have so dubiously shaped the terms of his career, he has always been quite as much a force of potential destruction as triumph.
This might now be conceded even by the most fervent of the City fans made so exultant by his defection from United and who, reasonably enough, have seen him as the one City player brought in by their vast desert windfall of wealth who has consistently demonstrated his value on the field to a team seeking a swift confirmation of their new and powerful status.
Now his denied transfer request – along with suggestions that the painful separation from his daughters back home in Argentina might be borne more easily with another transfer initiative that might just see him land up somewhere like Real Madrid – only helps to underline the sense of City being as far as ever, despite their strengthening league position, from the stability and unity – you might also throw in sanity – of a settled force in the game.
Yes, the apparently bottomless well of City's resources, as exemplified by the idea that Tevez might be mollified by a one-off sweetener of £1m or more, gives them a certain unshakeable strength, but the dangers of their situation also yell out.
That Tevez, from his position of simmering insurrection, was handed the captaincy, that he felt free to show public dissent to the manager, Roberto Mancini, he had done so much to undermine in front of his team-mates and the fans, is all we need to know about the brittleness of City's sense of team.
Coupled with the Rooney affair, it also illustrates starkly the fear that football has elected a new category of professional, someone who by his ever-bounding wealth has been carried beyond any understanding of the demands of responsibility, even duty if you like, and that loyalty to the idea of the team is something archaic applicable only to mere water carriers.
We saw more than a flash of that from Tevez's old compadre, Javier Mascherano, who was so taken with the idea of moving on to Barcelona he told Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson that his head was simply in the wrong place for him to appear in a vital away game against City. Mascherano, like Tevez, shot to prominence in the 2006 World Cup, where he was most people's idea of the tournament's best defensive midfielder. Then the pair of them washed up at Upton Park, dedicated pros eager to take a chance with a club they admired. What they were, of course, were the game's most prominent soldiers of fortune, a shock force owned not by any other football club but a personal paymaster and exploiter of their new reputations.
That, above all, was a story of football administration losing touch with the need for some kind of control over the most valuable of its talent flow.
What City face now, prime among all the other challenges of imposing some kind of coherence beyond the ability of hugely expensive players to remind us periodically of why they became so rich in the first place – beating a wretched West Ham is perhaps not an ultimate test – is the trial of their resolve set by Tevez.
His value as a performer is self-evident, but then so are his selfish instincts, the capacity for self-pity and self-indulgence, the lack of respect for his manager and the club who have responded to his every whim.
City have to set a marker for their future and perhaps even that of English football. They have the resources finally to make a stand, something that their rivals United lacked when Wayne Rooney sent in his agent to tell them that he was the boss.
They should continue to tell Carlos Tevez that if he really wants to play happy families back home in Argentina it is entirely his decision. On the other hand, he could start to behave like a contracted, fully grown-up professional.
Mayweather and Pacquiao still a cut above brave Khan
Amir Khan performed with courage and skill in surviving the health-threatening firestorm launched by the hard-hitting Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas at the weekend.
He also confirmed the impression created when winning silver in the Athens Olympics six years ago that he was a young man of both serious ambition and much personal pride.
So why is it so worrying that in the wake of his latest victory, after which a brain scan was sensibly conducted, he is in some quarters being bracketed with such as Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao?
It is because Mayweather is a master of his craft, a superb defensive boxer for whom fighting naivety is something he jettisoned shortly after leaving the cradle, and Pacquiao is a phenomenon of this or any other age of the old game. Amir is never likely to be either of these things, which we saw when he came so close to defeat because of defensive frailties which have not been expunged even under the knowing tutelage of the great trainer Freddie Roach.
Amir should continue to work hard and make his supreme goal a unification of the light-welterweight titles against the winner of the coming fight between the impressive Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander. Then he should await the ageing of Mayweather and Pacquiao. For safety's sake he should give it around 10 years.
Was it Marsh gas or just a wind-up?
Rodney Marsh remains an amusing and intriguing figure and he can still flare luminously in the memory for his extravagant skills.
However, while promoting his most readable life story, Loose Cannon, at the weekend he might just have offered the most outrageous quote in the history of football discourse.
His questioner recalled a North American Soccer League game when Marsh – one of the showier examples of the NASL claim that soccer was a "kick in the grass" – got the better of the ageing Pele.
Did that mean, the former Sheikh of Shepherd's Bush was asked, that one was over- and the other underrated.
"Maybe a little bit of both," was the reply. It was a radio show, so we just have to pray it was right to believe Rodney's tongue was firmly embedded in his cheek.
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