Manchester City may be unlikely vigilantes for the sane governance of modern football but what happened in the Allianz Arena in Munich this week has surely left them with precisely this unavoidable option.
They have to batter their way through the fog of legal jargon and mealy-mouthed advocacy of compromise which yesterday threatened to envelop the shocking behaviour of Carlos Tevez when he rejected his manager Roberto Mancini's order to play in the second half of the Champions League game with Bayern Munich.
With perhaps vital help from the most callous lawyers they can find, they have to heap maximum inconvenience on the player who so cold-bloodedly made nonsense of the concept of trust and loyalty in football.
They have to do it not out of revenge or anger, or any attempt to retrieve the many millions of pounds they have invested in a career which virtually from its inception has explored the very limits of acceptable practice.
No, the obligation is to do it with the sober understanding that if Tevez goes unpunished to any significant degree, City have not just let down themselves, and horribly compromised the meaning of who they are and what values they represent, but the game they have sought to dominate with unprecedented levels of spending.
Tevez and his people are now urging us to believe that what we saw in Munich was not an act of petulant rebellion, in circumstances most guaranteed to undermine his club and his manager and his team-mates, by a player who is paid more than £200,000 a week, but a "misunderstanding". It is another insult not just to the intelligence but the instincts of anyone who still wants to believe that big-time football is about something more than relentless self-interest. Mancini, a man of vast experience as a player and a manager, said that Tevez's refusal to play was quite unambiguous and that it was something that he would never be able to accept.
This means that City have to balance the possibility of some working agreement with Tevez – and the retrieval of at least some of the monies expended down the last few years – and absolute loss of face for their manager.
In effect, Mancini has said it is Tevez or him and, if it is the Argentine, the manager will be entitled to make a derisory farewell gift to his old employers in the amount of 30 pieces of silver.
Some may say that we are in danger of exaggerating the degree of Tevez's crime.
It is true that in the last year or so players like Javier Mascherano and Luka Modric said that the possibility of transfer deals had made it difficult for them to play for the clubs who were still paying their wages. It is also right that this time last year Wayne Rooney delivered an ultimatum to Manchester United that in some ways was as sickening as Tevez's stance this week.
Rooney lectured his manager Sir Alex Ferguson on the need for more ambition in the transfer market and demanded a major hike in his wages despite the fact that never before had he played so wretchedly.
United buckled with shameless speed, some of us argued, but what they did receive, bit by bit, was some quite spectacular atonement. Could City hope for such reparation from Tevez before unloading him to a club who might just help them cut their losses in the next transfer window? It should be an academic question. Rooney didn't cross the line that Tevez traversed when Mancini told him to play.
It was, as Graeme Souness pointed out to the nation with ferocious conviction, the decision of a man who put no value on anything beyond his mood and inclination of the moment. It was a face of football that was utterly unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Football Association, advocates a meeting between City's director of football Brian Marwood and chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak. He says that City have an inherent problem after recruiting large numbers of high-profile players who earn vast salaries and are likely to become restive if they have to spend time on the bench.
He says that City have to establish a pattern for the future, perhaps draw a line with a demand for a full apology from Tevez and a settlement which would buy a little appeasement, a little time. The trouble with this sweet reason is that it would leave Mancini stripped of all authority. He said, almost with a shudder, he could never accept what Tevez had done.
It was the death of football as he had always known it, as a perfectionist player and a manager with an implacable belief in the authority of the man who picks the team.
Tevez nonchalantly made a mockery of that underpinning of all significant success in football. He was a man who had grievances – and all of them were too important to put aside when he was asked to fulfil his professional duty.
Maybe it is one consequence of becoming a commodity at an early stage of your career, of being bought up by "third party" interests and then plying your trade wherever it is most advantageous at any one time. We saw the dismaying results when Tevez and Mascherano were parachuted into Upton Park and soon enough had provoked a legal dispute that was never properly settled.
At least now there is no such complication. City simply have to put a value not on Tevez's dwindling resale potential but their own standing as a club with the courage to deal with a sickening collapse of professional integrity – and fresh evidence that for all the ability contained within its walls, their dressing room is still a place of extreme and too often debilitating volatility.
The ejection of Tevez is plainly the most compelling priority. When he said he was the victim of a misunderstanding he was in just one sense right. The confusion lay in Roberto Mancini's belief that when all the history was put to one side he might just still be dealing with the vestiges of a decent professional. He knows better now – and so should Manchester City.
What a strike: Others who did not play
Carlos Tevez is the latest in a long line of footballers who have either gone on or threatened to go on strike.
Javier Mascherano Tevez's Argentine team-mate did not play for Liverpool against Manchester City last August, as he was "not in the right frame of mind". He moved to Barcelona within the week.
Sébastien Squillaci The 31-year-old Frenchman caused uproar when he asked not to play for Seville in a Champions League play-off last August. The centre-back wanted to avoid being cup-tied so as not to jeopardise a proposed move to Arsenal.
Dimitar Berbatov Amid interest from Manchester United, the Tottenham forward did not start against Middlesbrough and Sunderland in August 2008. He moved to Manchester United for £31m hours before the window closed.
William Gallas In 2006, Chelsea claimed the defender threatened to score an own goal if selected for the club's opening game of the season. The 29-year-old joined Arsenal as part of the deal for Ashley Cole on the final day of the window..
Pierre van Hooijdonk After a successful first season with Nottingham Forest in 1997-98, Van Hooijdonk became incensed the newly promoted club were not strengthening for the Premier League and requested a transfer, citing 'broken promises'. Forest refused, so the Dutchman went to train wit NAC Breda instead, but eventually returned to Forest.
Ashkan Dejagah In October 2007, the Iranian-born Wolfsburg midfielder withdrew from the German Under-21 side that were due to play in Israel, claiming 'personal reasons'.
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