James Lawton: 'Win at any price' sums up Tevez recall

It is desperate because it says that the ethos of City is not primarily about shaping a team

You don't need an elephant's memory to remember what happened the last time Carlos Tevez appeared against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City beat the reigning champions who produced a pulsating start to their title defence, winning their first five games as though they were scything down so many stalks of wheat.

Chelsea had brimmed with composure and invention under the direction of Carlo Ancelotti but soon enough they were on the back foot, put there by a ferocious performance by City and a typically swaggering strike from Tevez.

Maybe City manager Mancini recalls that match in September 2010 as vividly as any of his players currently queuing up to forgive what some would say was the unforgivable and welcome Tevez back to the team he betrayed so profoundly in Munich. It is surely the only coherent explanation for yesterday's indication by Mancini that Tevez may well appear on the bench for tonight's pivotal game against Chelsea.

Mancini says that Tevez's apology has been given and accepted and team-mates like Micah Richards, Kolo Touré and Joe Hart have been falling over themselves to declare that the man who went missing in action in Bavaria and then ran all the way back to Argentina is now crucial to City's chances of fighting back off the shoulder of odds-on title favourites Manchester United.

What do you do? Praise the City manager and his players for pure hard-nosed pragmatism? Or say they wouldn't know a working principle, a set of values to be reasonably embraced by any bunch of prospective champions, if it came at them lit by neon and wired for stereophonic sound?

Or if you want to put the second proposition – which is certainly the one favoured here – a little differently, did we ever have a much better definition in football of a willingness to win at any price?

Some City fans may say that given all their years of waiting, and all the evidence that player loyalty is generally as good as the last strategic conversation with his agent, they will take a little bit of help from wherever it comes.

Why not glean a little value from a player of proven scoring ability and, when his mood is right, a most formidable fighting instinct?

Who knows, yesterday's treachery may just inspire today's vital touch of redemption. The goal against Chelsea, when he repeatedly tore at the partnership of John Terry and Alex, was one of four in three appearances against tonight's opponents. Undoubtedly he is a big-game player, the man who in the last World Cup was referred to affectionately as "Carlitos the team player" by Diego Maradona.

There have certainly been less plausible arguments for desperate selections, into which of course we have to place the possibility of Tevez's return.

It is desperate because it says that the ethos of City is not primarily concerned with the shaping of a team of shared values, of implicit faith in the competitive nature and conscience of every player who wears the shirt, but getting across that finish line first, however many compromises have littered the track.

There was some reason to believe that such dickering with fate was on the point of exile after Munich.

Mancini said Tevez had carried himself beyond the pale but of course circumstances have changed. City need to win a title and recoup some of the vast monies invested in the man who defected and then sneered at the city which had been so free with its gifts and its affection.

City, we are told, would quite like to beef up Tevez's price with fresh evidence that he remains a vital asset for such teams as his recent suitors Internazionale and Milan. It is a not insignificant factor, apparently, for the club who have strived so hard to buy in the glory.

Excluded from the budget, however, is the money it might take to declare that some things have a value way beyond a timely goal and a leg-up in any title race.

By kick-off tonight such a notion may well be lost in the need for the kind of impact that became the Tevez trademark and about which Hart says: "We've got energy in the team and a lot of firepower but Carlos brings us more of that and having him back will be like a new signing."

Maybe, but the temptation is surely to believe that more than a new signing, City are in need of some old certainties about who they are and what they stand for. In men like Sergio Aguero, Yaya Touré and David Silva there were powerful suggestions that such underpinning might be coming. Instead we have the return of Tevez – and from where?

It is a place which you have to say would be most any club's ground zero.

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