Rory Smith: Sadly, Carlos Tevez has chosen path to self-destruction
If his reaction to criticism is to sue his manager, that renders him unemployable
It has driven him to depression and despair, it has wearied his body and his mind. Carlos Tevez has long endured an ambivalent relationship with the game which has made his name and his fortune. On countless occasions, Manchester City's mutineer has threatened to walk away from football. Now he seems determined to destroy it altogether.
"I do not want to play any more," the striker said a little under a year ago. "I am tired of football, and I am tired of people who work in football. I do not want to play any more. I am talking seriously. Football is only about money, and I do not like it. There are many people in the football business, and you have to fight with them all the time."
Manchester City would no doubt agree, though their identification of the malevolent influences which infest the game may be somewhat different. But while those comments, with the benefit of hindsight, seem remarkable, that they were not at the time is instructive.
After all, it was only a year previously that Tevez had expressed the same sentiment. "I have a contract with City until 2014," he said in November 2009. "But I am thinking of retiring if Argentina win the World Cup. I am tired of football. I want to enjoy my family, stop and have some quiet in my life. I have already won a lot. I am exhausted."
Argentina, of course, did not win the World Cup. They did not win the Copa America this summer, either, a failure which led to Tevez – whose crucial penalty miss against Uruguay in the quarter-finals guaranteed their elimination, as hosts – gaining more than a stone in weight as a product of a comfort-eating binge.
"I had a personal crisis this summer," he confessed. "I put on five or six kilos and had to check into a clinic. I was depressed and so I ate and ate. Only my family and friends know this."
Little wonder Tevez has shown so little respect for his employers, agitating for a move away from the Etihad Stadium for more than a year. Little wonder City's ascension to the elite of English football, a revolution in which he has played a considerable part, has left him so cold to the adoration which washes upon him from the club's fans. Little wonder he was not bothered about warming up or coming on – whichever is the case – on the night in Munich which changed everything.
And little wonder, too, that he is now prepared to gamble everything on a legal challenge to Roberto Mancini which common sense – along with a number of leading defamation lawyers – believe he has no hope of winning. Tevez has not been in love with football for some time. Now he has evidently grown to hate it.
That is, in itself, a sad tale. When the Tannoy announcer for Argentina's first game in that fateful Copa America welcomed Lionel Messi to the pitch, he did so by declaring the Barcelona player the best in the world. Tevez was greeted with the honorific "the People's Player". And yet he now spurns and scorns his public, for country as much as club. After all, he will not be in Alejandro Sabella's Argentina plans if he is not playing regular football.
And he will not play if he persists in this legal wrangle. His career at City is quite finished, whatever happens, whether a bid of sufficient value is received to tempt Sheikh Mansour into parting with him or not. City are adamant: they stand resolutely behind their manager.
The loyalty of the club's fans is staunchly with the Italian, the man who masterminded their storming of Old Trafford. Their owner will no more be fazed by a gargantuan legal bill than he would be by the prospect of letting Tevez rot in the club's reserves.
And who, precisely, would be willing to recruit Tevez – at whatever cost – if his reaction to criticism is to sue? That sets a perilous precedent. The very suggestion of it almost renders him unemployable.
And yet, so deep does his loathing for football seem to run, that he does not seem to care. The Argentine has lost his war with City, with Mancini. A headstrong, foolhardy determination to win the last remaining battle, the ultimate Pyrrhic victory, does not suggest a desire to right wrongs and restore his reputation. It indicates a professional death wish from a man consumed by his own hatred.
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