When Carlos Tevez joined West Ham on the last day of the 2006 summer transfer window with Javier Mascherano – in arguably the most extraordinary episode of illegal transfer-dealing of the last decade – it fell to Alan Pardew, who was the manager at the time, to try to explain it.
"When I met the players I didn't have to sell West Ham United to them," Pardew said. "They knew all about our success last season and our style of play as the Premiership is shown on TV in South America every week."
Unfortunately for Pardew – who it turned out was just as bewildered as to what Tevez was doing at Upton Park as the rest of us – he could not have sounded less convincing had he been standing in Green Street market behind a suitcase of reconditioned mobile phones.
Tevez has made a habit – sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not – of making managers and clubs look daft. In his wake as he has shimmied and feinted his way across English football in the last four years is a trail of rows and fall-outs. Yes, he is a good player but he also comes with a health warning as to his potential effect on a club's sanity.
West Ham? The club had to agree £21m in compensation for breaching the third-party rules on player ownership over Tevez's deal. Manchester United? His provocative gestures to the Old Trafford directors' box were followed shortly by the most rancorous cross-Manchester transfer in history. Manchester City? He wants out.
The latest missive from Planet Tevez – a transfer request to City a week ago today – leaves City with no choice. If they wish to live up to their ambitions to be a club who operate according to the scale and ambitions of Europe's elite; if they want to recruit players who buy into the ethos of the club, then there is only one thing for it. They have to get rid of Tevez.
The disclosure of Tevez's state of mind did rather take the gloss off the day on which City went joint top of the Premier League and there will doubtless be many at the club feeling a little bruised by the experience. The time for trying to talk him out of it, however, has long since passed.
Over the past 19 months, City have mollycoddled and appeased Tevez. They have, as they admitted yesterday, made him the best-paid player at the club. Mancini has given him the captaincy and the club have endured his haughty reaction to being substituted as well as that general sense you get from him that he is doing City a favour by turning out every week.
For his part, the player has cited irreconcilable differences with Roberto Mancini for his dissatisfaction and the strain of being away from his two daughters, who live in Buenos Aires. That second factor does give the debate a different dimension.
Depression can afflict anyone, even those on £250,000-plus-a-week and if Tevez really is prepared to swap a mansion in Cheshire for the relatively modest wage of a domestic footballer in Argentina, then good luck to him. But if he uses that to secure his release and then agitates to go to Real Madrid or Barcelona, he loses the argument immediately.
The consolation for City is that their vast Abu Dhabi resources mean they are much better-placed to deal with a mutinous Tevez than United were in the summer of last year. When Tevez left United, they signed Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen, Mame Biram Diouf and Gabriel Obertan which, given that Cristiano Ronaldo also left, was not the response of a club who could pay whatever it took to sign the best in the world.
City, on the other hand, can sign whoever they like. Of course they have an obligation to negotiate the best possible fee they can for Tevez, – who cost them as much as £45m – which will not be easy if he has his heart set on Boca Juniors, but even if he was to retire and leave them with no compensation, they could still bear the cost.
This latest act of rebellion by Tevez will be used to diminish City and the old charge will be levelled at them they are not big enough – whatever that means – to retain their best players. But the impending departure of Tevez from City, if this is what it comes to, is not the end of the dream for City or the moment that proved they were wrong.
Really it is just another shocking example of how hard it is to manage the whims and problems of the biggest players in the world and their agents. It was only in October that Wayne Rooney pinned Manchester United to the floor with his threats to leave. United decided that they simply could not afford to lose Rooney and raised their offer. City's wealth means they have more options.
City and Mancini must demonstrate the truth of the assertion - one made by their old enemy Sir Alex Ferguson – that a manager can never lose an argument. Or at least can never be seen to lose an argument. That was why Ferguson made sure that, even when Rooney won the game of brinkmanship with United, it was his manager who triumphed in the propaganda battle that followed.
Losing Tevez is not a disaster for City. But bending over backwards to try to keep a player who has acted as if he was too good for the place on far too many occasions – now, that is a disaster.
Pardew paid his dues and deserves his big-club break
Alan Pardew has been accused of many things since he stepped into the shoes of Chris Hughton at Newcastle United this week, but at least he has under his belt the hard-won experience of working in English football – and not always at the top.
If every country wrote off its managers as quickly as we do, then Rafael Benitez – who was regularly sacked at the start of his career in the lower divisions in Spain – would never have made it as far as his Champions League-winning stint at Liverpool.
Pardew has clearly made some misjudgements in his career to date, most notably when he looked like he had cracked up at West Ham United, but he always deserved another chance.
Capello could start up the managerial merry-go-round
Amid the fall-out from the 2018 World Cup finals decision and the commotion at Newcastle United and Manchester City this week, it has escaped many people's attention that Fabio Capello is due in Abu Dhabi this week in the company of Internazionale, for whom he is the lead candidate to replace Benitez, should the Spaniard's iffy run continue.
If Benitez goes this month and Capello asks the Football Association to leave, it will not stand in his way. Then we are into the biggest managerial merry-go-round of the season with a potential vacancy at Tottenham if the FA appoints Harry Redknapp. Never has the Fifa Club World Cup had so much riding on it.Reuse content