Carlos Tevez was heartened to be welcomed back to Manchester City by at least four first-team players yesterday. The Argentina striker returned to the club for the first time since early November.
Despite the acrimony following his suspension, fine (against which Tevez has appealed to the Premier League) and unauthorised absence in Argentina, Tevez was sent welcoming messages by at least four members of the squad which he used to captain.
Joleon Lescott wrote on Twitter yesterday that he was pleased to have Tevez, along with Kolo and Yaya Touré, returning to the squad. "All the player[s] are excited to have Carlos, Kolo and Yaya back to help achieve our goal," he wrote. "Who wouldn't want these players in their squad?"
The Tourés lost in the final of the African Cup of Nations, and are flying back from Ivory Coast to Portugal today. Tevez flew from Buenos Aires to Manchester via Paris and arrived at City's Carrington training ground, for the first time since 7 November. City had been requesting his return in writing over the last three months, and finally got to see him just before 5pm yesterday, as he arrived with a representative.
During his time at Carrington, Tevez did not speak with manager Roberto Mancini. Rather, he met a club doctor and fitness professional, who assessed his condition. They will produce a fitness report for Mancini but, as Tevez last played for City on 21 September, in a Carling Cup game against Birmingham, he will not be able to return to full training imminently. The likelihood is he will undergo a personal fitness programme before returning to the main group.
It is not certain that Tevez will meet Mancini today. City train in the morning before flying to Portugal in the afternoon. Tomorrow evening they play Porto in the last 32 of the Europa League. When Mancini and Tevez do meet, the manager will gauge the player's contrition over the events of this season.
Mancini has said that a return to the team is contingent on an apology from Tevez, and while the striker's willingness to provide one is unknown, he did say in a television interview before his return that he "knows what it takes to revert the situation".
City insisted last night that Tevez's return to training was not because they needed help in their Premier League campaign but rather a matter of holding Tevez to his contract. Tevez had been in talks to join Milan during the January transfer window but nothing came of it. Any truce is rendered less likely, though, by the fact that Tevez's appeal over his fine is still outstanding.