Roberto Mancini has responded to suggestions that his prime asset, Carlos Tevez, might be unsettled at Manchester City by declaring that any player who does not want to be at the club should leave.
The view at some Premier League clubs is that Tevez might be hankering for a move this summer if City cannot offer him Champions League football next season to go with his £150,000 weekly wage. But in another sign that Mancini is unwilling to tolerate challenges to his authority from his most lavishly paid players, the City manager declared, ahead of a critical five-day period in which City face two of their challengers for fourth spot that he only wants players committed to the cause. He also pointedly remarked that Tevez was in no position to question his own double training sessions as he had only attended one in the past five months.
"If a top player is not happy to stay here then it's better to go to another team," Mancini said. "I think this is not just the case for Tevez. This is the same for Manu [Emmanuel Adebayor], for me, for all. It's important that when a manager or player works in a team, he must be happy to work in this team. It's not good for the club, for the squad, for the player if he is not." And of his own new training regime, he added: "We trained twice in the same day only four times in five months. Two of those Carlos was in Argentina; one time he didn't train. I don't know why [he's unhappy]. When we don't have a midweek game I always train two times on Tuesday because it's the only way I know. By working we can improve, but we won't improve if we work two days and have one day off."
The detailed way with which Mancini addressed the Tevez issue left little doubt that he is exasperated with the negativity being created by a player with whom his relationship has never seemed particularly easy – despite Tevez being the player without whose 22 Premier League goals City's hopes of a fourth place would be long gone.
Mancini risks alienating the single undoubted success among the players brought in during the £200m plus Abu Dhabi spending spree but is also laying out a necessary marker to other prospective signings that a move to City demands discipline and rigour. Though Tevez's value has soared in a season when he has proved Manchester United wrong, only a handful of clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Internazionale and perhaps Chelsea – could afford to match his wages and enable City to recoup their outlay, which was probably around £32m.
Mancini, who decided to discuss Tevez's criticism of his regime face-to-face rather than discipline him, hinted yesterday that he had laid down the law at that meeting. "I've spoken to him," Mancini said. "I don't know if he has a problem but he works very well now. What we said is private [but] I reminded him that he only had to train twice in a day once. When I speak to a player I don't need an apology. I've played football, I know players very well and I know this situation. I think he's happy because he's worked very well the last two weeks."
Asked if the Argentine needed Champions League football, Mancini said: "Probably. All the players want to play in the Champions League." But he declared that "changing the history" of a club – as he can do at City – was a more significant undertaking than any job that might be available at the continent's elite sides. "When you work as the manager of a club that is building, the important thing is you win with a club that has never won anything for a long time," Mancini said. "This is more important than winning with Real Madrid and Barcelona who win every year. I prefer to win with Manchester City than Real Madrid, because there the manager and players are always winning. Changing the history of this club is another thing."
The departure of Robinho to Santos in a loan deal from which he is unlikely to return has revealed Mancini's determination not to allow egos to hold sway but his relationship with Tevez has seemed more uneasy than with the Brazilian. The two seemed to have clashed in February when Mancini appeared impatient for the 26-year-old to return from the bedside of his prematurely born daughter Katie in Buenos Aires. In the course of stating that players were "not happy" with double training sessions, Tevez also said earlier this month that City should not have sacked Mark Hughes: "The decision was taken with too much haste."
Wins against Aston Villa tomorrow and Tottenham, who are in pole position for the last Champions League spot, on Wednesday, might well help Tevez put his doubts to rest. "I hope Carlos can score three or four goals in the next three games, and afterwards we can decide if he has a problem," said Mancini. City might be without Gareth Barry, whose hamstring injury makes him a doubt to face his old club tomorrow, though Adebayor may well have recovered from a thigh injury.