Tevez voices frustration over season in the cold

Argentine striker feels marginalised at Old Trafford as £32m deal drags on
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The Independent Football

A cold night beckons in Derby for Carlos Tevez in the Carling Cup tonight, but not even the depths of another English winter have chilled him quite like his own attempts to put the record straight on his future at Manchester United.

The Argentine might look like Neanderthal Man in some images – a picture of him with Diego Maradona at United's training ground adorned the front of the Red Issue fanzine with the headline "Carrington Halloween Mask Winner" – but those who know him well attest to the fact Tevez is far sharper and more purposeful in conversation than most footballers. "He's strong-minded and has never been afraid to say what he thinks," said one individual who knows him well yesterday.

That was the characteristic which came to the fore after a report suggested at the weekend that he had turned down a contract to stay at Manchester United because he wanted wage parity with Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand. Tevez is said to have been highly agitated by that suggestion, which did not reflect anything Sir Alex Ferguson has said publicly. A statement from him, rubbishing it and expressing his desire to stay at Old Trafford, was issued within a few hours and he pushed for the opportunity to elaborate further in a British print interview and an Argentinian radio interview on Monday.

But the published interview was mixed in with quotes from a Spanish magazine article which appears to be several months old and the result was yesterday's reports that he is discontented and tempted to move to Real Madrid. His representatives attempted to provide some context yesterday – Tevez's agent Kia Joorabchian told The Independent that the 24-year-old's comments about Real were a response to a question from the Spanish magazine about his thoughts on Cristiano Ronaldo moving to the Bernabeu. "He said he didn't speak for Ronaldo but that Real Madrid was a great club and lots of people would like to play for it," Joorabchian said. "He was simply saying that Sunday's report was total lies." Ferguson may still demand an explanation from the striker.

In part, Tevez is getting into a needless stew, expressing annoyance in his radio interview about statements attributed to the Manchester United manager which he has been assured are not true. But his radio interview does show some of the frustration the player must be feeling, with no sign of the £32m deal to make his move permanent and Tevez's role in Ferguson's side a more marginal one now that Dimitar Berbatov has arrived. "I don't know what my future is. United know what they have to pay if they want me to stay," he told Radio Del Plata.

The player's representatives are actually quite relaxed about the moves towards making Tevez – currently on loan to United from an investment fund headed by Joorabchian – a permanent signing. The fee has been agreed, so too the £80,000-a-week salary and though a deal will possibly not be forthcoming until the summer, the delay appears to be a product of the current financial climate. Why lay out all that money on a player now, when they can do so in the summer?

From the player's perspective, though, the prospect of the deal reaching fruition must look as far away as ever, given his limited role this season. Also Ferguson's general irritation with questions about contract negotiations contribute to curt replies when he is approached on the subject of Tevez. "'The Tevez situation doesn't concern me long term," was his response last Friday and though that could be positively interpreted to mean that he believes a deal will be forthcoming, it was hardly the warmest term of endearment for an individual who had been told he was free to spend the first week of the year in Argentina, while United played Middlesbrough and Southampton.

However, avid Ferguson watchers will tell Tevez he should not read too much into the manager's language. He was withering last month about the coterie of agents whom he suggested were affecting the deal to bring Serbian winger Zoran Tosic to United. Within a week Tosic was a United player.

Tevez's fate appears to depend either on him proving to Ferguson that he is worth more games at Berbatov's expense, or else on Ronaldo leaving the club in the summer. The chants of "Argentina" as United toiled to score against Middlesbrough last week indicated Old Trafford's appreciation of him and the four goals he scored in the last round of the Carling Cup against Blackburn suggest that the much maligned trophy might yet provide the means of proving he has a future at the club.