Watching football fans watching the football
Some folk can't cope with not being the centre of attention, says Declan Warrington
It has become one of football’s greatest clichés to compare every competent attacking Argentinian to Diego Maradona. In recent years, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi are just three of those to be cast under the intimidating, looming shadow created by Argentina’s favourite son.
But where the comparison has always been intended as complimentary – an acknowledgement of the skill of the individual concerned, of the passion and purpose involved in playing El Diego’s favourite game – Tevez has evoked memories of Maradona for all the wrong reasons. Where he was once admired for his professionalism, tenacity and industry, he’ll now be remembered for being a petulant, self-centred egomaniac.
The mark of a genuinely class act is to let his feet do the talking, regardless of how unhappy he may be. When Fabio Capello masterminded Roma’s Serie A title triumph in 2001, he regularly used the free-scoring Vincenzo Montella as a substitute who, despite his unhappiness at this and his ability to score with the few chances Capello afforded him, became Roma’s ‘super-sub’ and one of the key components of a side that topped what was then the world’s finest league. Unsurprisingly, he was a fans’ favourite during his time in the Italian capital.
The decline of David Beckham’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson became so severe in 2003 that Ferguson overlooked him – perhaps at his peak – and left him on the bench for a Champions League quarter-final clash at home to Real Madrid. At 3-1 down, Ferguson brought on Beckham, who scored twice and inspired a comeback that saw United win 4-3. It wasn’t enough to see United through to the next stage but his point, unquestionably, had been made.
If Tevez really wanted to show Roberto Mancini he deserved a starting place, he would have had 35 minutes against Bayern Munich to have the kind of impact his rival strikers failed to achieve. To apparently refuse to play – and to continue to collect £286,000 a week – is unforgivable.
For a player whose on-field vision rivals that of the very best, his off-field awareness suggests he struggles to see beyond the tip of his nose. His conduct shows a lack of respect for the City fans that idolised him, the owners that so healthily remunerate him, the team-mates whose talent he’s discernibly overlooking and the manager who has given him unjustified patience.
Since replacing Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini – himself a quality international striker in his day – has overlooked the merits of Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy, Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz, around £89m worth of talent – to make Tevez the focal point of his side. Such was Mancini’s faith in him, he regularly played a 4-5-1 with Tevez as the lone striker, setting City up to accommodate his talents.
There have been a multitude of times when a manager has overlooked an obviously talented played based on a pre-conception or a personal dislike. When Hector Cuper was Inter Milan’s manager, Ronaldo was so regularly overlooked it was clearly never anything but. When Michael Owen remained on Real Madrid’s bench despite having the best goals-per-minutes ratio in Spain’s La Liga, it was because of concerns about the politics entailed in dropping Raul.
Tevez being benched has no comparison. He’s vying with Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko; two world-class talents and a quality goalscorer (who could yet prove himself world-class). Beside Lionel Messi, if there’s a forward with the right to command instant preference over those, he’s yet to be discovered.
After two transfer requests in six months were rewarded with a pay-rise, expecting Tevez to behave gracefully is the minimum requirement. In reaching the stage where an exit looks inevitable, many players wouldn’t be welcome back. Tevez, after Corinthians’ interest, was.
Such behaviour highlights a clear neediness within the Tevez persona. His need for love and to be the star of the show portrays him as the ultimate prima donna, comparable to the jilted model who’s bitter at being replaced by her younger, fresher rival and unable to see any future for herself.
At his happiest, he was the solitary standout performer, spearheading West Ham’s relegation battle in 2007, a stark contrast to his time at Manchester United, of which Tevez said “I need continuity in selection to be at my best,” and also complained “I know that Ferguson did not respect me as a player.”
Sir Alex Ferguson may decline to publicly admit it, but there’s no doubt he respects Tevez’s ability. The problem is he quite rightly rated the Cristiano Ronaldo-Wayne Rooney-Dimitar Berbatov triumvirate even higher.
Like Maradona, who once said he’d rather join a smaller club he could drive on instead of a team already competing in the upper echelons of the game, Tevez needs specific conditions to be at his best.
A player of the highest quality he may be, but Tevez now comes laced with the baggage of his needs. Nicolas Anelka once wasted what should have been his prime by failing to acknowledge his role within the bigger picture of a team game. A career that could have been spent at Europe’s biggest clubs took several underwhelming turns before finally gaining some focus when the peak of his powers had already passed.
Tevez may or may not have already experienced his prime, but what’s not in doubt is he’s just ended his chances of a fitting dénouement to his time in England.
Not being respected as a player? Not any more, not after that.
Follow Declan Warrington on Twitter
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