Why is Carlos Tevez so fascinating?
Carlos Tevez has always struck me as the Geico caveman with a huge chip on the shoulder. A player in his element when he scored the goal that kept the Hammers promoted. It was the last day of the Premiership and the Hammers faced Man Utd to beat to ensure their survival in the Premiership. It also sank the Blades.
Tevez fought off four defenders and as the ball ballooned up, the little Argentinian's scampering feet caught up with it and from an impossibly acute angle, half volleyed it home. With that goal, he cemented his place in the heart of Hammer fans. It was also the last time that he played for them as his form made him the target of much bigger clubs. He was gone by the time the dust settled over the mess which ensued after it was discovered that the circumstances which brought him to West Ham violated EPL regulations. The embittered Blades first sought promotion and then settled on an out of court settlement with the Hammers.
He has always starred in clubs that have lost their way and then moved on in the heels of controversy. Man Utd represents the first club that has rejected his track record, marginalizing him to a bench warmer even as he continued to score important goals.
It has galled Tevez, and in pyschobabble terms, reinforced his long held fears of rejection.
At Boca, his best year was 2003, when he helped the Genoese win the Copa Libertadores, scoring 5 goals in 7 appearances. Boca also ended up winning the Club World Cup beating Milan in 2003, and the Apertura title. Tevez's brilliant form won him the South American player award. The success restored Boca's standing as it ceded ground in the preceding years to River Plate, San Lorenzo, and Independiente leading to fears of a return to the dry period of the 90's.
Unfortunately, he became tabloid fodder after leading Argentina to a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics over his cavorting with pin up girl Natalia Fassi while at the same time revealing that he was expecting a child with his ex-girlfriend, now wife Vanessa. The media frenzy saw a defensive Tevez fist fighting with photographers, charging at reporters, and demanding that fans respect his privacy.
The fallout was immense as Atletico Madrid dropped their transfer negotiations decided that he was too risky. Worse followed as Jose Pekerman dropped Tevez from the national squad for his unprofessional behaviour and deeming as a condition, cleaning up his act for a possible return to the team. The rejection left Tevez with feelings of betrayal.
Tevez felt his country was disowning him. And his reaction was a like-minded betrayal of sorts: He left Argentina for Brazil. His move from his beloved Boca to Sao Paulo-based side Corinthians last December, was the largest transfer in South American history: "El Apache" was now valued at $22.5 million.
The move to Corinthians was met with hostility from his Brazilian team mates as his transfer fee and wages became the subject of locker room talk. There was also a much publicized dust up with Tevez and defender Marquinos and it did not help matters that he got into some hot water with his sexist comments over the competency of females refereeing matches.
Meanwhile, his feet did the talking as his 20 goals lifted Corinthians to a Campeanato in 2005 becoming the first non- Brazilian to win the best footballer title in the championships history. The club won its first title after an absence of six years as it flirted with relegation on a regular basis. The 2006 season started disastrously as Corinthians were unable to sustain their form and Tevez being the big marquee name became a targeted for irate fans for the losses. His gesture telling fans to be quiet after scoring a goal led to a campaign to demand an apology.
'If he thinks he's above us, let's see how Tevez faces an organised campaign on our part,' Gavioes vice-president Wildner Rocha told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.
The fallout became ugly as Tevez and his family were subjected to death threats. Things came to a head as a group of 30 angry supporters surrounded Tevez's car after a match. Rumours that Chelsea and Man Utd were in pursuit of the Argentinian striker became couched as life and death situations.
"My daughter Florencia is very scared and my wife is too. They are very sad. Things which the Corinthians supporters did, are not easy to forget.
His West Ham arrival was looked on as an escape from an ugly situation even as the bigger clubs in the Premiership were the eventual target. It did not pan out as planned.
Once bitten, twice shy. Even as Chelsea pursues him, Man City might be the beneficiary given Tevez's Napoleonic past behaviour.