Thursday, June 27, 2013

APACHE DOWN

There is little hint of the drama unfolding far beneath us. Amid the clatter and the excitement of a full blown Manchester City away day excursion high in the rafters of the stadium, nobody has realised what kind of mini soap opera is being enacted down at the edge of the pitch, nor the long term consequences this will have. We are all so busy being enthralled by the glamour and the glitz of the Champions League, our senses at once sharpened by the giddy heights of it all and dulled by the massive amounts of Oktoberfest liquids we have been imbibing for the last 24 hours.

It is the 27th September 2011. We are in Munich watching City being given the old run-around by a Bayern Munich side that will go on to lose the final the following May and win it a year later. City had started the match in confident style, denied two reasonable penalty shouts before the strangely effective lurking skills of the semi-mobile Mario Gomez started to unravel the stitches of our great Manchester Plan.

Strike One
This was a match where Manchester City learned a great deal about what Champions League football was going to be like and a little about how life with Carlos Tevez was meant to be. Picked off by two successive acts of cold assassination, the pressure had been building nicely towards a crescendo, but nobody saw what was coming next. In an act of self-propelled petulance, substitute Tevez refused to warm up. Mancini, as we would later see on television, visibly shaking with rage at this act of sabotage, used Milner and then Kolarov instead, hardly in the same league of high impact substitutions as the wily Argentine. Lest we forget, to cap an evening of dubious behaviour, Edin Dzeko would also throw a gale force dicky fit as he was hauled off, hurling his top to the ground and shouting in the face of the manager. It would take quite some weeks for the carnage to settle.

It will take a lot longer for City fans to forget.

Considering the effort the little man from Fuerte Apache has put in since and indeed before this act of football treachery, it would be trite to dismiss his departure yesterday to Juventus as an opportunity to shout "good riddance". In fact, unless the club has a devious plan to replace like with like, City have lost a galvanising force of nature which has few equals in the modern game. For Tevez in full swing was one of those amazing sights that football fans are afforded from time to time: the player who, by sheer force of character and willpower, can lift an entire team and carry it forward. Here was a man, scarred physically and mentally by his down at heel upbringing in the Buenos Aires slums, who could shift mountains.

His physique, his power, his acceleration and his low centre of gravity reminded one of a rough cut version of other compatriots who have gone before him, without the incessantly twinkling feet perhaps, but still capable of superhuman feats of propulsion. Certainly his influence on games could be as profound. Corinthians, West Ham and Manchester United supporters will bear testimony to the motivational impact of this buzzing whirling dervish at the centre of the team's efforts. He dragged the Hammers away from the drop and played a full part in United's successes before falling foul of his manager's rod of iron and - opting to throw sand in his face - moving across the city. This was typical Tevez. Fuerte Apache might have taught him how to fight for his life but it had introduced none of the social skills of respect and integration.

No oil painting

Here was how one (less than simple) transfer could divide a footballing hotbed like Manchester. The welcome billboard was either a work of genius or a low shot to the family jewels, depending which side of the divide you lived on. What was unarguable was that Tevez was made for moments like this, the pin up boy of a local tiff that threatened to bring the house down. Unseemly skirmishes were often where he felt most at home in fact.His own homemade billboard reading RIP Fergie, after City's league triumph put paid to Ferguson's "not in my lifetime" quote was another example of a man, whose boundaries of decency have always been slightly blurred.

The effect of Tevez on City was immediate. He was in the vanguard as City's fortunes and appearance began to change radically. On the way out: Dunne, Caicedo, Bojinov and Ben Haim. In came Adebayor, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott. Tevez was part of the first significant wave of new investment after the panic attack of Robinho the summer before. In that first season, he would show up particularly well in the 3-4 defeat at Old Trafford and in City's first semi final appearances for 30 years, in the Carling Cup v United again. Tevez, displaying a taste for the big occasion, scored twice to put City ahead in the first leg at the Etihad and another in an unlucky reverse in the second leg. There would be no silverwear at the end of that first season, but, within twelve months, Tevez was lifting the FA Cup to thousands of delirious blues at Wembley. Champions League football would follow too and this is where the Argentine battler would blot his copybook good and proper.

The Odd Couple

Mancini swore he would never play for his City again.Tevez disappeared from City's radar for golf filled months until being offered a way out of the impasse by his back-tracking coach. A public apology was printed in the programme and the debate began in earnest as to whether City fans really wanted to see him back in the sky blue shirt at all. Never one to be embarrassed by such niceties, Tevez was back in and, despite looking overweight, produced a significant impact on City's run-in. He returned against Chelsea, a fitting opponent, given his prolonged success against the Londoners across the seasons. A hat-trick at Norwich, his third celebrated with a golf swing into the away fans, underlined City's resurgent form on their way to an emotion-filled title success over QPR.It also revealed an attitude in Tevez that was more take it or leave it than sorry for the times.

Tevez had played in each one of those last agonising games on the way to clawing the title away from United's grasp. Goals had flown in from short, medium and long range. he was not to be knocked off the ball. His eye for a chance was sharp and unerring. His influence had been unquestioned, yet still to many he was persona non grata. The size and volume of his welcome in Turin says two things about Tevez: he is a world renowned star and he is moving to a league that is on a gentle rebound from years of neglect. Still, he will look good in the number ten shirt of the Vecchia Signora and will join his erstwhile striking maverick Mario Balotelli in amongst the cypress trees of northern Italy. There he will find an adoring public and one or two decent restaurants. Whether the Caribinieri will be lenient with his wayward driving skills remains to be seen. What is certain is City have lost a wayward genius, a human metronome and a one man argument in one fell swoop.

Ciao, Carlos, and thanks for the memories.





7 comments:

  1. Tevez is a Catastrophic Genius, a brilliant, visionary figure, essential to giving the movement vision and power, but ill-equipped to be part of the establishment. Revolutionaries make lousy heads of state.

    Syd Barrett. Brian Jones. Thomas Paine. Leon Trotsky. Catastrophic Geniuses all, mercurial and talented and thrilling. All of them were out of the picture by the time their chosen organizations had reached their various Promised Lands. European success awaits; Carlitos is not the man to take us there. He is too divisive, too mercurial, too apt to do something ridiculous. Catastrophic Geniuses end up in the madhouse, or face down in a swimming pool, or a pile of bones in some Englishman's attic, or bleeding to death in Mexico City.

    Or playing forward for Juventus.

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  2. Or driving a golf buggy off a cliff

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    1. Or trying to hit a moving golf buggy on a set piece.

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  3. Tev is a bit self-obsessed (!) but no doubt one of the world's very best footballers. Signing him was the turing of a new tide at City. What a devastating footballer.

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  4. Self-obsessed isn't so much of a rarity these days, though, is it? In fact, footballers who aren't self-obsessed are the weird ones in 2013.

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  5. Excellent article on El Apache. His persona is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, however on the pitch he did give it his all-110%!! If it weren't for him, MC would not be where they are in silverware the past couple of years. In fact, Mancini removing him from the FA cup final this year sabotaged MC from further silverware. Perhaps Mancini's revenge to Carlito for the Bayern incident and to MCFC for his inevitable sacking. In any event, Carlito was a bulldog on the pitch and always a force with the ball whether scoring or passing. I believe it is good timing to part ways with Carlito as he would have been free to leave at season's end and MC was able to recoup monies for another player. However, as the author writes, the signing needs to be for someone just an explosive and effective as Carlito El Apache was!

    -NMUANTE

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  6. Yep, probably the right time, all in all. Still he leaves a deceptively difficult hole to refill.

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