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.
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.