Were Manchester City to fail to qualify for the Champions League for a second successive season under the watch of Roberto Mancini, there is every chance that more finances will be made available to strengthen a side that will eventually usurp one of the established big guns in the top four. Mancini himself may well not survive the failure, but finding a new manager would not be the biggest test the City board face at the end of the season.
For all the millions of pounds that could be spent in the summer and the potential search for a new manager, the far more pressing concern would be to convince club captain, Carlos Tevez, that his future lies in Manchester. Such has been the importance of Tevez to the City cause over the last two seasons, that his commitment to the project on a longer term is absolutely fundamental.
Another season without Champions League qualification could realistically give some City players itchy feet over the speed at which the club are moving forward. Further transfer targets could well become increasingly difficult to acquire if a top four place isn’t secured this time around.
Unfortunately for City’s owner Sheikh Mansour, the decision for Tevez is not one based on European football qualification, nor a financial one. One of the highest paid players in the world, the Argentine has been away from home since his deadline day move to West Ham in 2006. In that time he has become of the most respected attacking talents, but his hunger for the game appears to be waning. A bizarre transfer request saga in December betrayed his homesickness, and whilst there are no clubs likely to offer him a similar package to the one he enjoys at City, a return to South America and his native Argentina is fast becoming a likely next move.
A return home could well spell the end of the former West Ham striker’s career at the top level, a crying shame for a player who has only recently celebrated his 27th birthday. Last season, Tevez expressed a plan to retire from playing after the 2010 World Cup after being dropped from the national side. Whilst no such retirement was forthcoming or even expected, Tevez’s statement was indicative of a troubled mind.
What it would take to retain the diminutive striker is unclear. Whilst other players may demand Champions League football, Tevez’s list is likely to depend on the happiness of his two children – if he can handle spending further time apart from his family then there is every chance he will see out the remainder of his contract in Manchester. If, however, Tevez gets another bout of the feelings that triggered his transfer request before Christmas, I’m not sure any promises or amounts of money will stop him boarding the first plane to Buenos Aires.
Losing the Argentine would be a major blow for the culture of success that the City hierarchy have spent so much money trying to construct. Few of the club’s expensive imports have performed to the level expected of them, and while Tevez remains at Eastlands the credibility of the City project will remain intact from the viewpoint of the club’s worldwide transfer targets.
For more football news and views, feel free to find me on Twitter. I’ll be trying to convince Tevez to join me on a night out at ‘Club 69’ when he’s next in Buenos Aires.