Each week on Football FanCast we will be celebrating those special breed who lit up the Premier League with their unique brand of utter genius. This time out we pay homage to a high-maintenance man of magic.
Both on and off the pitch Carlos Tevez was a one-man cluster bomb and even today debris from his seven year stint in English football can still be seen fluttering across parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and east London.
He shocked us mostly by not caring one iota that we were shocked. He disgusted us mostly for not giving a solitary damn that we were disgusted. The fascinating forward from the decidedly ropey district of Ciudadela, Buenos Aires defiantly did things his way, dividing and conquering, then sometimes dividing again purely for kicks. We tried to understand him, we really did. We hopelessly failed.
Not that Tevez reserved his controversies only for Blighty. His career is littered with chaos, confusion, disruption and strops that amalgamated with fights and feuds and law suits, and they in turn melded to the terrorising of centre-backs; the execution of twenty-five yard screamers; the ferocious fracking and ferreting forward play that both electrified and amazed.
Five transfers in twelve years until his disappointingly ordinary move to Juventus in 2013 brought a changing of his name to that of his mother to bypass a contractual wrangle; an investigation from the Brazilian police into convoluted ownership rights; a highly publicised court case after it emerged his registration was owned by two off-shore companies; a protracted legal wrangle where high court writs were issued; and finally a jaw-dropping desertion across Manchester.
For good measure, just as the latter, highly contentious switch to the then City of Manchester Stadium had been absorbed, he indulged in derby-day dust-ups with Rafael and Gary Neville to further antagonise the United faithful who used to adore him.
With City fans naturally adoring his impudence towards his former club, he later went on to alienate both sides of Manchester by going on strike, refusing to come on against Bayern Munich in a Champions League, sending Roberto Mancini into animated apoplexy. Now it was the other half of the city who felt betrayed; who tried to make sense of the unjustifiable.
Several months of ‘gardening leave’ followed with some Blues stating that any subsequent goal he scored in a City shirt would count for nothing. That was until he scored three on his return, crowning a devastating spree of unplayable brilliance against Norwich that reignited a title challenge and this was enough to prompt a collective re-evaluation. First he conquers, then divides, then conquers once again. Sometimes he divides once more purely for kicks.
That is the closest we can get to understanding the infuriating, exhilarating paradox who was El Apache. That and acknowledging that every goal, dervish performance, and decision made was always done entirely on his terms. Recognising the paradox too also helps, for Carlos Alberto Tevez was ultimately a study in contradiction.
He was a grafting prime donna; forever brooding with discontent yet forever straining every sinew for the cause. He was a materialistic, mercenary superstar who played like a local cult hero. He was loved but distrusted.
The Premier League misses him as do we: the human soap opera who scored an avalanche of goals and routinely kicked up a holy hell of a rumpus.
When picking out a slice of genius we are spoilt for choice with so many of them beginning with a head-down dribble that coaches coach out of the ordinary and ending in a spectacular rocket into the far corner. A free-kick springs to mind though. Hell, it’s never left the mind for all those who witnessed it.
There are two games left of the 2010/11 season and three days earlier City had secured their first trophy for a generation after beating Stoke in the FA Cup final. By a strange quirk Stoke are also the opponents here though there is scant time to appreciate the oddity of this because a Champions League spot is up for grabs. The cup is paraded around the ground to huge cheers then the crowd get down to business, chewing on fingernails and feeling nervous.
The nerves dissipate quickly when Tevez puts City in front, with a typically foraging run that leads to an unstoppable pile-driver. After the break Joleon Lescott makes it two.
In the 65th minute the home side are awarded a free-kick a full thirty yards from goal. It is to the right of goal but not enough to lend itself to a delivery. Yaya Toure eyes it up hungrily.
It is Tevez though who strolls up and takes it. He takes it and sends it spinning, curling, bending at fizzing pace just inside the right hand post of Thomas Sorensen’s net.
It doesn’t look possible on first viewing. It appears to be nigh-on impossible in the replay. By the time you indulge in a third watch the outcome is accepted and you marvel at the technique. In short, much like the man himself, it’s a conundrum that confounds until you let go and accept that sometimes magnificence happens with no rhyme or reason.
We tried to understand Carlos Tevez. That mistake was on us for it was a hopeless endeavour. We should have instead just sat back and enjoyed the ride.