Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano are perhaps two of the best-known Argentinian exports of recent years.
Two incredibly talented players who have won a multitude of caps and trophies and played for the biggest clubs in the world, both can lay claim to being genuinely world-class at one point in their career.
Tevez, of course, crossed the Manchester divide, leaving United to join City, and won Premier League titles at both. He is now in his homeland with Boca Juniors.
Mascherano, meanwhile, became a fixture in an exciting Liverpool team before earning his crust in perhaps the greatest club team ever to play the game, Barcelona.
How in the blue hell, then, did they both end up in east London at West Ham United?
On Thursday, August 31st in 2006, the BBC announced that the Hammers had completed the double signing of two “Argentina World Cup stars”. Tevez scored once and laid on an assist at the 2006 tournament as he and Mascherano helped Argentina reach the quarter-finals, where they were beaten by Germany. They were each playing for Corinthians at the time.
Both players, the BBC claimed, had been linked with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
The deal was shrouded in secrecy and many had their doubts over the legality of the move; West Ham had struck a deal with Media Sports Investments instead of a club, with MSI owning the rights to both players. This was basically unheard of in English football.
A Daily Telegraph report around the same time detailed that West Ham had signed a strict confidentiality agreement and would not be revealing from where they found the funds to buy both players.
Chelsea, per the report, had tabled a £30million bid for Tevez but eventually signed Andriy Shevchenko after seeing it rebuffed, while United were also said to have made a “significant offer” for both players.
Tevez stated, however, that he had made the decision to join West Ham and insisted that he was not swayed by anyone else.
“Many teams were interested in signing me but they had a lot of players in my position,” he said, as quoted in the aforementioned article.
“My biggest priority was to come to a club where I would be guaranteed to play. I want to use my first year in English football to get used to the rhythm of the game in England so this was the best solution.
“West Ham was the best option for me. I’m not worried about playing for a big club, I just want to show West Ham my best.”
Tevez did just that. After a tough adjustment period to life in England, Tevez scored seven goals in 10 games to help the Hammers stay up. He netted the winner on the final day to secure survival, ironically against United.
Mascherano, however, had a tougher time of it.
It seems crazy to think that one of the key cogs in the Barcelona machine could not get a game at West Ham but there we were; he played five times in the Premier League for the Irons and never saw them pick up a point. During his time on the pitch, the Hammers lost to Newcastle United, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.
However, with Tevez playing a key role in securing West Ham’s top-flight status, things got very murky indeed.
West Ham were punished by the Premier League for breaching rules over third-party ownership. They were fined a record £5.5m by the league but were not docked points, a decision that continues to rankle at Sheffield United.
The Blades were relegated on the final day of the 2006-07 season as their defeat to Wigan Athletic, coupled with West Ham’s win over United, sent them down. They appealed their relegation but were not successful.
A year after that, per the Guardian, an FA tribunal ruled in their favour, finding that “we have no doubt that West Ham would have secured at least three fewer points over the 2006-07 season if Carlos Tevez had not been playing for the club.”
West Ham ultimately stayed up by, you guessed it, three points. Despite securing their survival, the Irons were forced to pay a hefty settlement to the Blades, which reached £20m.
Tevez is still revered as a hero in east London, though Mascherano less so.
Following the conclusion of that season, Tevez joined United on a two-year loan deal. He won the Champions League and two Premier League titles at the club before another highly controversial move to City. After his contract ran out at Old Trafford, City paid MSI £25.5m to secure the rights to Tevez, who went on to win the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium, as well as the FA Cup.
Moves to Juventus, Boca, Shanghai Shenhua and a return to Boca have followed.
Mascherano, meanwhile, joined Liverpool at the end of the 2006-07 season in a deal that was initially a loan and was made permanent for around £17m. He made over 140 appearances for the club prior to a £25m move to Barca.
At the Camp Nou, he won five La Liga titles as well as two Champions League trophies.
Their trophy cabinets, then, continue to bulge. Mascherano is still playing in China with Hebei China Fortune while Tevez is still scoring goals at Boca.
But every football fan in England is likely to remember the transfer that shocked the world and somehow took both men to West Ham.