Call him what you want. From industrious to Judas, Carlos Tevez has had every conceivable compliment and criticism levelled at him throughout an 18-year career which is set to end this year.
From an early age, it was apparent that Tevez’s career would run neither straight or narrow. He was born and raised in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood nicknamed “Fort Apache”, created under the dictatorship of Juan Carlos Ongania. Over many years people from nearby slums were forced to move into the heavily guarded settlement. Resulting in 17,777 people living in 4,657 residencies by 2001, the year Tevez began his professional career.
Though turbulence began before Tevez even made his Boca Juniors debut, he had been adopted by his auntie and uncle to resolve a conflict between rivals All Boys and Boca over signing the junior sensation as a child. Coupled with a previous two-month stay in intensive care after receiving the distinctive burn scar that runs from his right ear to his chest, themes throughout Tevez’s childhood suggest perseverance was a staple of his upbringing.
Tevez recognised this when Boca Juniors offered the teenager cosmetic surgery to improve his appearance; he rejected the club’s offer saying the scars were a part of who he was in the past and who he is today.
In his debut campaign at La Bombonera, Boca won the Copa Libertadores, but the 16-year-old was left out of the squad for the final. The Argentine made a more significant contribution the following season making 32 league appearances, but it was in 2003/04 that the world started to take note.
Boca won the Copa Libertadores once again, with Tevez scoring in the second leg to compound Santos to a 5-1 aggregate defeat, while picking up player of the tournament. The South American champions also lifted the Argentine Primera League title as part of a historic double winning season. Tevez, who was instrumental in achieving both successes, was rewarded with the Primera Division Player of the Season and South American Footballer of the Year, to complete a hat-trick of individual awards.
Just six months later Tevez swapped Buenos Aires for Sao Paulo in what was South American football’s most expensive deal ever, reportedly costing Corinthians up to $22million. In pure footballing terms, the deal was a success as Corinthians won the 2005 Brazilian Serie A, while Tevez won the golden boot and later picked up his third successive South American Footballer of the Year award.
Though Corinthians transfer dealings would later highlight the shady nature of third-party ownership which was prevalent throughout South American football. While the striker may have played for Corinthians, he was co-owned by his agent Kia Joorabchian’s company Media Sports Investment and Just Sport Limited, with 35% and 65% stakes respectively.
When Carlos Tevez and Argentinian teammate Javier Mascherano both attempted to force through moves to Europe in the summer of 2006, many Premier League clubs were reported to have turned down offers for the pair due to stipulations put in place by MSI and Just Sport. The now banned third-party model has previously led to players being treated as a business ‘asset’, meaning transfers can be approved which are in the financial interest of the owners, as opposed to the players’ sporting ambitions.
Fortunately for Tevez and Mascherano, they were able to swap Sao Paulo for London on deadline day of August 2006. Though, West Ham would later pay a £5.5million fine to the Premier League for breaching third party laws and a £20 million out of court settlement to Sheffield United who finished a place below the Hammers and were relegated. The Argentinian striker effectively kept West Ham in the Premier League by scoring the sole goal in a 1-0 victory over Manchester United on the final day of the season.
A summer later speculation of a move away from Upton Park persisted, while Tevez was finishing as runner up in the Copa America with Argentina for the second time. It became apparent that Manchester United was the striker’s destination of choice, but the legal dispute regarding his ownership had become increasingly complex.
Eventually, both Premier League clubs sought FIFA’s assistance to decide who owned Tevez. The case was referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and after a lengthy saga, MSI paid West Ham £2million to release Tevez from his contract.
The complicated nature of matters in the boardroom didn’t cease there, as United secured Tevez’s services on a two-year loan deal from Joorabchian’s Media Sports Investment. Though the striker’s experiences under Sir Alex Ferguson’s tutelage were anything but complicated; in two seasons Tevez scooped two league titles, the Champions League and the League Cup. There were few teams across Europe capable of combating United’s deadly attacking trident also containing Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
Conflicting stories have since emerged as to what happened when the two-year loan ran out, Tevez has maintained an offer from United was never put forward, while the club state his agent told United he no longer wished to play for them.
Regardless of the method, Tevez was looking elsewhere, and he didn’t go far. The up and coming Manchester City signed the Argentine for a reported £47million, a then British transfer record and stuck two fingers up at their local rivals with the infamous “Welcome to Manchester” billboard.
Following the trend Tevez had set previously throughout his career, his time in the heart of Manchester was fraught with more drama than an episode of Coronation Street. He was sentenced to community service for driving without a licence, given the City captaincy, then handed in a transfer request and was later exiled from the squad for refusing to make a substitute appearance against Bayern Munich.
Heavy fines followed the Munich incident, but to lament Tevez for the negatives would be missing the point, throughout his turbulent spell one thing remained consistent his on-pitch performances. It took Tevez 73 games to score 50 goals and when he played, City were a vastly improved outfit. It was Tevez who captained Manchester City to the 2011 F.A Cup – their first trophy in 35 years – and initiated the mentality shift to that of aspiring champions. The Munich incident reduced Tevez to sparse appearances in the title-winning season, but he still received his third Premier League winners medal.
A surprisingly understated exit to Juventus occurred in the summer of 2013, and many assumed the striker’s best days were behind him. As ever Tevez proved any doubters wrong. Those who were fortunate enough to witness how Antonio Conte deployed Tevez will testify that the Italian could not have extracted any more from his shrewd £12million acquisition.
In both campaigns spent at the Allianz Stadium, Tevez finished as Juventus’ top scorer as his side won Serie A, but his contribution to Italian football cannot be measured by goals alone. He reignited Europe’s fear of the Bianconieri by taking the Italians to their first Champions League final since the Calciopoli scandal, and relegation to Serie B. En Route to the final Tevez was instrumental in overcoming both Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.
Sadly, Barcelona proved a step too far, finishing as 3-1 winners of the 2015 final. This would prove to be the Argentine’s last game for Juventus before making his return to Boca Juniors.
Tevez would cement his legendary status amongst Boca fans by returning to score nine goals in 15 games, winning a historic league and cup double. He became the first player in history to win two domestic doubles in a calendar year, due to the timing of the Argentinian season.
A notoriously brief and underwhelming spell in China followed, where Tevez was reportedly the highest paid player in the world. A supposed annual salary of $41million yielded just four goals before the Argentine returned to his homeland. Upon his return to Boca Juniors, Tevez mocked the ludicrous Chinese investment describing his time away as nothing more than a holiday.
Tevez won’t be universally adored when he hangs up his boots this summer. There’s a multitude of reasons to dislike the Argentine, ranging from grabbing quick cash in China, swapping United for cross-city rivals and then refusing to play for the Blue half of Manchester. However, his infectious appetite for the game, honesty and abundance of personality are hard to come by in the modern era. Thus those who followed him closest will sorely miss a truly unique talent.