To trace a path through Carlos Tevez's time in English football is to encounter a star performer whose capers exposed the fault lines of the cocooned, modern-day player as well as the domestic game.
Carlito's Way appears finally over on these shores. For the £7.6m transfer fee accepted from Juventus, Tevez (if he agrees terms) is waved off by a relieved Manchester City, and the bemused cognoscenti who admire a rare talent but balk at the complications that plagued his seven seasons here.
Tevez has been the one-man soap opera whose memorable episodes include a lead role in third-party ownership, that "Welcome to Manchester" poster, fallouts with Gary Neville and Roberto Mancini, receiving 250 hours of community service for driving offences, plus the glut of spirited displays that helped him to a Champions League, three Premier Leagues and the FA Cup.
Yet Tevez departs as he arrived in August 2006, alongside fellow Argentinian Javier Mascherano, at West Ham United: a relative stranger to all but his closest confidants. "He's been a very good player but I can't talk about the lad because I don't know him," says the former City midfielder Dietmar Hamann, who played against Tevez in September 2006.
This is the footballer coveted enough by West Ham for them to break Premier League rules about the third-party deal that took him (and Mascherano) from Corinthians to Upton Park, the ramifications of which still haunted the club three seasons later.
The issue of Tevez's ownership, illegal under Premier League rules, rumbled on when Sheffield United pursued compensation from West Ham after he scored the winner at Old Trafford on the final day of the 2006-07 season that condemned the Blades to relegation.
While the final £6m instalment of the £18.1m won by Sheffield is due next month from West Ham, who were also fined £5.5m by the Premier League, none of this farrago was Tevez's fault. As Neil Warnock, then the manager of the Yorkshire club, says when asked if he holds Tevez personally responsible: "No not at all. It's not the player's fault. Listen, we had a laugh about it when I saw him last year. I just said to him: 'You cost me a million quid.' But a fabulous player, I wish I'd have had him – a player like that to play for [me]."
Sir Alex Ferguson felt the same and in July 2007 took him on a two-year, £10m loan deal that was successful for club and player as the 2008 and 2009 Premier League and Champions League were claimed. But Tevez's time at United ended sourly. The club refused to pay the additional £25m demanded by Kia Joorabchian – Tevez's adviser and the head of the mysterious consortium who retained his economic rights – to make the move permanent, while "El Apache" stated that the executive "lacked respect".
At this juncture Tevez was still adored by the United congregation, who had sung "Fergie, Fergie sign him up!" after booing his substitution in the 0-0 draw with Arsenal that drew the club level with Liverpool's 18 titles in May 2009.
This all changed when City bought Tevez for a fee that may have been as high as £47m, and the Abu Dhabi executive cleared the infamous "Welcome to Manchester" poster that was hung in the city centre as a taunt about United's precise location.
When the following January Neville claimed that Tevez "was not worth" the £25m to keep him ahead of a League Cup semi-final with City, he responded by gesturing to the United right-back when scoring the opener in the 2-1 win, before later branding him a "boot-licking moron".
It was at City that Tevez began to accumulate yet more baggage. Two separate transfer requests, in December 2010 and the following July, were lodged. Then he fell out spectacularly with the manager, Mancini, in September 2011 for failing to warm up during a Champions League group game at Bayern Munich. That ruled him out for six months – costing him nearly £10m in lost earnings – and proved the catalyst in City's desire to offload him to Juventus.
In the end, the view formed that at £198,000 a week it was time for the club to cut its losses. Warnock said: "Man City will miss him. He's just got a great attitude to the game. I'm not saying everything is right about him off the field. He's just got a great attitude and English players can look at him and realise why he makes so much money."
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