Tough and tenacious Tevez is a real terrier

Profile: Adored in Argentina, cherished in Brazil, and depending on what side of the city you are from, idolised in Manchester.

Fuerte Apache barrio in Buenos Aires is one of the toughest neighbourhoods in South America. Criminal gangs, prostitution and drugs are endemic, though street footballers flourish amid the prefabricated housing and exposed electricity wires. Carlos Tevez was born into this environment in 1984.

Sportswear which bears his name in Argentina emphasises this tough background, though it does not use his street name of "pit bull". That recently came to light during a trial which saw one of his brothers jailed for 14 years for armed robbery. "All I did as a child was play football," said Manchester City's tireless and tenacious forward, 26. "And so did my friends. So we were ready to play when we were 16 [the age Tevez made his debut for Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors]. When I was eight I was playing against the boys who were 11, so I was not scared to play against men of 30 when I was 18.

"It's also important that in Argentina players are given a chance to play if they are good enough - and they usually are." Tevez made his Boca debut in 2001 and won the 2003 Apertura league title, a year in which he was named South American Footballer of the Year. He won that award again in 2004 and 2005 - the year he moved to Corinthians, the Sao Paulo side. Tevez's individual honours continued when he became the first Argentine to win Player of the Year in neighbouring Brazil.

"There's a rivalry between Brazil and Argentina because we are neighbours with glorious football histories, but it's based on respect," he said. "In Brazil, I gave my best at all times. It's important to do this and I think the fans of Corinthians appreciated my efforts. There was never any hostility, just support because I always gave 100 per cent for the team." Argentines moving to Europe was not new, moving to Brazil was, but Tevez's stock never diminished. Unlike Lionel Messi, who is criticised for leaving his homeland before playing professional football, Tevez had spent four seasons with Boca and claims he will finish his career there.

Moving is something Tevez has done consistently, though never conventionally. It was not Barcelona, Milan or Madrid, but England's West Ham United where he transferred next in 2006. Initially unused by a coach who did not rate him, a managerial change saw him became their star player as he helped save West Ham from relegation in 2007. Tevez's crucial goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the final game of the season kept them up as the Hammers won 1-0.

That sealed his legendary status among Hammers fans and Tevez salutes this by crossing his wrists as a sign of solidarity on subsequent visits to Upton Park with the Manchester clubs. His season at West Ham provoked controversy, with relegated Sheffield United arguing - and winning a court case - that his transfer from Corinthians was illegal because the player was owned by third parties and not the club.

Tevez was more effective surrounded by better players when he moved to Manchester United in the summer of 2007. He won the Premier League in his first season, forming a formidable partnership with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. United's man-of-the-match in the 2008 Champions League final, 2007/08 saw him weigh in with a creditable 14 league goals and four in the Champions League including a late equaliser at Lyon in the quarter-finals.

The following season was less productive, with just five goals. Tevez and the agents who own his rights, were angling for a new contract giving him parity with Rooney and the outgoing Ronaldo - over £90,000 a week (Dh513,000). United offered £70,000 and would not shift. Despite United fans singing "Fergie, sign him up" during Sir Alex Ferguson's post-match speech to celebrate the 2009 league title, Tevez left the club a month later. City met his demands in a deal which will cost them £47 million.

An image of Tevez was plastered across a giant City-sponsored billboard in Manchester saying: "Welcome to Manchester" - a dig at United as their home lies just outside the city boundary. Tevez became a figure of hate among United fans who accused him of greed, thereby increasing his stock among City's faithful. When the two clubs met in the Carling Cup semi-finals last season, Tevez goaded United's Gary Neville after scoring. Neville had criticised the Argentine's move across Manchester. United won the competition, but Tevez was City's outstanding player in his first season, scoring a career-best 23 league goals. Such form led Roberto Mancini, the City manager, to promote him to club captain. Tevez says he is happy at City and his ambition is to help them win a first trophy in 35 years. This could be the season.

@Email:sports@thenational.ae

Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related
Related