The Premiership has its panto villains and then it has Carlos Tevez. It is impossible, however to understate the impact the South American has made since returning to the team in March – the forward injected life into City’s fading title bid. His individual performances were good but some way off his best form, partly due to a lack of match fitness; the lift to his team though, was huge.
Roberto Mancini was forced to swallow his pride when issues with another problem forward, Mario Balotelli, and a setback in the previous game against Swansea, led to the Italian bringing an estranged Tevez back into his match-day squad for the crucial tie against Chelsea. Tevez, introduced with City trailing 1-0, changed the game. His mere presence on the pitch inspired his team-mates and City won 2-1 with the 28-year-old claiming a sublime assist for Samir Nasri’s winning goal.
The Etihad Stadium outfit continued to stutter in their pursuit of the title, with two draws in their next two games – Tevez featured but was only deemed fit enough for the bench by Mancini. When he did start, at home to West Brom, he scored in a 4-0 win. Incredibly he then bagged a hat-trick in the 6-1 demolition of Norwich at Carrow Road and provided the assist for fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero. Fans in the blue half of Manchester had their title momentum back and Carlos Tevez was the returning hero.
Although the goals then dried up a bit, the striker featured prominently as City won their last five games, capitalising on United’s dip in form to snatch the title. The swashbuckling return of Tevez also had a noticeable effect on countryman Aguero, who began scoring freely in the run-in after a patch of indifferent form. Not only that, David Silva began performing with his early season swagger, Samir Nasri came to life and the doubting supporters rallied behind their side
Perhaps we should have seen this coming given that Tevez has a track record of single-handedly transforming a club’s season. Back in 2007 with West Ham, he was both inspirational and prolific in keeping the side in the Premier League. The forward bagged a series of crucial goals during the relegation fight, none more crucial than a final-day winner over Manchester United.
Sir Alex took note and brought the forward to Old Trafford the following season. During his time there Tevez proved himself as a winner, as United collected silverware, but also as an inspirational team player, earning the respect of the Stretford End with his hard-working performances.
Despite his track-record for inspiration Tevez remains a headache for Mancini. Who can say what the current state of their relationship really is, after a season in which the Italian said the forward was finished at the club, and in which Tevez claimed his manager had treated him like “a dog”? The Argentine has thrown a tantrum prior to his exit from every club in his career and his time at City has been a roller-coaster so far.
It often seems that Mancini is faced with the classic dilemma of can’t live with him, can’t live without him, but the City boss will surely appreciate the ability of Tevez to change the fortunes of a side and the pivotal role he played in finally bringing Premiership to the Etihad.
By Francis Johnston