THE CARLOS TEVEZ AFFAIR
Mickey Blue Eyes
A few weeks ago Carlos Tevez apparently refused to come on as substitute in a European match for Manc City at Bayern Munich. Gossip and reports have circulated since: there is no way of knowing which are true and which are standard media shite. Tevez meanwhile denies he refused to play. At the time of writing he has been suspended by his club, trains alone, and faces further action through alleged breach of contract. All of it is made worse by his earnings, which are reported as anything up to £240,000 per week. Whatever the truth of it, the episode raises fundamental questions about "player power."
Firstly, this fan has no problem with player earnings provided they come through earned club revenues and are not subsidised by a rich patron, in this case the Al Nahyan family. If this is true in this situation it will change perceptions for most fans. And therein lies the core of current football problems.
Secondly, there's nothing new about any of this in first class football, including match-fixing. The game has been bedevilled with greed and corruption in varying intensities since the dawn of professionalism, as has all sport. Anyone surprised by the event is either uninformed or wilfully ignorant of the history of football and attendant human nature. All you have to do is research. For instance the great Jimmy Greaves once refused to play for Alf Ramsey and paid a subsequent heavy price by missing out on England's World Cup win of 1966. And there is no reason for any Evertonian to get on his high horse about rich mens' subsidies: John Moores is rightly recognised as the millionaire patron who regenerated Everton in the 1960s. At the time players had to endure the maximum wage nonsense while drawing crowds well in excess of 60,000. Less acknowledged is an interview in the early days of Moores' ownership when he openly said he would have signed Ferenc Puskas and paid him as a director of Littlewoods if he could persuade him. I doubt if there would have been many Evertonians complaining then about it, anymore than they would now if a similar action was taken. The point is of course, not that there's anything new in this, just that the game crossed an invisible boundary with creation of the Premier League in 1992. The same problems are now magnified tenfold. Tevez is merely a symptom, not a cause.
Thirdly, few would argue with the proposition there can be only one manager of a team and his word must be playing law. Anything else is anarchy and worthless. Whether a player or two likes him or not is immaterial. If the manager - in this case Roberto Mancini - says play, you play. If Tevez did refuse to play, then he deserves all the criticism and sensible disciplinary action he gets. He can't complain. If you want to see how badly anarchy can affect a team all you need do is research ludicrous past behaviour of Dutch players in the national team. No player, no matter how great, can be allowed to be bigger than the club or the manager. Breach of contract should be dealt with accordingly.
Of course there is no easy balance in all of this. All the management techniques in the world cannot change human chemistry between individuals. All you can do is encourage the best aspects; the rest is down to chance. Great managers do it instinctively, but they are as rare as great players. Everybody else has to learn through the hard school of experience. There isn't a badge or a certificate in the world that can prepare you fully for dealing with the vagaries of human nature. A sensible man prepares himself for this as best he can.
So my bet is you will see similar incidents again if and when they escape the proper code of dressing room omertá. Anybody who has listened to belated stories from retired players could tell you that. A sense of proportion from mainstream media wouldn't go amiss either. But when have we ever enjoyed that happy state of affairs?