From a Premier League perspective, the name Carlos Tevez is synonymous with controversy. To some, it corresponds to treachery and betrayal. To others, the name has the fragrance of admiration and ability. In many ways, all this seems to define the Argentine.
Apart from his ability on the pitch though, the former Juventus star was known to have done a lot of things. The manner in which all that happened didn’t leave all parties happy and brought an incessant spotlight on him. That is what he was all about- one can’t love him unless he’s ours.
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Tevez’s very entry in England was hardly short of controversy or suspicion. What no one could believe was how West Ham were signing two of the best talents in South America at that point- Javier Mascherano and Tevez himself. In the World Cup of 2006, both the players had starred for the Argentine national team that had been knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals.
For two of the most highly-rated talents from the World Cup to join West Ham was a piped dream. But as strange a game that football can be many times, that idea became a reality very quickly on the transfer deadline day of the summer of 2006.
Alan Pardew- the Hammers’ boss back then, had taken the club into the first division in 2005 only. The 2005-06 season had seen them lose the FA Cup final to Liverpool, but there was suspicion nonetheless. Days before the move, Tevez had refused to train and play for Corinthians and on his signature with the London-club, it was being said that the Premier League would not allow the deal to happen.
The reason for that was simple yet a complicated one- third party ownership. Player agencies called MSI and Global Soccer Agencies held the rights for Tevez and Mascherano, implying that they were signing for the agencies and not the club. It was later discovered on proper investigation that West Ham had acquired the registration rights for the player, even though the transfer fees were handed to MSI and another agency called Just Sports.
Strangely, all the agencies involved were then represented by Tevez’s agent Kia Joorabchian. On his move from Boca Juniors to Corinthians, Joorabchian had received a huge commission as part of the deal. Here he was, dictating the market all over again.
Further investigation would reveal that MSI had failed in their attempts to take over at West Ham in the summer of 2005. This led many to believe that the takeover attempt would happen again and Pardew will be replaced as the manager. MSI had done the same at Corinthians and they had owned a certain percentage of the club when Tevez played there. That too had led to police investigations about what really was going on behind the scenes at the club.
Clearly, this didn’t paint a positive picture for the whole saga. A takeover did take place in 2006, but it was Icelandic billionaire Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson who had taken over.
On the pitch, Tevez took a while to get going. In fact, former Hammer Matthew Etherington felt that Tevez dedicated ‘no time’ to ‘bed into the culture’ in England. He would have an interpreter go around with him and all he cared about was playing. Mascherano, on the other hand, paid attention to knowing the culture. He took English lessons and was described as being ‘brilliant’ in training. The contrary was said of Tevez by Etherington.
Etherington even admits to the fact that the two high-profile signings disturbed the momentum in the team. It had ‘upset’ the team and led to the side getting knocked out in the first round of the UEFA Cup and losing to Chesterfield to go out of the League Cup.
Meanwhile, Tevez was becoming frustrated with life. In a game against Sheffield United, he was substituted and he stormed out of Upton Park in anger. His teammates- slyly enough, decided he would wear a Brazil shirt as punishment for his sin.
But Tevez refused and said: “I played in Brazil and have a great respect for Brazil and Brazilians but I’m Argentine and won’t wear that shirt.”
As the club’s performances nosedived, exits followed for Mascherano and Pardew. The would-be Newcastle United boss was assured of his position by the board but was sacked a week later. As for Mascherano, his spell was an enduring one. His last game had seen him come up with a poor performance at Goodison Park.
Club chairman Eggert Magnusson decided that the club would take the pragmatic route and hire Alan Curbishley. While that was seen as a practical move at that point, the former Charlton boss was averse to using Tevez in the first-team. While his first game at the club saw West Ham beat Man United but following that, the staleness settled in once again.
Losing nine and drawing three in the next few games saw question marks being raised about the players’ attitude. They were bashed for a flashy approach to life and got nicknamed Baby Bentley brigade by the media. Lack of professionalism had seemed to rot the club from the inside, as a gambling culture thrived in the team.
A 4-3 defeat to Tottenham was a rather encouraging one, but it had left the club 10 points off 17th with eight games left. It was felt that the club was going back where it came from and was doomed to go down. But one big positive in that loss was Tevez scoring his first goal for the club and this proved vital for them for what came later.
Soon enough, the Argentine began thriving upfront with Bobby Zamora. The winless streak broke, thanks to Tevez himself at Ewood Park. Tevez and Zamora had scored, giving the team some strands of hope for survival. This was also the time when Mark Noble first stepped onto the scene and was enjoying his life in the new-found confidence.
A win over Sheffield United could have lifted West Ham above them and out of the bottom three. But somehow, Neil Warnock’s men won 3-0, leaving the Hammers ten points behind them. But it proved to be a mere one-game thing and the Irons won the next three games and one of those came against fellow strugglers Wigan.
Tevez had scored a brace against Bolton to take the relegation scrap into the last day of the season. Curbishley’s side needed at least a point at Old Trafford against Manchester United to stay in the division. At Bramall Lane, Sheffield United were playing the Latics in a relegation six-pointer. If West Ham did their job, the team that would lose the clash in Steel City would go down.
Miraculously enough, West Ham did win. It was a win that would long go onto be one of the most memorable ones in the memory of the fans. And out of all the people, it was Tevez who had won the game for them. Wigan sealed their survival with a win in Sheffield, finishing the season with aplomb.
As karma would have it, Tevez went onto join Man United in equally controversial circumstances and his United exit was shrouded in similar feelings. While he did go onto win the Premier League with Manchester City and often carried Roberto Mancini’s side, the manner of his initial move would always become one of the most talked-about sagas in English football.