Man City Club Focus – The fickle nature of football: Could Tevez return be the tonic City need?
With the 2011-12 Premier League title race promising to be the most unyielding in memory, the smallest of changes may prove crucial. Tottenham Hotspur fans still wallowing in the Lilywhites’ 5-2 capitulation to Arsenal may lament that the intense speculation surrounding Harry Redknapp’s potential appointment as England manager is threatening to cast them adrift to the Manchester juggernauts. Certainly a complacency hitherto hidden was glimpsed as a comfortable 2-0 lead was allowed to slip.
If Redknapp’s future, and the Red Devil’s tenacity have the potential to alter the championship, so too does the return of Carlos Tevez. A pariah, castigated for his disloyalty, despised for his brazen refusal to warm up when selected as substitute against Bayern Munich and widely condemned as an insidious influence within the City dressing room, his future seemed to lie away from the Etihad Stadium.
Tellingly, not once did the Argentine forward attempt to apologise. On several occasions, City manager Roberto Mancini spoke with remorse at the seemingly intolerable rift between player and club. Each time, he tempered criticism of his former star pupil with the promise that a place in the Citizens squad had been kept vacant. Like a headmaster let down by a student once too often, the offer of a return seemed to have been made out of hope rather than expectation. Tevez’s riposte by way of acknowledgement was to argue that he had been treated “like a dog”. He had become the embodiment of all that is toxic – mercenary, ungrateful, brash – in modern football. He seemed intent to be rid of Manchester City. Most Manchester City fans were glad to see the back of him.
And then on Tuesday afternoon in a behind-closed-doors encounter with Preston, City’s very own Boy With The Thorn In His Side returned. Every bit as dramatic as the coverage regarding his future has been, his brief 45-minute sojourn was serene. Quietly, imperceptibly, Tevez had announced his intention to woo his way back into Mancini’s plans.
A fine wedge of paper is all that separates the Manchester clubs as the Premier League season enters its final phase. With 12 games remaining, just two points separate City from United. Yet still one senses that momentum is on the side of the Reds. Tevez’s return has the potential to change that.
In spite of his wanton disregard for the heritage of Manchester City and his noxious behaviour, Tevez’s return conjures the opportunity for redemption. There was a logic to what many perceived to be Mancini’s week surrendering to the player’s whims; a tacit knowledge that in the former Manchester United man City possessed a match-winner of ingenuity. Tevez may yet be that talismanic figure who nudges City across the finishing line. Now wouldn’t that be the fittingly surreal end to one of the season’s most enduring sideshows?
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