Once again, Carlos Tevez's teammates could hardly believe what he was doing. This, however, was for reasons other than the usual. After a few months in the second contentious season of Argentina at Manchester United in 2008-09, the entire team of players received watches gifts from the new Hublot sponsors. The pieces were worth about £ 10,000 each, and players were naturally taking them as one of the usual traps of the work. Not Tevez, though. He looked at the watch with a disinterested expression, as if to say "what should I do with it?", Before leaving it untouched.
It is a small story that goes against many perceptions of Tevez, especially since it was only a few months before he moved to Manchester City in one of the many controversial moments that revolved around obscene money and characterized a contradictory and often contradictory. sometimes complicated career.
This career can be set for a newly set feat this Saturday with the 34-year-old playing for Boca Juniors at River Plate in the second game of the last two-legged Copa Libertadores final. If your team manages to get the Bombonera 2-2 first-leg for the ultimate victory over their eternal rivals, it will be a rare example of a South American star with his true legacy for his childhood club, and this in a career where the biggest trophies of the game were anything but rare.
This, however, is just one more complication when it comes to reflecting on Tevez's genuinely massive contribution to the game over 17 years. In South America, he is seen primarily as the great romantic hero, the "Jugador del Pueblo" – player of the people. In Europe, he is widely seen as a personification of everything wrong with gambling and a symbol of his greed.
Those who know him, such as former teammate Nicolas Burdisso, would say that European perception is really the problem of other people capitalizing on Tevez's "hunger." It is a hunger that has already brought a Champions League, a Libertadores, eight league titles in five clubs in four different countries, in addition to seven other major trophies. He is the second most decorated Argentine player after Leo Messi, and one of the few players in general to have won both the Libertadores and the Champions League.
Against so many cutlery, however, there were so many controversies. Even as he became a personification of third-party ownership problems, there was the "chicken dance" to mock River Plate in the 2004 Libertadores semifinal; the incredible move to West Ham United with Javier Mascherano; the legal case around his remarkable feat of keeping them almost alone; who move to the city and the welcome signal to Manchester, the dispute with Roberto Mancini and prolonged absence of the team, the anger of Juventus about his eventual move to China, an exemption of therapeutic use for betamethasone in the Cup of World of 2010 questionable challenge that led Argentine player Ezequiel Ham to break his leg.
England only saw him achieve the rare feat of supreme success in three very different clubs, but you really would not think of how he is remembered. He rarely appears in the "Best Foreign" debates in the Premier League, even though he has done something few English players can do.
His former Boca teammate, Rolando Schiavi, agrees with Burdisso and has no doubts about his legacy.
"He has triumphed everywhere, left his mark everywhere, was a champion everywhere and is one of the greatest players that Argentina has ever had," says Schiavi. The Independent. "All his teammates loved him."
A figure who worked at the top of the European game paints a different image. "He is perhaps the archetypal mercenary of football. Most teams would like to receive their talents. Few would miss him when he left.
Throughout all this, and from when he first came out to Corinthians at age 20, Tevez used to say that he wanted to return to Boca "in a few years." Just add another layer to this end. In fact, he thought he would come back at 25 or 26. It would be his immediate response when asked how he saw his career coming out, and one of the few things a generally quiet man would get excited about, how he would enthuse about "the always, "about his rivalry with River.In every house he moved in, Tevez made sure that the main wall was adorned with a huge picture of him and Diego Maradona.The connection has always remained consistent, but not all else has.
Once adored and endorsed by Maradona, Tevez has heard this summer the great legend of Argentina speak against him, for reasons that only increase the complications around this legacy.
Tevez has been so characterized by aggression and controversy, that it is easy to forget how talented he is. This talent was the reason he was initially seen as an heir to Maradona before Messi, and why he made his debut for Boca since he was 16 in 2001, having gone there – of course, controversial All Boys – when young woman in 1997.
Burdisso went there as a teenager at the same time and left at the same time in 2004, so he knows Tevez better than most.
"From the first moment he trained with us, we noticed something different immediately," says the midfielder. "What most impressed him was his influence. His ability to decide games on his own was extraordinary. "
That was what was so crucial in Boca vs. Libertadores 2003, and the one that marked him in the semi-final against River in 2004, bringing that notorious "chicken dance" celebration that only adds an extra layer to the final this year. The obvious interpretation was to mock the story of River's suffocation – like chickens, "hens" – but teammate Schiavi attributes it more to instinct than to intention.
"He was in the moment," says Schiavi. "We were all so nervous. I think he did it consciously, since it was a release of emotion. The judge saw differently and sent him away.
Surely he saw the release of much anger and immediate threats, because of all the fury surrounding a device so charged and violent. But Tevez remained unchanged, unrestricted.
"Nothing seemed to upset him," says Craig Simpson, a Manchester football translator who spent all his work hours – including "whispering bullshit in his ear" – with Tevez that season at West Ham. "If you're from somewhere As dangerous as he is, everything will look good. "
No matter where in the world he went, it was always impossible to highlight Tevez's career and personality from where he grew up: the neighborhood of Ejercito de Los Andes, better known as "Fuerte Apache." Simpson recalls how, when talking about the differences from where they came from, "Mascherano would say he heard cows, while Tevez would say he heard shots."
The area is so dangerous that the Independent could not find a taxi company that could pass through there in the days before the second leg of the Libertadores, and was abruptly advised not to try.
Familiarity with a place known for this violence – almost visually reflected in a scar on the neck that actually resembled a childhood accident with boiling water – was the reason why a City figure denied having had a fight with Roberto Mancini.
"If that happened, Tevez would have killed him."
This ability to take everything that followed his training "in his step" was why he was able to act at the same level through so many controversies, through so many clubs; why he could leave Argentina for Brazil and win the title with Corinthians at the age of 20 and then succeed through so many different highly pressurized situations in England: a relegation battle; a relentlessly successful established club; an ambitious new super-rich project.
It was ironically at the lower end of the Premier League with West Ham that Tevez would find one of his few periods of struggle. It's easy to forget now how sensational this move was with Mascherano to Upton Park in 2006, how many questions there were about how such a club could make that possible, but Simpson does not believe the initial bad form has come down to that. or even any adjustment to a new situation. The latter was never a problem. Tevez had a lot of adaptability as a football player, a lot of persistence. The attacker merely noticed how small the stadium looked, but was usually just trying to get in shape again. Tevez was not in good condition when he arrived. As many have said about him, he was so selfless that he played with pain – and injections – and in any position.
What consumed him was the fact that it was March 2007 and he had not yet scored. So he had a target – which tells how he lives for occasions like Saturday's SuperClasic. With West Ham facing Tottenham Hotspur in the league, Tevez that week turned to Simpson and said, "Sunday is Classical, is not it?" He was ready for the classic, and was quietly preparing a free kick, with Simpson mounting walls on the training ground. That was worth it. Against Spurs, Tevez scored the first of six goals in 10 games that were crucial to maintaining West Ham and securing a transfer to Manchester United.
There, Tevez would become part of a sensational attack with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in the club's history, alongside George Best-Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and Dwight Yorke-Andy Cole. What set them apart was the immediate understanding that brought so many gloriously interchangeable moves and goals – particularly against Aston Villa and Middlesbrough – as well as a league double and the Champions League. Both Rooney and Tevez instinctively realized how they could work to maximize Ronaldo and thus the team. "I think he realized early on that I'm a pretty disinterested player, that if he was in a better position I would give him the ball and that if he stayed up I would go back to the top," Rooney said two years ago. "We would work for each other."
It certainly worked perfectly for one season. Tevez, of course, took the first penalty in the Champions League final against Chelsea and of course scored. This maintained a capacity for so many clutch moments, so many essential goals when no one else seemed capable of moving forward. West Ham saw it, United saw it and City saw it especially in the 2011-12 matchup.
Tevez, for two seasons, was hired and the best player of the new and luxurious project, before there were any doubts as to whether he could play Sergio Aguero, and then that big argument erupted with Mancini at Bayern Munich. Supposedly finished at the club, he returned after the supposed 1-0 defeat to Arsenal, scoring four goals and re-igniting the City's challenge. One of his long-range goals in a hat-trick against Norwich City only encapsulated this uncontrolled abandonment mixed with raw quality. This was its effect. This was the striker that Juventus had been waiting for since Alessandro Del Piero, and that took them to another level to reach the final of the Champions League again in 2014-15. That, too, is exactly what Burdisso is talking about when he describes that extraordinary "ability to decide games on his own," "that will power," "that hunger." There are few players like him.
"He's always been a fissure," adds Schiavi, "always the difference."
That's what prompted Kia Joorabchian's Media Sports Investment Limited (MSI) to invest in Tevez in 2004, financing its transfer of $ 22 million from Boca to Corinthians, a record for a South American club. of so many transfers – not to mention a two-year legal case that ended with West Ham reaching an out-of-court settlement with Sheffield United over the relegation battle of 2006-07. Joorabchian was never the direct agent of Tevez, but a figure who worked closely with the player said, "Kia is the most important person of all."
Whatever the complex reality, the result has been a series of highly profitable moves and accusations of greed that so irrevocably transformed the game. Tevez was very popular at Old Trafford, but sources say Ferguson already had doubts about his long-term commitment because of so many talks about wanting to return soon to Boca. United was going to offer him a contract with that in mind, just for the player's field to ask Ronaldo for money, and then pick up the City. A corner with the words "that man we worshiped" was quickly changed to "grab money" and then a synonym for a prostitute. An image has been tarnished.
Meanwhile, Juventus reluctantly accepted the deep desire to return to Boca in 2015, only to be surprised when he moved to Shanghai Shenhua a year later.
It all led to this conflict between the ability to earn big money and want to be the player of the people, something that is almost impossible to reconcile. Those who know him closely, however, say that one is ultimately the source of the other, as he is only following the example of many South American players and seeking to secure the future of his family.
"He has many brothers and sisters, having been adopted by his aunt and takes care of them all," Simpson explains. "He bought all the houses and always called his brother, who still lived near Fort Apache."
Tevez also set up a foundation that works in the area, and Simpson finds it difficult to define the perception of greed with what he knew about the player, and the man who invited him to the Christmas dinner in 2006. There was a complete absence of bling. , hence the history of the Hublot watch.
Tevez does not actually wear a watch, and has never wore a suit until Alan Curbishley introduced them to West Ham. "What's this?" He laughed with Mascherano, before appearing in a huge suitcase the next day, it was required. Tevez also became a golf fan, but did not play with teammates in any of the lucrative clubs around where he lived. Instead, he would simply enter "golf" into his Satnav and go wherever he would take him, usually a municipal club that attracted many spectators.
"He was not materialistic," says Simpson. "That's why he seemed even more alien in the process because it was against the person he was. He was very much a family man, did not leave, went to the barbecue grill for dinner and was very happy in his little life. He would put his Cumbia song in the car, and if you did not, he would not say anything – maybe for a whole trip – but he laughed a lot. "
This was also the source of what Michael Carrick described as the "strangest friendship in the world" with Patrice Evra and Park Ji-Sung at Old Trafford, which involved so much "smiling and laughing," even though they hardly spoke the same language. It was fitting that Tevez was not able to communicate completely with them because he "does not necessarily want to get into conversations."
And after all this, even the conversation around him in Buenos Aires is now a bit different, a bit complicated.
There is a large portion of the population that will always love you because of your past, which will always see you as the player of the people, but a series of stories has changed the minds of others. There was first of all the 2015 challenge in Ham that left the player off for almost two years, the transfer to China after the supposedly final back, and most recently the "friendship" with the former president of Boca and current president Argentine Mauricio Macri.
This is what led to this criticism of his idol.
"I see him as a lot Macrista, which is stupid of Carlitos," Maradona said in August. "If he is a Macrista, he is no longer the player of the people.
"If he tells me he's the same, the boy I know, I'll continue to support him, as I've always done … I have to talk to him."
The situation made River fans mock Tevez openly, and would probably involve his own words that "there is more to life than money" thrown back at him at Monumental on Saturday. Again, those who know him would say that it is more complicated, that the relationship with Macri is only from the time in Boca. It's just a bit rich, given the country's economic turmoil.
Whatever it is about the people's player, however, Tevez remains a member of the team. And now a leader. He invited the entire Boca Squadron to his home for a large meal on Wednesday night. He wanted to promote a bigger spirit ahead of Saturday: the match that will mean more to Boca than any other in his history, and that will mean more to him than any other in his career.
When asked about much excitement around him for this game, Tevez was heard saying, "This final is about the glory of the club, it's not about me."
There is a challenge and a difference of perception that has defined a career.
Follow Independent Sport on Instagram here, for all the best pictures, videos and stories from around the sporting world.