Carlos Tevez can count his cash back in Buenos Aires but Shanghai Shenhua wages should feel like ill-gotten gains
The mercenary striker is revered for his supposed passion and commitment but Chinese Super League move wasn’t first time he has sold supporters short
Nearly 20,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) from home, immersed in an alien culture where he hated the food and could not understand the language, Carlos Tevez finally gave up the ghost.
The Argentine striker has made a career out of pretending to be 100 per cent committed on the pitch despite being anything but loyal off it to the clubs he played for, but at Shanghai Shenhua he stopped trying to care.
And why should he give a damn? A Chinese Super League club was paying silly money for any South American star they could get their hands on, and Tevez wasn’t going to miss out on one last big pay day.
After first leaving his home continent in 2006 at the age of 22, Tevez had publicly pined for a return to his first club, Boca Juniors, throughout a nine-year stay in Europe.
The boy who lit up La Bombonera with his fiery passion finally got his wish in 2015, except as soon as someone waved enough money under his nose, Tevez was off again, this time to China in January last year.
Shenhua must have thought they were buying silverware when they acquired a player with 20 trophies to his name.
But on the rare occasion he was fit to play, Tevez put in the bare minimum effort and the Chinese Super League club got a return of four goals for a reported outlay of £615,000 a week (HK$6.52 million) in salary and a £9 million transfer fee.
He had always been a firm fan favourite at every club – Manchester United fans even committed the blasphemous act of drowning out Alex Ferguson’s end-of-season speech at Old Trafford in 2009 with cries of “Fergie sign him up”.
Instead, Tevez went to Manchester City for £47 million and the blue half of the city fell just as much in love with him.
The City fans’ support for Tevez never wavered during four years, despite repeated attempts to seal a move away.
Tevez handed in a transfer request in his second season and fuelled speculation of a move to Italy, before manager Roberto Mancini accused him of refusing to come on as a substitute in the second half of a 2-0 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich in December 2011.
Mancini claimed Tevez would never play for City again, and the striker took his family to Buenos Aires for an unauthorised two-month holiday on full pay before returning the following February to help fire them to the title.
Even when he eventually left for Juventus a year later – despite initially claiming he wanted to leave so he could be closer to home – City fans saw him as a legend.
He was a darling of the Juve supporters too, helping the club to win two Serie A titles and reach the Champions League final in 2015.
But Shanghai Shenhua supporters, and Chinese football fans as a whole, could not have been happier to see the back of him after he finally sealed his second homecoming to Boca this week.
For too long Shenhua indulged a player who has consistently messed his clubs around, a player who opted to hit a golf ball out of a bunker on the Manchester City payroll while his teammates were in the trenches.
In Shanghai, an injured Tevez opted for an afternoon out at Disneyland while his teammates were playing a league match against Changchun Yatai.
With Shenhua struggling under Gus Poyet, the local media was in uproar but still the club let their star man do as he pleased.
Tevez was even given permission to fly to Buenos Aires mid-season in August to get treatment on a calf injury but seemingly used the trip to put in motion his move back to Boca, and returned overweight with Poyet’s successor, Wu Jingui, refusing to play him until he got in shape.
At least the club finally got the message and smartened up, leaving Tevez out of the team for the two legs of the Chinese FA Cup final, which they won without him against city rivals Shanghai SIPG.
Not that Tevez would have given a damn.
He now talks of his desire to play at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, but struggling national manager Jorge Sampaoli should ignore the temptation to recall the 33-year-old who has 13 goals and 76 caps.
The golden boy once talked of as Diego Maradona’s successor when he guided Argentina to their first Olympic gold since 1952 at the 2004 Athens Games, Tevez missed the 2014 World Cup in Brazil during a three-year international absence after falling out with manager Alejandro Sabella and refusing to play for him.
For all the passion he purports to possess, Tevez will ultimately be regarded as a mercenary, a great striker in his prime but a man who showed more loyalty to his bank balance than any football club or even his country.