It took a while, but an exclusive interview with Carlos Tevez was finally arranged. We travelled to his house near Macclesfield and stayed for more than an hour. This was in 2010 and the only thing at that point missing from his cavernous mansion, was his family…
It’s hard to imagine City without Carlos Tevez these days with the word ‘talisman’ springing to mind when you think of his role within the team. A tour-de-force of energy, effort and burning desire, he is different from the majority of footballers in both his outlook and journey to becoming one of the best players on the planet.
What team wouldn’t want to have Tevez leading their line? Well, there’s one club not a million miles from us who decided they could live without his services, but it’s probably fair to say that it was a decision they later regretted.
So when a player becomes so important to a team that their supporters can’t bear the thought of life without him, the media seem to take a perverse pleasure in finding obscure quotes, twisting translations and making mischief when there is no real story to be told.
Body language is a massive clue to how a footballer is feeling and a quick glance at the goal celebrations during the 4-1 win at Fulham last month should tell you all you need to know about Carlos Tevez and his feelings for Manchester City.
Beaming smile, eyes lit up and a joy in his manner that renders the rumours and speculation as the work of mischievous journos more than anything else.
The City skipper agreed to set the record straight once and for all and invited this writer, our club photographer and, for good measure, one of the best translators in the business along to his Cheshire home for an interview to provide clarification and, hopefully, end the speculation once and for all.
So is he settled at City or is he desperate to return to Argentina?
“I feel very happy here, I am very comfortable here, and I am very relaxed,” Tevez smiled. “I feel absolutely at home in England, Manchester City is my home, on the pitch there is no problem, and I have made a lot of friendships within the club, so there are a lot of people I can share the great moments with.
“Off the field, I am like everyone else in that I need my family around me as well as my long-standing friends, but I think that is normal. When they are not here in Manchester, I miss them, but that is no reason to retire from football.”
What father wouldn’t pine for his two, beautiful daughters? As Carlos says, he is no different from anyone else in that respect, but he accepts it all the same. Of course, the separation makes the reunions all the sweeter and the doting dad, who has a huge picture drawn by his girls taped to a window in his lounge, reveals the scene as he enters the arrivals hall at Buenos Aires airport on his return home.
“It’s emotional, it’s a great moment, and when I see them for the first time, it gives me a huge lift,” says Carlos, almost lost in thought. “After concentrating on the day-to-day life of a footballer; training, playing matches and so on, it’s sometimes tiring. Your days are taken up in many ways; sometimes you stay at hotels the night before the game, or maybe you spend additional time doing rehab, which I have had to do a lot of recently due to a few little injuries I’ve been carrying. So it’s great to put that to one side for a while and concentrate solely on your family.
“My daughters are beautiful. Katie is just like me in her character, but Floppy is just like her mother; her gestures, her mannerisms are just like her mum’s.
“Time in Argentina is always family based, first and foremost with my girls. I also share time between my parents’ home and my brother’s home, but it’s all about spending quality time with my daughters, my parents, my brothers and my mates.”
Carlos was born in the unforgiving Buenos Aires suburb known as Fuerte Apache, with its name giving an indication of what the day-to-day life was life for the residents of this tough, embattled area of Argentina’s capital city.
“Fuerte Apache is a totally different end of the spectrum from my life today,” he says. “I don’t have any family there anymore, but I do have some childhood friends, and they always tell me that I haven’t changed at all. I go and see them and hang out whenever I’m back.
“I’ll always keep fighting during games and I’ve no doubt that is due to my upbringing as a kid as Fuerte Apache. Life was very tough. Some days you would find it hard to find something to eat, even a piece of bread. It was a day-to-day struggle, and you would have to fight to get what you needed. I suppose I play like that on the pitch, too. It’s in my nature to fight for every ball and never give up – it’s how I survived as a kid and moved forward with my life.”
While there is no doubt Carlos would grace any league in the world, he admits he loves England and the passion people have for the game over here. Spiritually and professionally, he is at home.
“The thing that sets England apart from anywhere else is that fans leave you to live your own life, and you get a lot of respect from the fans, which is marvellous,” he says.
“Away from the game I must admit, I don’t a huge amount in my spare time, I like golf, and I try to play as much as I can though I’m not very good. Otherwise I just rest up and relax. I think about the game 24/7; I love football. As for Manchester, I don’t go out very much. There is one Argentinian restaurant in Manchester, I have been there once and it was OK but I’ll eat at home more often than not.”
One area of City that Carlos has tapped into is the burning desire the City fans have to see silverware arrive at the club. It’s an ambition he shares and he draws inspiration from that sense of longing and hope and he desperately wants to be part of any future successes.
“I really like the desire the fans have to win something, and I sense that,” he says. “It gives me a lot of strength. I know it is hard for people to go week-in, week-out; it can be expensive and it is not the main priority in life, but they make it their main priority.
“That motivates me and drive me on and, being the captain as well, it inspires me even more. Seeing our fans come to the ground in huge numbers makes me want to try even harder when I’m out on the pitch. I’m committed to help make this club a success.”
As skipper, Carlos is also keen to show his relationship with Roberto Mancini is healthy rather than the negative coverage the player and boss are often associated with.
“Of course I get on well with Roberto and I back him one hundred per cent,” he said. “I was disappointed that my substitution against Birmingham resulted in some of our fans showing displeasure towards him.
“What people didn’t know was that I had played the previous three games going through the pain barrier, and the manager knew that. I was very close to getting a more serious injury through playing when perhaps I shouldn’t have so his concern was for my well-being.
“I thank the manager for what he did and I would be very selfish to get annoyed by being taken off against Birmingham; he knows I am not right, so it is nothing but thanks to him.
“To criticise the manager was unfair because we need to be patient; there is a long way to go in the season. I am doing the best I can, but I am not totally fit at present but I am doing the best for the team and will continue to give my all.”
Despite the sterling work of Kolo Toure, Carlos was a natural candidate to become skipper this season. Always leading by example and playing with the passion and commitment or a natural-born leader, he admits being handed the armband is an immense source of pride, but he needed to be sure the transition of the captaincy was done in the right way before he took the role on.
“It’s funny, you know because I had mixed feelings,” he reveals. “It was the night before the first match at Tottenham and I chatted with the manager. I was pleased on the one hand, but my first thoughts were for Kolo, as I had been a team member under him, and suddenly to become captain, and have that role taken away from a good mate of mine, it gave me mixed feelings.
“The first thing I did was go and speak to him to make sure things were right. He understood and was fine about it, as he knew it was the manager’s decision. This made me feel settled and I was very pleased from that moment because if I was captain and it was taken away from me, I would be upset, so it was the least I could do.”
Carlos has been a crowd idol wherever he’s played in England and he has views on each set of fans he’s played in front of in this country and the unique relationship he’s had with them.
“At West Ham we lived through such a tough season that year, we suffered together, we almost went down, but in the end it was all sweetness and light,” he says. “We struggled all year but saved our skins at the end of the season, and we celebrated together. When you are on the rocks in the beginning, then succeed in the end, it makes things even sweeter. We stayed up with my goal at Old Trafford so I will always have a place in my heart for the West Ham fans.
“With Manchester United it was different; it was all high hopes and the club were doing well. Then it all changed with my departure to City and their fans changed their opinion somewhat!
“With City it is again different; there was a lot of doubt within the supporters initially, thinking, ‘has he just come here for the money? ’How will he play?’ But I think I have since proved that I will die for the shirt, and the doubts have gone away.”
So, with the bond now set in stone between fans and player, what does Carlos think of the ‘Fergie, Fergie sign him up’ chant? He is open and honest in his view.
“It’s not the song that needs to be changed; it’s the attitude or the mindset of our fans. Let’s not be thinking about Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, we need to think of City and what we can do,” he says.
“Let’s win a trophy - we want to be great and we want to be a power in world football. The thing that would wind up Sir Alex more than anything is for us to win something and to start really achieving things. What we’ve got to do is not to devote any of our time to United, and just focus on ourselves.
“I think it has been such a topsy-turvy season so far, with everyone beating everyone else. What we have to do is start believing that we are a big club, get our act together and concentrate, and be strong enough mentally to go five or six matches with victories, whereas currently we will get a win then a draw with the odd defeat thrown in.
“It’s a case of thinking about it properly and getting our mindset right in order to get those half dozen wins in a row which will give us that belief that we can be champions.
“My message to our fans is, first and foremost, be patient. Think how City were doing three or four years ago and how thing have changed so dramatically. Everyone should realise that we all want the same things. The fans want to win trophies and so do the players.
“We want to become a bigger club and City is the team on the lips of people the world over. Be patient, and be aware we are on the right road, though it won’t happen straight away.
“We want to win the Premier League and the Champions’ League, so we all want the same things. We are almost there, so enjoy it and think how quickly we have progressed from where we were. It’s coming...”
What happened next? Carlos Tevez kept his promise to help City win silverware and became the first captain in 35 years to lift a trophy when City beat Stoke in the 2011 FA Cup final. The following season was a controversial one as a dispute with manager Roberto Mancini during an away game with Bayern Munich led to a suspension and Tevez returned to Argentina.
After several months, he returned in February 2012 and issued a full and unreserved apology. Mancini welcomed back Tevez and a month later he came on as sub in a crucial 2-1 win over Chelsea. Tevez then played a pivotal role in the games that remained as City ended a 44-year wait to win the top flight title.
He remained one more season before joining Juventus in June 2013. He made 148 appearances and scored 73 goals and despite all the controversies, his service on the pitch was fantastic and it is a pity he didn’t stay with City for longer.