Carlos Tevez is in danger of becoming the 2017 version of Jackson Martinez: a hugely expensive, eagerly-awaited and world-famous import that makes his Chinese Super League team play worse.
The similarities are there. In February 2016, Martinez, arrived at Guangzhou Evergrande from Atletico Madrid for a transfer fee reported to be around the $60 million mark. The Colombian had not had a great time in the Spanish capital but it was assumed that with his undoubted talent that Chinese defences would bear the brunt of his pent-up frustrations.
That did not happen as Martinez struggled to adapt or impress and while injuries did not help, fans in southern China were soon pining for Elkeson.
That prolific and popular Brazilian striker had scored the goals to help Guangzhou Evergrande win two Asian Champions League titles as well as their Chinese Super League crowns, and was suddenly and surprisingly sold to rivals Shanghai SIPG in January. Guangzhou said in a statement that the sale took place: “For the purpose of supporting Chinese teams to compete in the AFC Champions League, and for the national glory.”
Martinez: A pricy flop.
Martinez, who had scored for fun in Portugal with Porto, seemed to be a fine replacement yet a year on from his arrival, he was not even registered in the squad for the 2017 Asian Champions League. At it stands however, his move has not been a success.
Tevez signed for Shanghai Shenhua in December in a deal that reportedly made him the highest-paid player in the world. That may or may not be true but there is no doubt that the man who has won league titles in England, Brazil, Argentina and Italy and has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world is certainly up there in the global salary stakes.
With Shanghai finishing fourth in 2016, a highest finish since 2010, there was optimism that the arrival of the former Manchester United and Juventus star, would herald at least a challenge for a first title since 1995. Since then, the 2003 championship was taken away after match-fixing crimes to make the eight runners-up spots from 1996 to 2008 all the more painful.
The season started badly with defeat in the play-off for the 2017 AFC Champions League at home to Brisbane Roar in February. The club wanted a place in the knockout stage but to not even make the tournament proper was a blow.
Of the first four games, Shanghai won just one, the season opener against the struggling Jiangsu Suning, but then collected just one point from the next three matches.
The pressure was on new coach Gus Poyet but then came two successive wins. The problem is that Tevez was injured for those two games.
It has made things easier for Poyet. At the start of the season. to accommodate Tevez, who at the age of 33 is not quite the high-octane forward of his English prime – the one that fans in China remember and expected – Poyet shifted Giovanni Moreno out wide.
— Cameron Wilson 韦侃仑 (@CameronWEF) April 23, 2017
Moreno may not be as famous as many others foreigners in China, this Colombian is perhaps the most consistent import in Chinese Super League history. He has either been Shanghai’s best player, or one of them, in every one of his five seasons so far.
The sixth is looking like being the same, assuming that Tevez is not around. Moreno is back in the middle, pulling the strings and scoring the goals. The late winner in a 3-2 win at Changchun Yatai was his fifth of the season. More than that, the playmaker has started to link up very nicely indeed with Fredy Guarin and, Tevez’s replacement, Obafemi Martins, who scored against Guizhou last week and has looked very lively.
While the wins are welcome for the team, they give its most famous individual much to consider. Tevez, Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2014-15, landed at Pudong Airport with a reported 19-strong entourage of family members, not the act of a man determined to dive into the local language and culture.
The injured star was criticised for taking his family on an April trip to Shanghai Disneyland trip at the same time his team-mates were heading north for a league game.
Nobody in Shanghai will care what Tevez does off the pitch if he is delivering the goods on it. Until now, he has not done that.
The problem for coach Poyet is obvious. Tevez is Shanghai’s biggest player and by far the best paid. Rumours that the player is not happy will become a good deal louder if he is not returned to the starting eleven when he becomes fit over the next week or two.
But by bringing Tevez back, the Uruguayan risks upsetting the balance that the resurgent Blues currently have. Shanghai look better without Tevez and this was not part of the script.