FOX Sports Asia’s John Duerden believes it is best for Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Shenhua to bid farewell to marquee signing Carlos Tevez sooner rather than later.
Ma Yue has been Shanghai Shenhua’s spokesperson for a number of years but the still-young communications officials has never been as busy as he is now.
He grew accustomed to dealing with the foreign media when Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba headed east in 2012. Carlos Tevez in 2017 has been a different level and Ma has been left flat out denying regular reports in the international press.
That Tevez has made more headlines off the pitch this season than not is obvious even to non-Chinese and Asian football fans.
A start which promised so much…
The Argentine arrived at the end of 2016. His salary was reported to be the highest in the world and, even if the figures of over $700,000 a week were exaggerated, his pay packet is sure to be heavier than the shopping bags of the throngs that wander up and down Nanjing Road every day in China’s commercial capital.
As always, results determine everything. If Shanghai were riding high in the Chinese Super League and Tevez, the man signed to help push the Blues up from fourth in 2016 to the top three or higher in 2017, was contributing, then the rest wouldn’t matter. But they aren’t, he isn’t much and so it does.
There was the trip to Disneyland early in the season when an injured Tevez took his family on a special treat on the same day his team-mates were winning up in Changchun. Had the 33 year-old been playing well, then press coverage would have been muted rather than manic and – more quietly – it was noticed that Shanghai looked better without their marquee signing.
It wasn’t the first injury and by the time he was allowed to return back to Argentina in August to recover from his latest knock, fans felt that it would not have been a major disaster if the former Manchester City, United and Juventus star stayed in South America. The impression he gave was that he would rather be there too.
Homesick, injured and not producing on the pitch, it was all adding up to another Shanghai Shenhua big signing not working out. In Tevez’s case, literally, as he arrived back in East Asia overweight, according to interim coach Wu Jingui.
Wu is a gentleman and not one who speaks negatively in public about a player lightly, but it was telling that he said Tevez was not in the best condition and would not be selected on reputation.
"Chinese players are not naturally skilled. Like players who learned football when they were kids. They're not good."
– Carlos Tevez. ?? pic.twitter.com/Cnike0M4kj
— Players Sayings (@PlayersSayings) September 21, 2017
Then, there were reports containing comments from Tevez, taken out of context according to Ma and the club, criticising the skill levels of local players. Then, there were comments from the club chairman which admitted that the star signing had disappointed, followed by more reports that the player had been banished to the reserves. Again, these were denied by Ma.
“Tevez has never been told that he has no place in the first team, and the claim that he refused to answer [the] club’s calls [to play with reserve team] is not true,” Ma wrote on social media. “Quite the contrary, head coach Wu Jingui and team leader Mao Yijun have shown great concern for him and the communication between them is very smooth.”
Ma did add however that it was up to Tevez to produce “the real stuff” if he wanted to be selected.
It all adds up to a failed signing. This is, in itself, not unusual. Some transfers just don’t work out. It is the nature of football.
Even if Shenhua signed a player from city rivals Shanghai SIPG, a team doing annoying well and going for the Chinese Super League (currently second behind Guangzhou) and the AFC Champions League (having reached the last four), there would be no guarantee of success. Recruiting from South America to East Asia adds further unknowns. The size of the deal, the player’s reputation and the club’s ambitions made the difference.
In the wise words of Andrea Bocelli: “Time to say goodbye”?
At the end of the season, Shenhua should swallow their pride and allow Tevez to do what he wants: return home to Boca Juniors. It may cost the Blues plenty of money and a little face but it should provide a vital lesson and a simple one too: there are plenty of players who would be delighted to play for Shanghai Shenhua and its supporters, some of the most loyal in Asia. Maybe not all would have the talent or the resume to match Carlos Tevez, but the vast majority would be a great deal cheaper.
There is no shame in admitting that signing Tevez has been a failure – albeit an expensive and public one. It is time to move on and look towards next season without their unhappy Argentine.