Time for Tevez and China to say their goodbyes

John Duerden John Duerden

The celebrations were still ongoing in the blue half of Shanghai when Carlos Tevez was flying home to Argentina – not for the first time in 2017. The Shanghai Shenhua forward did not play in the second leg of the China FA Cup final against city rivals Shanghai SIPG.

Shenhua lifted the trophy. Winning the first leg 1-0 at home and losing the second 3-2 was enough for the team to end a disappointing season, and a 13th place finish in the Chinese Super League, with a trophy and a place in the 2018 AFC Champions League. Beating SIPG just added a little extra spice.

The cup final marks the end of the Chinese season. It also looks as if Tevez’s time in the country is over. A return to Argentina is in the best interest of all parties.

Shenhua’s interim coach Wu Jingui was fairly generous with the player’s decision to leave and not watch the game or take part in the celebrations that followed.

“He wasn’t named in the squad so he made the decision to go back to Argentina. I understand why – a player of his high level,” said Wu.

“Tevez has made a great contribution, especially in the FA Cup, he’s not like the person that people say – he is hardworking in training, training twice a day, morning and afternoon. He did a great job and technically he’s a great player.”

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Wu is a real gentleman and one of the nicest guys in Asian football. In the aftermath of victory he is hardly likely to publicly criticise a player, especially when it would deflect attention away from the one high point of 2017 for Shanghai Shenhua.

We will never know if the coach really means what he says. He is correct however in that Tevez has not been as bad in China as has portrayed in the international media. He has been just OK.

The problem always was the case of expectations. Just OK is not good enough given the situation. The former Manchester United, City and Juventus forward arrived ahead of the 2017 season. The reports that he was the highest-paid player in the world may or may not have been accurate but there was little doubt that the wages were astronomical.

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Tevez has standout skills, a standout reputation and a paypacket that more than stands out and with all that in mind, his performances also had to follow suit. When he played however, and he appeared just 16 times in the league, he was merely average and that wasn’t what was wanted. Clubs buy world-class players, or at least those who have a world-class reputation and demand something special in return.

The Argentine didn’t deliver that. That perhaps would not have been an insurmountable problem in the first few months but he often gave the impression that he would rather have been back home.

More than most fans in Asia, Shenhua fans love a player that gives everything. Tevez never really looked like that kind of player.

An early injury ruled him out of a trip to Changchun. Instead of following his team-mates north, he took his family to Shanghai’s Disneyland. The media didn’t like it. If he had been in great form on the pitch then it would have been different but he wasn’t.

Fans have started to mock his habit of returning home to South America (quite a trek!) whenever possible. He was famously homesick when in Manchester but China seems to be on a different level.

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There has been talk in Argentina that he would be back at Boca Juniors sooner rather than later. His heart never left Buenos Aires and now the rest of him is there too. He should stay.

Shanghai should let the player go and cut their losses. He hasn’t been a disaster, just hasn’t matched up to expectations and has been little better than an average Chinese Super League player. The Blues will not be the first team to have spent millions on underachieving big-name players – indeed, this is a club that signed Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba in 2012 – and will not be the last.

Boca and Shanghai can do a deal that suit all parties. Tevez seems to want to stay in Argentina. Shanghai need a player who is able to contribute more on and off the pitch, is a good deal cheaper and happier to play his football in Shanghai.

Shenhua’s poor season has ended on a high. It’s time to put Tevez behind them and move on.

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