Contrary to reports, Tevez has helped Chinese football

John Duerden John Duerden

Trust Diego Maradona to sum up the sorry saga of Shanghai Shenhua and Carlos Tevez up with a stylish succinctness.

“He went to China, filled up Santa’s sack with dollars and came back to Boca. Perfect,” said the Argentina about his compatriot and fellow Boca Juniors hero.

“Tevez is no traitor. I would like to see all those people who say Tevez betrayed Boca reject $25m a year… it is pretty stupid to say that. Now Carlitos is back and all us Bosteros are very happy.”

Sweet for the Bosteros then, but sour for fans in Shanghai who have seen their club splurge millions – reported to be as high as $40 million in some quarters – on a player who did not produce. Tevez will not be missed. The money will.

There are plenty of excellent imports who have made a real difference to clubs, leagues and local players. Some have done reasonably well while plenty have failed miserably.

Sometimes it just happens. A player can move just a few kilometres down the road and not fit in for any number of reasons. So a player, even one who has played for some of the best clubs in the world, can offer no guarantee of success when heading from South America to China on the other side of the world.

What should be a given however is that 100 per cent is given at all times. Only Tevez can know for sure if he was as committed as he could have been for the Chinese Super League club. But the smart money – not the kind that Shenhua have paid out – is that the attacker did not do as much as he have could have in 2016.

There is no need to go into the details of what happened, or rather what did not happen, in 2017 but a quick summary goes something like this.

Tevez joined the club in December 2016 in a deal that was reported to put the player, whether accurately or not, on higher wages than any other on the planet – at least in the pre-Neymar to PSG phase.

He arrived at Pudong with an entire retinue of family, not the best of looks for a professional player. He never seemed to settle and played just 20 times in all competitions, finding the target just four times. Stats don’t always tell the full story and that is the case this time. There was the time when he went to Disneyland with his family when he was missing a game, through injury, while his team-mates were busy winning – and playing better –
without him. Had he been starring, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal as it was.

There was then missed games, multiple niggling injuries and a desire to head home at any possible opportunity; echoing similar bouts of homesickness that had been on display during his time in Europe, especially with Manchester City. Fans at Shanghai Shenhua, not the most numerous in the country but perhaps the most loyal, had started to turn against the star. The Blue Devils will forgive plenty if the basic effort is put in. They didn’t like Tevez by the end.

The league campaign was more disappointing than the import. After fourth place in 2016, Tevez was supposed to be a final piece of the jigsaw, not to win the title, but at least to become a challenger. That didn’t happen and it ended in the bottom half. The FA Cup final win over Shanghai SIPG saved the year at the end of the season. I attended the final but Tevez did not and was already heading home. He wasn’t missed and was barely mentioned. Obafemi Martins scored the all important goal, an import with a smaller status but bigger impact.

The very best foreign players leave a legacy. Zico did just that in Japan when the J.League was in its early 1990s beginnings. More recently, there has been Dario Conca in China and Dejan Damjanovic in South Korea. These are players who bring something special in all aspects and not just in terms of winning points. They improve local standards, attitudes and always give 100 per cent in games, in preparation and training.

Tevez also leaves a legacy in Chinese football. His legacy will not, unfortunately, be one of inspiration and excellence. It will be a legacy of negativity. Tevez will serve as a lesson of how not to do things. He will be held as an example of all that is wrong with splashing Chinese cash on foreign players.

His transfer helped push the government towards restricting the number of foreign signings in the league and helped push through the so-called transfer tax, whereby clubs that are in debt must pay a figure equal to the transfer fee for a foreign player that goes into a football development fund. He has helped to ensure that clubs are more careful in the future.

Chinese football will ultimately be stronger for Tevez, not for what he did on the pitch but for the colossal waste of money he was.