Why Carlos Tevez is a £50million headache for Manchester City
How do you solve a problem like Carlos Tevez?
That is the conundrum facing Manchester City as they decide how to deal with the latest demand to leave from their capricious captain and most influential player.
For all the baggage and off-field turmoil Tevez brings with him, he remains City’s key man, his 53 goals in 86 games over two seasons at Eastlands are testimony to that.
But their dilemma is whether to stand firm and demand what they consider to be Tevez’s market value – around £50million – or accept a lower offer to finally be rid of such a destabilising influence.
City, of course, have been here before, so there was little surprise among the club’s hierarchy when Tevez’s agent Kia Joorabchian issued a statement late last night, outlining his client’s latest reasons for wanting out.
Publicly, City have adopted a bullish stance - just as they did back in December when Tevez handed in a transfer request - pointing out the striker is under contract with them for a further three years.
The club insists there has been no interest, formal or otherwise, in Tevez and that they have no back-up plans to bring in a forward to replace him - evidence of their determination not to be bullied into granting the Argentina international an escape route.
Privately, though, there is a growing feeling at boardroom level and within the dressing-room that City may ultimately be better off without Tevez, despite his on-field heroics and undeniable status as the ultimate match-winner within their squad.
Several players are said to have already expressed doubts over Tevez retaining the captaincy, given his ongoing disloyalty.
The erudite and dependable Vincent Kompany is likely to be handed the armband on a permanent basis.
The problem for City is that, despite the unrest Tevez has caused with his transfer requests and frequent hissy-fits, he remains a footballer of rare quality; one whom it would be hard to adequately replace were he to leave this summer.
Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero has been mooted as a potential replacement, but Tevez’s compatriot is also the subject of a bid from Juventus, while a potential deal to lure Samuel Eto’o to City failed because of Inter Milan’s reluctance to let him go.
But if Tevez is to leave, City are determined it will be on their terms, not his.
The club’s hierarchy - led by chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and chief executive Garry Cook - are up for the fight, just as they were last December.
Tevez, 27, withdrew his transfer request seven months ago after City stood firm, insisting they would not entertain the prospect of him leaving, both sides claiming “clear-the-air-talks” had resolved the issue.
The reality is that City called Tevez’s bluff and won, Joorabchian having realised there were no clubs willing to take on a player with a £50m price-tag and wages of £200,000-a-week midway through a season.
As such, Tevez saw out the remainder of the season with City, playing a key role in their securing of third spot in the Premier League and Champions League football for next season, as well as ending their 35-year wait for a trophy with their FA Cup triumph.
But now, just as he has done at his previous four clubs, Tevez is hankering for a fifth move in a decade.
As a general rule, the striker never stays anywhere for longer than two years before deciding it is time to move on.
Now he has completed his 24-month stint at City, he and Joorabchian are keen to move on yet again, citing personal reasons, although the more cynical viewpoint suggests the desire to switch clubs is motivated purely by money.
Tevez has cited life without his wife Vanessa and daughters, Katie and Florencia, as his main reason for wanting out of City.
He has been reunited with his wife after a trial separation, and it is she who does not want to return to Manchester.
Vanessa was unable to settle in Manchester, but the Tevez camp say she is willing to relocate from her native Argentina to Spain or Italy, which is what has driven Tevez’s latest transfer request.
“Carlos is giving up life in England for love,” was the way one member of the his camp put it, a claim that will no doubt draw snorts of derision from senior figures at City, who are adamant financial greed is behind the latest instalment of the Tevez saga.
City are sympathetic to Tevez’s homesickness, but felt it significant that when he was given a club-approved week off last winter, he chose to go to Tenerife with his then-girlfriend, rather than visit his children in Buenos Aires.
And with Tevez changing his tune over his reasons for wanting to go, ranging from the separation from his family to the supposed breakdown of his relationship with the City board, the club remain sceptical at the truth behind his apparent discontent.
With Barcelona restricted in their spending plans this summer and having decided to commit their full outlay on Cesc Fabregas, there is no chance of Tevez moving to the Nou Camp, especially as Pep Guardiola has no desire to sign him.
Real Madrid are an option, but have not registered any interest in Tevez, which leaves Inter and Juventus as his only other options.
Yet both clubs would struggle to fund the exorbitant transfer, while the latter cannot even offer Champions League football next season.
Inter sporting director Marco Branca said Tevez’s huge wage demands precluded a move for him: “Tevez is a great player, a great character, but absolutely no.
“His salary means it is out of the question. The market is crazy at the moment and it is hard to compete.”
Against that backdrop, City hold all the cards in their latest public stand-off with Tevez.
With the player on international duty at the Copa America, they have time on their side to address the issue and digest his latest ultimatum.
With their vast wealth, City are in a position to make Tevez and his advisors play a waiting game.
They can hold out for the fee they want, given their own spending plans are not dependant on funds from his sale.
As such, it could prove to be a long hot summer of waiting for Tevez and his camp.