Corinthians and Carlos Tevez
Remember that it was only three months ago that Corinthians were offering 40 million Euros to bring the stocky Argentine striker back to the club he led to the Brazilian title in 2005.
The deal did not go though, largely because Corinthians did not yet have the cash available. They were thinking in terms of four annual payments of 10 million, starting in 2012 when the money from the new TV deal comes on tap. City wanted a fee up front, and there was insufficient time to work out a deal.
Plenty has changed since then, especially as a result of the player‘s alleged refusal to take the field in last week‘s Champions League game against Bayern Munich. First, City would presumably be keener to get rid of Tevez, and therefore might be prepared to take a more flexible position in the negotiations. Second, his price may well have fallen as a consequence of recent events. Third, time has moved on, bringing Corinthians closer to the moment when they can lay their hands on the extra money from the new TV deal.
And yet there has been no noise about the move coming out of the club - who, at the point the deal broke down in August declared their desire to count on the services of Tevez at a future moment.
Are they still interested? Tevez the player would be an asset to the team, especially useful in next year’s Libertadores campaign - assuming, of course, that Corinthians qualify. They are well placed at the moment.
Winning the Libertadores is the Holy Grail for Corinthians. All their major local rivals have won it. Corinthians have never even reached the final. The previous spell of Tevez with the club effectively ended with the club’s elimination by River Plate in the 2006 version of the Champions League equivalent- an event which sparked a furious reaction from the fans.
Finally carrying Corinthians to Libertadores glory is the kind of task that may well appeal to the Tevez ego. He clearly likes to be the star, thriving, for example, on the challenge of ensuring that West Ham avoided relegation.
There will surely be many Corinthians fans delighted with the idea of his return, and believing that any price is worth paying to bring him back.
Not everyone agrees. Economist Luiz Gonzaga Belluzzo warns that Brazil’s “clubs will not able to sustain for long this scenario of importing stars and paying millionaire salaries.” Those who disagree will point to the fact that Belluzzo is no Corinthians fan - he was recently president of Palmeiras. But specialist sports consultant Amir Somoggi would seem to back up Belluzzo’s analysis. “Real Madrid wanted to pay Neymar the same amount that Corinthians offered Tevez,” he says. “The difference is that Real receive almost 1 billion reais a year and Corinthians receive 200 million.”
Corinthians president Andres Sanchez recently said that in two years the club will be in a better financial situation than any other in the world. It seems an outlandish claim. Their new stadium will not be ready by then. And it certainly will not be true if the club are spending more than they can really afford on one player.
Then there is the baggage that Tevez brings with him. The Carlos Tevez of 2011 is not the same as the Carlos Tevez of 2005. Then he was looking at Brazilian football as a springboard to wealth and glory in Europe. He is now a much richer man, and seemingly, less tolerant. He has always been something of a moaner. Recently, though, he has outdone himself, and not just with Manchester City.
Tevez remains an idol in Argentina, principally with Boca Juniors fans, but he lost some of his shine in his native land during the recent Copa America. Considered a potentially disruptive eement and originally excluded from the squad by then-national team coach Sergio Batista, popular pressure forced him back in. Batista and Tevez sat down to reconcile their differences, and the player was re-instated, not just in the squad but in the team. Then Argentina started badly and Tevez did it again - he moaned about the position in which he was being played.
At the very moment when Argentina desperately needed everyone to pull together, Tevez appeared to be thinking more about himself than the collective cause. Unamused, the gods of football ensured that he missed the vital penalty in the quarter final shoot out against Uruguay.
The impression left by this and by his recent antics with Manchester City is of a troubled soul who now thinks he is rich enough to indulge himself. And from a Corinthians point of view, there is another key difference between now and then. In 2004 he moved to Sao Paulo in order to escape Buenos Aires, where, he said, the press were making his life intolerable.
His recent desire to go back to Sao Paulo was very different. It was openly motivated by a wish to be closer to Buenos Aires, where his family situation with his wife and daughters would be easier. Corinthians was his best - indeed only - option because there was no question of Boca Juniors being able to pay a transfer fee.
The truth of the matter appeared, then, that he did not really want to be in Sao Paulo - and it is worth recalling that his Portuguese is not noticeably better than his English. The attraction of Sao Paulo was that it is so much closer to Buenos Aires. In effect, it came across as the option of a man putting his personal life a long way in front of his professional one - that, of course, is his prerogative. But if so, would it be wise for any club to pay him the kind of wages top players currently receive?
Tevez is a complicated character. An Argentine journalist who has extensively researched his background recently confessed to me that he was bemused by a contradiction at the heart of the Tevez psyche - Tevez the man seems so uncommitted to the teams he plays for, while Tevez the player shows total commitment.
Are Corinthians prepared to wrestle with this dilemma? I’m waiting for the silence to be broken in Sao Paulo.