Labouring under very flimsy pretences, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is adamant that agitated striker Carlos Tevez will not receive a hostile reception from the jilted home support, when drop zone-flirts Everton visit Eastlands this very evening.
The Premier League tie will see Tevez face the (potentially) baying City crowd for the first time since the striker aired his grievances – submitting a written transfer request after citing ‘broken relationships’ with the club’s hierarchy and blaming a continuously crippling bout of homesickness for his wandering eye.
However, Mancini sees no reason for any discrepancy between the generally well-supported side he fielded in the Europa League in midweek and the outfit he will deploy against the Toffees – regardless of whether Tevez returns to lead the line or not:
“The fans were fantastic for us when we played Juventus in Turin on Thursday and they should continue to support a team like they have in other times.
It’s important we are focused only on Everton and that the supporters are focused on Everton. We should forget [the Tevez ordeal] because we must focus on the game.
We can only beat them if we play like this, they beat us twice last year – it will be a difficult game and a tricky one.”
Mancini scheduled a hasty meeting with Tevez at City’s Carrington training complex on Friday afternoon to mull over the Argentinian’s immediate future.
Rumours duly began emanating from several well-placed sources that the Italian coach decided during the course of the encounter to strip Tevez of the City captaincy – with the armband either being once again bestowed to former skipper Kolo Toure or to the Ivorian’s central-defensive partner Vincent Kompany – with the BBC including the spurious caveat that Mancini won’t even inform his superiors of his decision until his side trot out at the City of Manchester stadium tonight.
During a obligatory press conference, Mancini ducked questions about the talks he held with Tevez over the weekend, though his responses under duress hinted at a failure to dissuade the wayward forward’s ‘urge for leaving’ – though it seems he will remain committed to the City cause for as long as necessary:
“It will not be any different for Carlos now. He’s a football player, he loves football and he still plays like when he was young playing in the garden every day. Whether it’s in training or in an important match, he always plays the same way.”
When asked directly about the issue of the captaincy, Mancini answered opaquely:
“I don’t know at this moment. I will have to speak with him first.”
And therein lies the crux.
With all the simpering and sycophancy being shown toward Tevez after his little ‘stand-off’, there is a real danger that the striker is being being made to look – in common footballing parlance – ‘bigger than the club’, thus partially vindicating his attempted coup.
Of course, Tevez should not be made a pariah, martyr or ‘public enemy No. 1’ for what he has done – he merely voiced a legitimate desire to leave the club, not via his phalanx of representatives or by a stream of ‘come and get me’ pleas, but by submitting a (perfectly valid) written transfer request that City duly rejected.
It’s also perfectly understandable that City should want to coax their chief asset back from the brink given the obvious advantage of numbering one of the best forwards in the world amongst your number but, that said, Mancini’s constant public coddling is skewing his importance to the club beyond the realms of ‘actuality’ – perhaps both in his and in Tevez’s mind.