Carlos and the Copa

“Tevez is not within my priorities.” The phrase, only a couple of months old, came from the lips of Sergio Batista, manager of the Argentinian national football team that tonight opens the Copa America with their match against Bolivia. And guess who will be playing from the kick-off?


Since Batista took over the job, succeeding Diego Armando Maradona, he had never included Tevez in his team. Not even on the bench. Which was a surprise, because the Apache – Tevez’s nickname – was one of the top scorers of the English Premier League and captain of Manchester City. But when asked about the subject, Batista said that it wasn’t punishment, that he was watching and evaluating Tevez’s performances. Only to later claim that he “didn’t like something he (Carlos) said to my assistant”, and that was the reason that was leaving him out of the team. The coach even dared confirm that Tevez wouldn’t be part of the team in the Copa America. Fastforward to today, and we can see Man City’s captain training at Ezeiza, with the likelihood of starting the opening match getting bigger by the minute.

To begin to understand what could have motivated this sudden change of mind (because believe me it has nothing to do with football performances, or goals scored or not scored) we have to analyze Carlos’ history. Tevez ‘s popularity in Argentina actually compares to Messi’s, because of his humble origins and anti-establishment behavior, such as speaking in terrible English every chance he gets to talk to the national media, proving that he’s still connected with his roots despite living in London and Manchester for years. This type of persona was obviously instantly adopted and fueled by the press, to the point that Tevez would take it too seriously, leading to several overacted interviews, commercials, billboards, and even in-field situations.

Don’t get me wrong, his talent and skill are undeniable. It just seems as though the player-of-the-people act has taken over the professional football player, even though he was seen on Susana Gimenez’s (a kind of Argentine Oprah Winfrey-esque) show comparing his new Rolex watch with the diva’s. This kind of behavior, the constant flow of arguments with Most coaches he’s had (Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini the most recent), and Batista’s statements regarding why Tevez wasn’t in the tactician’s original plans only strengthen the idea that the reason he wasn’t being called for the friendlies weren’t footballistic. So the reasons that prompted this comeback didn’t have anything to do with football either.

Germany overcoming the imbalanced Argentina in last year's World Cup

This isn’t the first time that media and crowd pressure made a manager reconsider and include him in the team. Prior to the 2010 World Cup, Maradona confirmed the starting 11 a thousand times and months before the first game. It was a well balanced 4-4-2, with Tevez comfortably sitting in the bench.

But then the media started talking about Carlos “running more than anyone at practice,” and before you knew it Argentina were playing Mexico (frankly, an inferior team, to remain in consideration) with Tevez scoring twice. This then made Diego leave him in the team for the match against Germany -a team of similar levels of quality to Argentina-, accompanied by two other strikers. As a direct result of this, the midfield was left unbalanced, with Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Pastore on the bench. The result was a shameful 0-4 with Germany, with the victors clearly excelling in ball possession.

Argentina will probably win tomorrow, and Tevez could well score. But, given the recent history of over-hyping and acting with a lack of thought as a result, I’m not so sure this would be a good thing for the host’s aspirations of winning the Cup.

Written by Diego Pecchini.

Follow me on twitter @diegopincha


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