Back in the heady days of September 2008, Carlitos Tevez had just won player of the month for August. United had started the season with a host of injuries and Carlitos stepped up to the plate, taking charge of a misfiring midfield as well as orchestrating the attack. He was basically a classic number 10. He also managed to knock in a goal or two. Besides the bauble, he was rewarded for his efforts by Alex Ferguson bungling Dmitar Berbatov into his car – an embarrassing affair that eventually saw the Libertadores, Champion’s League and Olympic gold winner relegated to the bench as United creaked out a series of 1-0 wins over the following months.
That same week he was in Buenos Aires for a World Cup qualifier against Paraguay. Olé were lapping up a few minutes among ‘a morass of microphones’ with the ‘diminutive Carlitos’:
It’s not for nothing that Tevez is the people’s player…
“What happens if we don’t win? Well… what’d happen? everyone would slag the shit out of us”, he starts off. “If the English league has changed my head? Yeah, and my hairstyle, too,” and the laughs rise again.
A riot, our Carlitos. Yes. In any case, pegamequemegusta was thinking back on this today as we were faced with the bone-chilling prospect of Tevez being dumped yet again by another manager and, much more seriously, having to get our own haircut. Leaving our sea cave for any reason has always been most troubling, but no occasion is more stressful than when we are forced, after years of stone-chewing neglect, to enter clothes shops or have our mane tamed.
What’s worse is that in this country the word for a ‘barber’ doesn’t even exist. Whether for men or women, all hair-cutting establishments are peluquerías, which also has a distressing proximity to the Spanish word for a wig, peluca, an added worry at an already difficult time. Of course there are unisex ‘salons’ and places with languid, highlighted, Teutonic-looking rakes in the doorway tippling on imported beer from miniature bottles, but there’s no word for a ‘barber’s’. This we find quite amazing considering the Italian stereotype American movies have encouraged us to believe in, but especially since the idea of auld feckers sitting around for hours smoking, watching football and grumbling would be so suited to the porteño paradigm. Instead, one ends up nervously tilting backwards as some flash lothario manfully grasps your skull and lowers it into the basin to a soundtrack of scandalous old lady gossip. You miss your cave, though you must admit the lotions are pleasant and the scene is not without a certain frisson. No, you miss your cave. This is odd: a barber would never use the word ‘modern’ to describe a haircut. The barber’s must be timeless, or at least indifferent to a subtly changing Time. You leave with a the giddiness and good humour of a girl with money but also burdened with the kind of guilt you felt when the other boys told you to push over the bishop’s goat.
Yet while Carlitos Tevez and pegamequemegusta may differ in respect of their openness to self-beautification, while pegamequemegusta has yet to win the Copa Libertadores or the Champion’s League, has yet to lead our nation to Olympic Gold as top scorer, has yet to be voted player of the season in Brazil or save a team single-handedly from relegation, has yet to win the people’s hearts in the same way, it would be fair enough to say. A superficial inspection of our respective bank balances would also betray certain discrepancies. Still, we feel that a childhood eked out in the unrelenting, cruel Irish rain is easily as miserable as one spent in the glorious sunshine of Fuerte Apache.
Yes, we do have many other things in common; more than the gutter press would care to admit. Yes dear reader, if you will cease chomping your sugary treats for a moment we shall enlighten you: both boast legions of fans, both have ugly but character-giving scars; both of us suffer the whims of prissy, miaowing clean-freaks and have terminally estranged wives. We’re both men of the street, men of principle; we’re both terrible hypocrites;. We’ve both been labelled ‘the next Maradona’ at certain points in our lives, albeit for vastly different reasons.
Speaking of Maradona, though at the time the matter seemed to have been resolved with brutal cunning by Grondona, casually spooling out rope for el Diego to hang himself with, it would have been naive to think there would be absolutely no repercussions from his exit. Oddly enough, however, it looks like Carlitos Tevez will be the person whose international career suffers most under the new regime, with reports in the last few days suggesting he won’t be called up for the Copa América.
Of course Tevez was left out of the squad for the friendly against Portugal. Batista stated at first that Tevez’s omission was simply due to his desire to try out new options, like Velez’s Burrito Martinez (25). There were some raised eyebrows but things only really kicked off after the weekend, in which Tevez had scored a hat-trick, as repeated questioning from the press led Grondona to declare that he didn’t like the player’s attitude: “He didn’t play in the Brazil game then he did a few days later against Fulham.” Supposedly straight-shooting Batista was talking out his hat, then, while Carlitos, uncle Julio informed us, was indeed being punished.
Grondona didn’t seem content with a subtle enough move, one that would inevitably provoke doubts and rumours but could be easily defended as a worthwhile experiment (especially considering Lavezzi’s form of late). No, he got down on his hunkers and started to roll the ball slowly along through deep little patches of sleet and dirt, and the odd little pile left by Humbertito, until he had a great steaming shitball, stealing the spotlight and undermining poor Checho Batista, who was left in the wings holding a melted gollywog. These are not Grondona’s usual tactics. He’s more of a puppet master, Indeed, his regime has been characterised by, when things go awry, getting his muppet managers to hang themselves by their own strings. So this is somewhat odd.
Then again, maybe it’s a personal grudge with Carlitos. As we’ve mentioned before, before Batista’s first game in charge against Ireland (as caretaker) last August, Tevez spoke out against the eternal president of the Argentine FA. Though he wasn’t technically part of the squad (due to injury, we recall), Carlitos made the journey over to Dublin to meet up with his teammates. When he was asked about Maradona he spoke his mind in characteristic fashion:
I’m surprised to be honest. The running of the AFA leaves a lot to be desired. We [the players] heard Mr Grondona say in the dressing room that Diego would stay on and do whatever he wanted with his backroom staff. But it appears they weren’t happy with the job he did.
I back the people who supported me. I’m with Diego on this. Grondona didn’t keep his word.
Olé put the story on the cover with a picture of the palacial Carlton House under the title Fuerte Apache. He added that he “didn’t care” if he missed the next game for speaking his mind. Nevertheless, over the next few days he claimed Grondona had known he was going to speak and everything was grand, tranquilo. That seemed to be the case, indeed, for he didn’t miss the next game: he started and scored against Spain as part of a 4-3-3 up front with Messi and Higuaín. He also played in the defeat to Japan. So maybe this all does just have to do with the Brazil match, then…
Tevez v Grondona v Batista
The other day, however, the so-called Raymond Doyle, in one of his Midnight Bombs on twitter, revealed that his uber-sources were telling him that Tevez had tried to instigate a mutiny against Batista, that Batista had found out via one of the players and that therefore Tevez would not be called up for the next few games nor the Copa América. What’s more, he claimed that the Argentina manager’s post had been offered to Bielsa three times during Batista’s protracted period as interim stooge (el Loco was still in charge of Chile at the time), that Grondona wouldn’t be happy at all with Tevez being left out, and that were Argentina to fail to win the Copa this July the job would be offered once again to Bielsa. Chan.
While the Bielsa story is easier to accept than an ice-cream flavoured valentine from Jesus, the Tevez angle leaves us somewhat perplexed. We find it hard to believe Tevez actively lobbied for the return of Maradona. After all, his remarks in August were not pro-Maradona, they were anti-AFA:
Us players are obviously always want to do our best for the Selección, but the stuff that goes on around here do great harm to Argieball. It’s depressing when you come back home and see the state things are in.
For all the rumours of Carlitos moving back to Boca and whatnot over the years, he’s no fool; he knows the real state of the game here. Another quote we reported last May:
The standard of football isn’t great. It’s been poor for a while now actually. The people in charge of the clubs think more about money than in the football. They’re not doing things as they should and in a few years things are going to be even worse than they are now.
Of course Tevez got on well with el Diego, but there’s no real evidence to suggest that he was so enamoured of him that he thought his only chances of playing in the national team rested with engineering his return. Though this may seem hard to believe for some, pegamequemegusta reckons they can be taken at face-value – an expression of dismay with the don Julio‘s hypocrisy and a general statement of support for Diego, which is not necessarily the same thing as howling for the return of his master. After all, Tevez did lose his place under Maradona (to Higuaín) and had to win it back. Indeed, such has been the case with Tevez under every single manager he’s played under in the national team (indeed, it was at United, too, as we said at the start). He’s always questioned, always doubted, and he always forces his way back into the team – and not because of a gormless media, as some glib cynics would have you believe, but because when he’s at his best he’s exactly the kind of player any manager would want (except against Germany last July, when his Stevie G impression disappointed us greatly).
Besides, despite unanimous tales of love about the squad’s buzz in Pretoria last year, the only dissenting voice we recall on any topic was, you guessed it, that of Carlitos. He complained that Pastore’s birthday was completely ignored while Messi’s was feted as if it was carnaval, Christmas and 25 de mayo all rolled into one.
Tevez is a funny, charismatic fellow but pegamequemegusta gets the impression he doesn’t care too much about being a leader of men off the pitch. At the World Cup, he was the only player to room on his own, for example, and even at City insofar as he leads at all he does so more by example than by fostering deep psychological bonds with his charges, we daresay. In any case, what on earth would the mutiny have consisted in? Refusing to get off the bus, like the perfidious French?
No, more information is needed. So far we have a tale so contradictory and bitchy it should come with exfoliant and free gauze. It has all the ugly innuendo and seductive whisperings of betrayal of a threesome in the agriculture Faculty of Tralee IT. Jaysus, according to Doyle’s version, and he’s usually right about most things, Grondona is the good guy in the story! The cancer of Argentine football is striving to get Bielsa back! Could he undo 32 years of mayhem and disgrace? Yet according to the same version, Tevez is some sort of skulking Nicholas Anelka, but instead of being bent on pure destructive anarchism, he’s pining after a failed manager out of misguided self-interest…
Let’s hope this is all sorted out soon. After all, we were amazed to hear it suggested in the last few days that Tevez could be considered somehow superfluous to Argentina’s requirements, such a wealth of attacking options do they have. They really don’t: Higuaín is injured; Milito no longer gets a game for Inter, annoyingly enough; el Kun scored his first goal in eight games last weekend; Lavezzi is alright but he’s not even the main man at Napoli; Di María, who we’d love to love, is a proven bottler; Licha Lopez? Come on. If he keeps up his current form, Tevez will be player of the season in the Premiership this year. Only Messi’s won as many important trophies as he – Cambiasso and Zanetti can stick their haul of Italian Charity Shields. Hell, Messi’s never even scored in the Libertadores, never mind doing the chicken dance in the Monumental.
Let’s hope this perplexing, twisted affair doesn’t end the same way.