Only two years after Manchester City proudly announced their capture of Carlos Tevez to the world with THAT advertising board, the Argentine’s star fell dramatically with one high-profile spat with manager Roberto Mancini in Munich.
Was it a “misunderstanding” as the player himself claimed in the aftermath, or did Carlos Tevez really refuse to come on for Manchester City in the Champions League? The Sky Blues were in need, trailing Bayern Munich 2-0 courtesy of two goals from Mario Gomez at the Allianz Arena.
Roberto Mancini, who had chosen to go with a one-man attack in Sergio Aguero – much to Tevez’s displeasure – turned to his other Argentinian striker with half-an-hour to go in the contest. Well, he tried to.
Aguero’s historic injury-time match-winning, title-winning goal against QPR at the end of that 2011/12 campaign would, of course, be the memorable snapshot from Manchester City’s season.
Had he not beaten Paddy Kenny with that strike, then the everlasting moment may well have been Tevez’s apparent refusal to come on when Mancini asked him to – and the weeks’ worth of furor that followed.
It left the Italian manager visibly seething on the sidelines, and the player himself wasn’t in a great mood either. The forward said simply on the night: “I didn’t feel right to play, so I didn’t.”
But less than 24 hours later he had already contradicted that explanation, with a statement that apologized to City supporters and claimed it was a misunderstanding that had caused the whole mess. “In Munich on Tuesday I had warmed up and was ready to play,” he claimed.
“This is not the right time to get into specific details as to why this did not happen. But I wish to state that I never refused to play.” Mancini wasn’t buying it for a second. Neither was anyone else, really.
The manager said he would be speaking with chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak about what to do next, but went on to say: “If we want to improve like a team, like a squad, Carlos cannot play with us. With me, no – it is finished.” The Italian was hurt deeply.
“For two years I have helped him, and now he has refused to play,” he said passionately. “Never again.” Two weeks after the incident, the club announced that they were investigating whether to open disciplinary proceedings into the Argentine – a probe which saw him training alone and later led to him being slapped with a hefty fine for an alleged breach of contract.
To this day no one but those involved can say with absolute certainty exactly what happened on the City bench that night, but the incident made headlines all over the world and soured the relationship between player and manager so much that Mancini declared publicly that Tevez’s career at the club was “finished”.
As it turned out, it wasn’t. An in-depth apology from the player eventually followed, and Mancini eventually softened his stance enough to bring him back into a matchday squad as a substitute against Chelsea.
And his goals proved important. He got one in a win over West Brom as he replaced the suspended Mario Balotelli, and netted a hat-trick the demolition of Norwich City which came soon after.
He even started that game against QPR, playing the first 76 minutes before being replaced by Balotelli who would, of course, provide the assist for Aguero’s history-making title-winner.
Years later, while playing for boyhood club Boca Juniors in 2019, opened up on what had happened that day and insisted he was justified in being frustrated at Mancini’s call to overlook him that fateful night in Munich.
“I regret the bad moment, but the truth is that I was right,” he told Fox Sports Radio. “The thing was like that, we are going to play Munich and Mancini put Kun Aguero as the only striker.
“At 10 minutes we are losing 2-0, and he turns to me and tells me to go warm up. I thought good – I’d get on in the first half, but no. I was running for 35 minutes. I thought I was going to come on in the second half because he told me to stay warm during half-time, but nothing.”
“Fifteen minutes into the second half, I was warmed up, and I went to sit alone, I had been running for more than an hour.”
“Then he turns around and tells me to warm up again, I said no, that it was crazy. After, the conference, he said that I didn’t want to play. He had everything already set up.”
As one of the Premier League’s big stars of that generation – City were so pleased to secure his signature in 2009 they erected that infamous ‘Welcome to Manchester’ advertising board celebrating his arrival – the enduring memory of Tevez’s time in the blue half of the city should be for something more iconic.
His impact, for example, in raising the profile of the club that would go on to become a powerhouse of European football – even if it is yet to taste success in the Champions League.
But that image of Tevez sat stony-faced on the Manchester City bench that time in Munich will forever be the defining moment in his four-year spell with the club.