Tuesday night's bust-up between Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini -- which resulted in the Manchester City boss announcing the striker would never again play for the club after he allegedly refused to come on as a substitute -- has opened a gigantic can of worms. Here are six thoughts on the matter.
1. The way the Tevez story unfolded is unprecedented. Yes, players have refused to play before. But virtually all previous cases have followed a different pattern. You've had cases where we only found out years later (Kieron Dyer at Newcastle under Bobby Robson). You've had cases where the club's reaction was comparatively muted and he was back on the pitch 10 days later, before being, eventually sold on (Benny Carbone at Sheffield Wednesday, who, after discovering he was going to be on the bench for one game, drove himself straight to the airport, bought a ticket, and flew home). And you've had cases where both player and manager deny the incident ever took place, though plenty of media reports suggest otherwise (Luis Figo at Inter in the Champions' League clash with Liverpool: ironically his manager at the time was one Roberto Mancini). And you have other cases which we've all heard about second hand but which remained in the sanctity of the dressing room: a private matter.
But this is different. This is a player allegedly taking a stand during a game and his manager throwing the book at him in public immediately afterward. City's immediate and steadfast reaction makes this case without precedent.
2. The stakes are higher in this case than any previous one. Tevez is scheduled to earn in excess of $60 million between now and the end of his contract. He has a book value -- given depreciation -- of somewhere between $30m and $45m (his initial transfer fee was never disclosed, some reports put it at $50m, others at $73m). Taking an "ethical stand" and following through on Mancini's threat would cost City a huge amount of money unless a buyer can be found.
3. Buyers aren't exactly beating a path to City's door to buy Tevez. This point goes together with the previous one. It's easy to say "we'll sell Tevez," tougher to say "to whom" and at what price. First off, very few teams can afford a player who makes more than $20 million a year. And those who'd be willing to take him, won't push the boat out in terms of how much they're willing to pay, especially given that he's going to be 28 before the end of the season and, therefore, won't offer too much in the way of transfer resale value. Throw in the fact that that, come January, he won't have played for more than three months and his repeated claims of "homesickness" and wanting to move closer to Buenos Aires and it's all a bit of a turnoff. Add this latest incident and he becomes a very, very tough sell. After all, he was up for sale all summer and nobody bit. Or, rather, Corinthians did make an offer, but the kind you take with a grain of salt: this is, after all, the club once run by Tevez's own adviser, Kia Joorabchian and the fact that it ultimately fell apart can lead you to wonder whether it was real or whether it was a way to flush out potential interest. Sure, there is always the possibility that an Anzhi Makhachakala situation could arise: some billionaire in Russia or the Gulf stepping forward and wanting Tevez as his own personal plaything. The question then becomes whether Tevez would ever consider such an offer, not least because those parts of the world are even further away from home than Manchester.
4. This was not premeditated and Tevez has no "endgame." This, incidentally, is another aspect that sets the Tevez case apart. In 1997, Nottingham Forest's Pierre Van Hooijdonk famously went on "strike" after the club refused to sell him. But that was clearly part of a plan, as he later admitted. He refused to play because he wasn't let go. And, in many ways, he did so from a position of strength: he was one of the club's best players and was integral to Forest's chances of staying up.
Unlike Van Hooijdonk, Tevez is not an in-demand player (not because he's not a great footballer, but for the reasons cited above) and he's not central to City's success (not anymore anyay, not after the arrival of Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri). If he did plan this in advance, he's a fool. Which is why, most likely, it was simply a case of a guy on the bench "snapping" and doing something he should never have done. Whatever the outcome, Tevez has hurt himself.
5. The legal route is impractical, if not impossible for City. There has been plenty of speculation that City might take legal action against Tevez for "breach of contract" and perhaps sue and get some massive compensation deal. The problem is that doing so would set the club on a path for years of litigation. And, even if the team won the case (and, remember, Tevez hasn't admitted culpability, the burden of proof remains) and was awarded compensation it would be the kind of enormous sum the club realistically couldn't hope to recover. In that sense, the Adrian Mutu case, who was found in breach of contract by Chelsea after testing positive for cocaine, is very telling. Mutu was suspended and a court, eventually awarded Chelsea some $26 million.
The problem is, Mutu doesn't have that kind of money. And -- guess what? -- neither does Tevez. So taking him to court is not just risky, it could also be a waste of time.
6. There is a solution, though not a fully satisfying one. City agrees not to sue and to loan Tevez in January. Tevez apologizes and pledges to take whatever loan move City offers. Mancini forgives Tevez and gives him limited playing time, just enough to keep him fit and showcase his skills between now and the winter transfer window. And then he goes out on loan, a bit like Emannuel Adebayor did last year.
It's not a great solution, but it at least allows Tevez to continue playing and makes it possible for him to get out of the club in January, which would mean that, for at least six months, his wages would be somebody else's problem (City, of course, may still need to subsidize part of them, but that's what happens when you sign a guy like that to such a huge contract.) At least Tevez would get playing time somewhere else. Think of it as a "shop window' and maybe, just maybe, somebody will be convinced he's worth bidding for next summer.
It's not a great way to resolve this issue, but, frankly, it's the most likely scenario. This is real life, Mancini's job isn't to teach Tevez morality, it's to do what's in City's best interest.