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What went wrong for Carlos Tevez in China?

Tuesday 19th December 2017

Underwhelming, disastrous and appalling. No words better recapitulate Carlos Tevez's maiden season in China. Expected to move mountains, provide dynamism and spark in attack, Shenhua Shanghai lightened its wallet for the Argentine. But dismally, he never really showed up throughout the campaign. Prompting reports of a possible return to Boca Juniors. A transfer seemingly hoped for by the entirety of China's internet.

The football world was thrown into a frenzy last December after Shenhua supposedly agreed to make Tevez the highest-paid player in the world. With an annual salary of around £34m, the 33-year-old instantly leapfrogged the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and the rest of the bandwagons in China on the rich-boys list. Not even Neymar's record-breaking £450m switch to Paris Saint-Germain six months later challenged it.

Shenhua's mission was quite clear. They were tired of playing second fiddle to boggy neighbours, Shanghai SIPG and craved earnestly for its own identity. SIPG had become the preferred destination for superstar tourists in recent times, most notably, Brazilian pair Oscar and Hulk. Of the two rivals, the latter had come closest to the league title twice in three years. Greenland, meanwhile, observed calmly from the peripheral - their last domestic success over two decades old.

They grasped a marquee signing could help achieve just that and turned to the well-travelled, diminutive attacker. Already, the club boosted some foreign superstars in their ranks. Among which, Obafemi Martins and Freddy Guarin, yet Tevez was heralded as the man to single-handedly pluck the club out of obscurity. Twelve months down the line, however, there must be gnashing of teeth in the blue-half of Shanghai.

Shenhua, though, has a history of high-profile flops and short-lived contracts. Didier Drogba in 2012 and Nicholas Anelka, the following year, typical examples. Both, like Tevez, were celebrated players already in their 30s who chased big paychecks in the Chinese Super League. Both, like Tevez (most likely), lasted no more than a year. But neither endured such an unspectacular and below par season like the Argentine.

Tevez’s first competitive game was a crucial, though fairly comfortable-looking, one-off home Asian Champions League play-off against Brisbane Roar. He was as ineffectual as the team were imbalanced. Brisbane won 2-0. Any hopes of concentrating on the domestic league did not last long. Despite a 4-0 victory and a good performance on an opening day, there followed one point from the next three games. Displays were equally poor.

After that game, he became injured. Without him though, Shanghai won the next two matches. When fit, he strolled straight to the team, but his influence diminished. That all but sums up the 33-year-old's campaign, hampered by injury and fitness issues. He featured just 16 times in the league, scoring a paltry four goals. So bad that the 33-year-old was thousands of miles away, in his native Argentina, last month when they beat their arch-rivals to end their trophy drought. Yet, his ordeal on the pitch was nothing compared to off it. Tevez once claimed there were only two restaurants in Manchester but nobody could say the same of China’s commercial capital that has a population of 23 million. He toured Disneyland with his family on the same day his team-mates were working up a sweat far away in the north-east.

Not to mention several public rants, one of which he alleged Chinese players were "naive" and "clumsy". These and more made him the enemy of the league and the target of Social Media. 

Should Tevez eventually leave China, Shenhua faithful may just subconsciously join in feasting. Why won't they?

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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