Separated at birth; united by fate. Debojyoti Chakraborty chronicles the conversation of the conjoined twins of English Football who were destined to come across each other at a pub on a cold Manchester evening
It was a freezing New Year’s Eve in a suburb in Manchester – a perfect occasion to head out to a bar and nurse a pint of beer to embrace the New Year.
And so our two central characters walk into a pub. One of them, a Latino, evident from his strong accent, was looking for something non-alcoholic, much to the amusement of the people around. After struggling for a while, he somehow managed to get hold of a drink which appeared (and smelt) like orange juice. But the pub was jam-packed by that time. So he had to share the table with a lanky East European.
“Enjoy your drink, Sir, you are both riding on the same boat now” said the waitress with a perky smile and disappeared.
“Hi mate, take a seat” greeted the lanky figure, with a strong Bulgarian accent, “Good to see you again!”
The Latin American dropped his hood, smiled and took a seat. Not sure how much he understood, not sure if he was greeted or abused as the scar running through his neck was more expressive than his facial muscles.
“Little wonder that we are both here today, isn’t it?” the Bulgarian continued. “After all, neither of us feature in our club’s first XI. But hey, I didn’t call you, in fact, don’t even have your number!” he said with an impish grin.
“I wanna play,” was the Latino’s short and curt reply.
“Hey, don’t you recognize me? We were there at the annual awards ceremony last year, holding the Golden Boot together!” He looks a tad perplexed.
“Ya, ya…I wanna play,” is all he could mutter, reminiscing his glory days.
“Strange mate, isn’t it?” he is now starting to lose it, “I banged in a score last season, yet I don’t fit into the gaffer’s plans. Don’t you think I deserve to play?”
“Yup, play football,” he confirmed before ordering his favourite grilled beef.
“It’s all fate, my dear, who would have thought that both of us would struggle to get a game last season?”
The scar-face was not amused at all, especially since his beef too was out of stock.
“I think I should make a move now, maybe next season I’ll be heading towards Italy.”
“Ya, ya, Italia!” exclaimed the enthusiastic Latino.
The East European was under the cosh, but his humility was still intact, “I think I see what the manager wants. I no longer feature in his plans, not even as the third best striker. He might even let me go. What do you think?”
One word that struck him was “Go”. He started feeling nostalgic about his two daughters and started to leave.
“Hey, you leaving so early?” he mocked. “Or are you not used to warming the seats nowadays? Ha ha ha!!”
The curly-haired Latino was all but gone by then. The tall East European sipped his red wine and was lost in his own thoughts. Maybe they will bump into each other someday again. In some other city, some other country. Maybe, just maybe.
P.S.: Things have changed slightly after this piece was written. The scar-face has been summoned from his (self-imposed) suspension amidst a mini crisis in his club. His lanky friend (really?) is pondering over a similar scheme – how about an accidental food poisoning in the squad which would leave the gaffer with no other option? Or, a few match bans handed over to the star strikers in the team? That would help. May the poor guy dream in peace.
The Nowhere Man
Carlos Tevez was the name on everyone’s lips for the entire January winter transfer window. Here Gino de Blasio takes the slide rule to the issue to find out what the hoopla is all about. Catch Gino on twitter @ginodb
Remember high school? The social awkwardness, the struggle to make friends, the isolation that can encapsulate your dreams being burnt like a second year science class before a bunsen burner? Just like the ugly child who no one wants to take to the end of year dance, Carlos Tevez must have been feeling the same, come January 31st.
So how did one of football’s greatest talents get himself into the social exclusion award of the year category, and will he ever make it out in time for his career to fully shine?
Munich – 27th September 2011
It was a cold autumn night and Manchester City were playing Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage. Away from home and under the spotlight of Europe’s footballing elite, Carlos Tevez was going to commit a cardinal football sin – disobey the manager.
In a sideline dispute with City boss Roberto Mancini, Tevez refused to enter the pitch for a substitution prompting an expletive-charged tantrum for the world to see. The Tevez camp had later claimed that it was all due to some miscommunication – Tevez’s English speaking skills apparently to blame for the fiasco, however, that did not stand a chance. The cold Munich night lay witness to a calm Tevez while Mancini gesticulated wilder than any Italian since Nero saw Rome burning.
Tevez didn’t get up. Mancini sat down.
The team talk, the flight home, the interviews with the press – all of these constitute modern day football, a tasteful reminder that not only the player has some explaining to do, but the coach too. But it was to be a sombre Mancini, a man who looked destroyed by the whole episode; the stress taking its toll on his verbal capacity to talk, he nonetheless exclaimed, “Tevez will never play for this club again”. To which a nonchalant Tevez expressed his desire to leave anyway as he is not happy to stay away from his family.
Like all great crimes since 1974, this became known as “Tevez-Gate”.
A two-week ban, loss of wages, exclusion from followed by forced inclusion into training. Carlitos needed a new home; Manchester City had made it as much clear.
And so Began the Rat Race…
Who was going to take in “the Apache”? More known for his petulance than a history teacher’s velvet elbow padding and more disliked by his manager than the school snitch, Tevez’s saving grace is that when he plays, you forget all of the above.
His work rate is exceptional, his physical diminutiveness compensated by the terrier-like aggression he uses to win and protect the ball; blessed with a hawk-esque vision he can pick out passes from all over the pitch. Any club would find a position for him, even if it meant selling their prized possession to have him.
A Tale of One City, Two Clubs
Like an after-school detention featuring the misfortune of sitting and watching your teacher’s marks, Tevez was totally powerless. It was to be the red and black half of Milan to make the first move, a proposition that would give Milan arguably the best attack in the world and bolster their domestic efforts by resting Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Champions League appearances. Milan agreed on personal terms with the player and the move seemed imminent, till City put the brakes on it by not allowing a free move on loan, preferring an outright sale.
When Milan failed on their first proposal to capture the Argentinian ace, it was set to start an inadvertent bidding war with local rivals Inter Milan. A move seen by many as one-upmanship due to the technical abilities which Tevez would bring, rather than the cure to the cold Inter had acquired; Tevez was a solution for Milan, not for Inter.
This was all taking place the week of the Milan derby; no longer was Tevez the ugly duckling, he was the one everyone wanted to take to the ball.
Cometh the Sacrificial Lamb
When Milan’s original proposal was rebuked by Manchester City, they knew the only thing that could win over the North West club was going to be an offer that they couldn’t turn their nose at. Adriano Galliani played out a move worthy of “hell hath no fury like a Brazilian scorned”. Using the media, and relations with the new Paris Saint-Germain coach (former Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti) and sporting director (former Milan scout and manager Leonardo), a series of open contacts were made to Milan regarding the sale of
Alexander Pato to PSG, a move that would bring in the capital required to purchase Tevez outright.
This seemed like the gamble of a century – selling the young, talented but injury-prone Brazilian for an older, temperamental and non-tested-in-Serie A Argentine. Add to that, Tevez hadn’t played since September – whatever form he was in, it wasn’t going to be match-ready.
It wasn’t to be.
Pato’s sale was blocked at the last moment making Galliani come out of negotiations with Manchester City surrounding Tevez. So neither did Milan sell their star Brazilian nor did they buy the sidelined Argentinian. Nothing had changed, much to the dismay of the Twitter audiences around the globe proclaiming the sale of one, the purchase of another. Tevez was stranded. He was, yet again, the one the cool kids didn’t want in their group.
There were flutters, both from PSG and Inter (again) but nothing concrete. The media circle that had encapsulated the story and run wild across Europe never came to fruition. Milan were without their preferred striker from the market (a last ditch effort to get Maxi Lopez from Catania did happen), Inter and PSG re-enforced and sold in different departments.
The sad truth is, however, Tevez only has himself to blame for the debacle. And who knows if time will teach him a lesson in player-manager protocol; he won’t be joining the diplomatic mission, that’s a certainty.
The Best XI
The Best XI section is an attempt to connect similar football events across different locations and share them with you. Best XI will seek to be about topics you are interested about and want explored. Send in your topics for the month of September to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will incorporate that.
In this edition we bring to you snippets of goals scored by the highest goalscorers in some of the top leagues of Europe.
Barclays Premier League
Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United) – 20
Berbatov shows great technique to control the ball before his back volley goes in of the woodwork to wrap up a wonderful Manchester move. Goalkeeper had no chance. This was his 5th goal of the season, one which ended in Berbatov turning out to be the top scorer.
Carlos Tévez (Manchester City) – 20
Tevez shoots a quick one and boy doesn’t he let it fly. It’s a goal resulting from great vision and perfect execution. The goalkeeper had chosen the right direction to dive but the three man wall smacked of complacency from Stoke who didn’t think Tevez would try that. And that is what he did.
Spanish Primera Liga
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – 40
Ronaldo’s wonderful season produced many great goals. The one we had chosen was against Bilbao. Ronaldo’s excellent first touch and pace had him one on one with the last defender. This was followed by sublime skill and cool finish past the keeper.
Mario Gómez (Bayern Munich) – 28
Super Mario is one of the old fashioned opportunists. Most of his 28 goals would be a close tap in or a header from the edge of the 6 yard box. This one was no exception. The Bundesliga top scorer capped this wonderful move with a great strike after dodging his marker off his shoulder inside out.
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) – 28
Toto’ Di Natale’s long ranger was one of the super strikes which saw Di Natale ending up top of the Serie A chart second season running, scoring a mammoth 56 goals in rwo seasons.
Moussa Sow (Lille) – 25
Moussa Sow showed wonderful athleticism in front of goal and ended up scoring with a well timed back volley. The keeper had his work cut out.
Liga Zon Sagres Portugal
Hulk (Porto) – 23
Hulk is known for great ability with the ball and his skills. But he is no mug when it comes to long range shooting. We chose this one for his remarkable technique and vision – creating a goal out of nothing
Russian Premiere League
Welliton (Spartak Moscow) – 19
Welliton is a hardworking Brazilian and scoring goals is a natural ability. Welliton caps this well tuned move with a header on his way to end up the season with 19 goals.
Vyshcha Liha Ukraine
Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk) – 17
Seleznyov, they say is capable of doing wonders. The talented young player proved them when he scored this brilliant goal with a wonderful overhead kick.
Björn Vleminckx (N.E.C) – 23
Vleminckx is described as a very physical and determined striker, who although not highly technical, makes up for it with good heading ability and great shooting. For this one, he held the ball well, kept his balance and pulled off a great finish with a powerful shot – in off the woodwork.
Turkey Süper Lig
Alexsandro ‘Alex’ de Souza (Fenerbahce) – 28
Alex showed his Brazilian touch when he scored this perfect free kick – top corner, top draw.
Greece Super League
Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos) – 20
Cisse has done wonders at Panathinaikos. His pace, power and accuracy combined for this amazing strike.