Argentine owes it to football to get his head down and just play

With all that has happened in football this weekend with the terrible collapse of Fabrice Muamba, the whole Carlos Tevez saga has been put into a whole new, hugely unflattering light. While a good, honest, hard working professional fights for his life, Manchester City prepare to welcome back someone who hardly deserves to be called a footballer, let alone a professional.

Perspective is often lost in sport, and the case of Muamba gave everyone a strong dose of reality. But the games will go on, and so the Tevez affair continues. Nearly six months after the Munich refusal, the Argentine is set to return to the City squad for their crucial Premier League game against Chelsea.

So what can we expect from the striker? Is it feasible for him to make an instant impact? Well, first of all it is unlikely that he will start Wednesday’s encounter, given the glaring lack of football he has had. A couple of reserve team matches and three weeks with the squad hardly make up for five months of being an amateur golfer and full-time beach bum.

But can Tevez make an instant impact? Absolutely. He is the type of sportsman that when he is around, things happen. The sort of footballer that, to borrow a phrase from the Andrew Flintoff eulogy book, empties bars (or rather stops supporters heading for a beer early). With Tevez on the pitch, you get the sense that a goal could only be a moment away.

There is a growing sense that Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, desperately needs his rebel striker. Having led the Premier League for pretty much the entire duration of Tevez’s absence, City find themselves four points behind their local rivals from Old Trafford. At a stage of the season when United are historically so strong, Mancini will want as many players with experience of winning league titles. The irony is that Tevez learned what it was like to win championships while playing under Sir Alex Ferguson, Mancini’s greatest rival.

Tevez has received a mixed reaction upon his return to the City ranks. While his teammates are making the right noises, supporters at the reserve matches and those interviewed for the sports news channels have hardly been effusive in their praise. However, if he comes off the bench against Chelsea to score the winner, it is unlikely to be met with muted celebration or boos. The City fans would soon forgive and forget.

                                              Tevez has been all smiles in training with his City teammates

The most bizarre thing about the whole Tevez case is that once he is on the pitch, it is hard to think of a player in the league who works as hard for his team’s cause. It was a large part of the reason that United fans sung “Fergie sign him up”, and why he is held in such high regard by West Ham United supporters. Tevez work ethic put his fellow pros to shame.

However, for the past half a year, shame is what he has brought upon his fellow professionals. And with Fabrice Muamba stricken in hospital, a man who would no doubt do anything just to make it out of hospital, let alone resume a football career, the case of Tevez looks even more pathetic. He owes it to everyone involved in football to get his head down and just play.