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Moment that mattered: Carlos Tevez doesn’t play for Manchester City

Manchester City's Carlos Tevez during the Manchester City FA Cup Victory Parade at the City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester.

“It’s still unclear what happened when Carlos Tevez didn’t come off the bench against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. It’s accepted that he refused to warm up, which is quite different to refusing to play. There have been many allegations and counter-allegations about what happened, but there’s certainly friction between Tevez and his manager Roberto Mancini and it seems likely that the Argentinian player will be leaving Manchester City soon.

The incident again puts the spotlight on player power and the changing relationship between footballers and their clubs. I think players are too powerful now but I don’t think English football has ever had the balance right. Footballers were treated badly until the abolition of the maximum wage in 1961 and ever since the balance has been tipping away from clubs and towards players. Until the Bosman case [a ruling that out-of-contract players were free to leave clubs] you used to have situations where an out-of-contract player couldn’t leave a club until it agreed to release him.

The Professional Footballers’ Association was criticised for forcing City to reduce Tevez’s fine from four to two weeks’ wages, but their hands were tied – there’s a legal maximum fine of two weeks. In any other industry, few people would side with an employer trying to fine an employee double the legal limit.

While it’s strange that players earn more than their managers, the coaches usually retain control. John Terry earns more than André Villas-Boas at Chelsea but the manager can drop him from the first team and potentially finish his England career. But then you have extreme situations like in Cameroon where the star striker Samuel Eto’o earns £350,000 a week, several times more than the national team coach earns in a year. So it’s not surprising that whatever Eto’o says goes when the national team plays.

One problem is that it’s hard for managers to earn the respect of their players when they’re under so much pressure and they’re getting sacked with such regularity. To impose a vision on a team takes many years. Sir Alex Ferguson was at Manchester United for four years before he won anything. Brian Clough also needed time before he started getting results. It leads to a lack of vision – managers will do anything necessary to win games in the short term but you have to plan for the long term.

Players also move around too often. At Sunderland, the team I support, there are hardly any players in the first team who were there this time last season. This means players don’t get a sense of a connection to the club they’re playing for. Look at Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league. They’ve only ever signed Basque players and they’re one of only three La Liga teams never to have been relegated. They pick players from a tiny pool and sell them when they become really good, but they have loyal players who’ve grown up supporting the club, and they have consistency. You don’t have to scour the world to find talent.

It’s the same with anybody in any job. You’re grateful to your first employer for giving you an opportunity and by the time you’ve worked for five or six people you’re just doing your thing until something better turns up. So why should Carlos Tevez, who moved from one Manchester club to the other, really care? His problem will be finding another club that will pay him anything close to what he’s currently earning. He’s also getting a reputation for causing trouble. He’s a phenomenally gifted player and nobody doubts that he works his arse off on the pitch but he’s bounced from Boca Juniors to Corinthians to West Ham to Manchester United to Manchester City and left all of them under something of a cloud. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.”

Jonathan Wilson has written five books about football and is the editor of The Blizzard, a quarterly publication of new football writing

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