Tevez transfer request is risky move
When Carlos Tevez was unveiled on what was to become an iconic "Welcome To Manchester" poster, he was being paraded as the symbol of a new era at Eastlands.
Not only had Manchester City demonstrated the financial muscle and ambition to tempt him away from Old Trafford, they had the audacity to take their confidence to the streets and taunt the neighbours with their latest purchase.
Tevez became an instant hero simply by crossing Manchester - then cemented the status by scoring 39 goals in 60 games to lead what the club's cash-laden Abu Dhabi hierarchy hoped would be a revolution.
How ironic then that Tevez has now effectively told the club it is they who are welcome to Manchester, while he wishes to take his talents to pastures new.
City instantly rejected Tevez's request and outlined their reasons - and what they clearly believe is a hidden agenda behind the Argentine's request - in a detailed statement. Tevez will stay at City for now but it is a fragile union.
Tevez's written transfer demand represents a devastating blow to City and their supporters, who may have sensed bad news was heading their way after the impressive win at West Ham United lifted hopes of a first title since 1968 just a little higher.
History will have told them it was all going a little too well, a sure sign something unpleasant was about to descend on this loyal, long-suffering support.
Carlos Tevez rows with City boss Roberto Mancini after being substituted against Bolton. Pic: AP
Only a few short weeks ago they revelled in Manchester United's discomfort when Wayne Rooney wanted to leave Old Trafford, even allowing themselves to briefly dream of him joining Tevez at Eastlands, before the England striker opted to stay on an improved contract.
Now the roles have been reversed and it remains to be seen whether the same peace pact can be reached between City and Tevez.
City's robust statement pointing the finger of accusation firmly at Tevez's representative drives at the suggestion that homesickness is at the heart of the Argentine's declared desire to leave the club.
Tevez has stated his discontent at being separated for long periods from wife Vanessa and daughters Florencia and Katia in Buenos Aires, even hinting at early retirement to solve this personal turmoil.
But when City register disappointment "particularly with the actions of Carlos' representative", then it is clear they believe more sinister motives lie behind his actions.
There may be little sympathy for City here. Just as Sir Alex Ferguson used agent Paul Stretford when luring Rooney from Everton only to criticise him amid recent unrest, so City were happy to deal with Kia Joorabchian when they brought Tevez to Eastlands with such fanfare. No point complaining about rules of the game when you helped make them.
City, though, have attempted to shift the agenda away from homesickness.
They state publicly that Tevez is the highest paid player at the club, despite previous suggestions that Yaya Toure holds that particular privilege, and reveal "significantly over recent months, the club has received numerous requests from Carlos' representative to renegotiate and improve his playing contract as well as more recently a request to extend that contract by another year".
In other words, it is a strange kind of homesickness that makes you ask to stay an extra year in the very location of your perceived unhappiness.
Whatever is behind Tevez's decision, it comes with desperately poor timing for City and boss Roberto Mancini, who has negotiated the delicate balancing of the egos infiltrating the Eastlands dressing room to put his side in such a healthy Premier League position.
It will also come as a let-down to City after they thought Tevez's recent decision to sign a two-year rental agreement on a property in fashionable Mottram meant the spectre of homesickness had finally been lifted.
Tevez has endured a notoriously uneasy relationship with Mancini, from questioning his training methods to a half-time row in the win against Newcastle United to the open dissent shown when he was substituted in the closing moments of the victory against Bolton Wanderers eight days ago.
But if Tevez is playing a power game against Mancini then it is one that is surely doomed to failure. Manchester City's owners have thrown their weight of support and finance behind Mancini and recent results have cemented his position.
Owner Sheikh Mansour, while admiring his investment in Tevez, is unlikely to allow a single player - no matter how valuable - to dictate policy and he may hold the view that his riches are such that he can simply go out and buy an upgrade. He is not going to be held to ransom.
Mancini, however, is a pragmatist and does not need to call on much of his experience to inform him that Tevez is, by some distance, his most influential player and also a strong influence in the dressing room. It is a situation he, and City, cannot allow to fester.
Only a few days ago, Spain's David Silva, who had struggled to settle after his summer move from Valencia, paid a glowing tribute to the part Tevez had played in helping him find his feet in England, on and off the pitch.
He said: "I feel part of the team and feel I am an important and valued player. Tevez has been so important for me in England. I couldn't speak English and he helped me a lot. He is a great footballer and a great person."
Does Tevez's frustration with life at City mean his career in England has come to an end? Pic: AP
Tevez, in his defence, has spoken emotionally about his homesickness and how the toil of the English game has left him jaded, saying: "My family, but also my body, is starting to feel the effort. I have worked and fought so hard and I would love to enjoy my football. I have been playing in England for five years and have not spent a single Christmas or New Year with my family."
This would appear to leave Tevez with only one option - namely a return to his native Argentina and Buenos Aires to play for his beloved Boca Juniors. If Tevez cites homesickness and unhappiness in Manchester then pitches up at Real Madrid or any other European destination, the City fans who idolise him are entitled to ask questions.
City have shown compassion to Tevez, giving him special dispensation to return to his family, but they are not so charitable as to allow him to walk away free of charge simply because he is homesick. Do Boca Juniors have the finance to recompense City for a reported investment of nearly £50m in the player, even in the unlikely event that they wish to sell?
Tevez is currently a bigger hero to the Eastlands support than Mancini, who is respected but not revered for his work. There is growing sympathy, however, for the constant battle Mancini appears to be waging to keep the peace in his dressing room, with Mario Balotelli's juvenile behaviour at Upton Park before and after he was substituted the latest example.
For City and Mancini, though, a signpost to their next move may have come in the saga that unfolded around Rooney just a few miles away at Old Trafford.
Rooney derided Manchester United's lack of ambition and squad strength, effectively questioning the quality of his team-mates, before soothing words from Ferguson and the Glazer family (plus a hefty wage rise) brought resolution to a volatile situation.
Ferguson, having weighed up all his options, quite simply concluded that Rooney was a player of such quality and importance that he was indulged in his public show of concern before being brought back into the fold.
City will surely feel Tevez is worth the extra effort to take time and patience to get to the root of his problems and find a solution. The desire to do this will only increase as they see genuine possibilities opening up before them as the Premier League enters 2011. Tevez, settled and satisfied, can help City reach their desired destination.
Tevez is also employing a risky strategy as the parties in this stand-off jockey for position. He must be careful not to toy with the affections of City's fans - and it is hard to imagine him finding a club that can offer him a more lucrative deal than that he would be afforded at Eastlands.
Mancini has had to become a politician as much as a manager in recent times at City, and it will be a test of his and the club's sure touch as to how they handle this sudden, and potentially damaging, development.
It was suggested only this weekend that Mancini privately believes Manchester City can eventually win the title even without Carlos Tevez. A nice theory - but perhaps one he would not wish to put to the test just yet.