City are obliged to do right thing and save game's soul
Manchester City may be unlikely vigilantes for the sane governance of modern football, but what happened in the Allianz Arena in Munich on Tuesday night has surely left them with precisely this unavoidable option.
They have to batter their way through the fog of legal jargon and mealy-mouthed advocacy of compromise, which yesterday threatened to envelop the shocking behaviour of Carlos Tevez when he rejected his manager Roberto Mancini's order to play in the second half of the Champions League game with Bayern Munich.
With perhaps vital help from the most callous lawyers they can find, they have to heap maximum inconvenience on the player who so cold-bloodedly made nonsense of the concept of trust and loyalty in football.
They have to do it not out of revenge or anger, or any attempt to retrieve the many millions of pounds they have invested in a career which virtually from its inception has explored the very limits of acceptable practice.
No, the obligation is to do it with the sober understanding that if Tevez goes unpunished to any significant degree, City have not just let down themselves, and horribly compromised the meaning of who they are and what values they represent, but the game they have sought to dominate with unprecedented levels of spending.
Tevez and his people are now urging us to believe that what we saw in Munich was not an act of petulant rebellion by a player who is paid more than £200,000 a week, but a "misunderstanding."
It is another insult not just to the intelligence, but the instincts of anyone who still wants to believe that big-time football is about something more than relentless self-interest.
Mancini, a man of vast experience as a player and a manager, said that Tevez's refusal to play was quite unambiguous and that it was something that he would never be able to accept.
Some may say that we are in danger of exaggerating the degree of Tevez's crime.
It is true that this time last year Wayne Rooney delivered an ultimatum to Manchester United that in some ways was as sickening as Tevez's stance this week.
Rooney lectured his manager Alex Ferguson on the need for more ambition in the transfer market and demanded a major hike in his wages, despite the fact that never before had he played so wretchedly.
United buckled with shameless speed, some of us argued, but what they did receive, bit by bit, was some quite spectacular atonement. And Rooney didn't cross the line that Tevez traversed when Mancini told him to play.
It was the decision of a man who put no value on anything beyond his mood and inclination of the moment. It was a face of football that was utterly unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Football Association, advocates a meeting between City's director of football Brian Marwood and chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak.
He says that City have an inherent problem after recruiting large numbers of high-profile players who earn vast salaries and are likely to become restive if they have to spend time on the bench.
He says that City have to establish a pattern for the future, perhaps draw a line with a demand for a full apology from Tevez and a settlement which would buy a little appeasement, a little time.
The trouble with this reasoning is that it would leave Mancini stripped of all authority. He said, almost with a shudder, he could never accept what Tevez had done.
It was the death of football as he had always known it, as a perfect- ionist player and a manager with an implacable belief in the authority of the man who picks the team.
Tevez nonchalantly made a mockery of that underpinning of all significant success in football. He was a man who had grievances -- and all of them were too important to put aside when he was asked to fulfil his professional duty.
Maybe it is one consequence of becoming a commodity at an early stage of your career, of being bought up by 'third party' interests and then plying your trade wherever it is most advantageous at any one time.
City now have to put a value not only on Tevez's dwindling re-sale potential, but their own standing as a club with the courage to deal with a collapse of professional integrity.
The ejection of Tevez is plainly the most compelling priority. When he said he was the victim of a misunderstanding he was in just one sense right.
The confusion lay in Mancini's belief that when all the history was put to one side he might just still be dealing with the vestiges of a decent professional. He knows better now -- and so should Manchester City. (© Independent News Service)