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Tevez's message gets through the cross-town traffic

He has spent three and a half years in England and speaks less of the language than even Manuel from Barcelona did in Fawlty Towers.

But Carlos Tevez did his bit for cross-cultural relations ten days ago when he introduced thousands of us to a Spanish word that might be useful the next time we descend on Ibiza, Majorca or Marbella.

Indeed Gary Neville's team-mates may already be deploying it to wind him up whenever he's annoying them -- which apparently is just about every day. The word is tarado. Which means a retard, a moron, an idiot and perhaps, in the Irish vernacular, a bit of a bollocks.

Yes, we can well imagine a five-a-side going on at Carrington last week and Ryan Giggs, an accomplished banter merchant, leaving Neville in a knot with a quick shimmy and a grin on his face as he mutters "tarado" on the way past. Alright there, Gaz? F**k off Giggsy.

He's been called worse, has Neville, and not just by Liverpool fans either. In fact, as Jaap Stam revealed in his Proustian memoir Head To Head, Gary and his brother Phil were regularly the butt of the slagging because they were the class swots, the teachers' pets of the Manchester United squad.

"I drive into the ground," recalls Stam, "and you can bet your life that Gary and Phil will be there already. They're always first to arrive, whether it's for training or a match or even meeting up for the coach before away games. Those guys are first and moaning about it. The pair of them never stop whingeing. 'Busy c**ts' we call them, for their endless grumbling about everything in general and nothing in particular. Gary isn't happy unless he can have a good gripe and it's not too long after meeting up that the first shout of 'shut up' is sent flying down the dinner table."

Tevez of course spent two seasons at United before moving cross-town to join City, so he knew what he was talking about when, in the same rant to ESPN Argentina, he also described Neville as a "boot-licker". (This particular phrase has also been translated from the Spanish as "arse-licker" and -- be careful with your consonants here -- "sock-sucker".)

The night before, the brilliant little Argentine had scored both goals in City's 2-1 win over United. It was only the Carling Cup but it was a Manchester derby that had the city heaving.

Tevez's transfer back in the summer had inflamed the tribes. It was the story that kept on burning and on the morning of the match Neville threw another log on the fire when he claimed that Alex Ferguson had been right not to cough up the £25 million it would have cost to keep the player at Old Trafford.

As he revealed the next day, Tevez saw those comments. "And I wondered to myself: what's the tarado talking about me for when I never said anything about him, when there was never any (issue) with us. It was a lack of respect for a companero (fellow footballer)."

So when he stepped up to take the penalty -- and with Wayne Rooney verbally goading him -- he hammered it home like a dam bursting. It was an electric moment on a pulsating night. Tevez took off in the direction of the United bench and singled out Neville for some sign language that said: you've been doing too much mouthing, mate. Neville, a sub on the night, retorted with some sign language of his own in the form of a vertical middle finger.

What larks! Yes, it was all a bit juvenile but Tevez's was the sort of emotional outpouring that is rare among professional sportsmen -- it added tremendously to the rolling theatre of the night.

This was personal for Tevez and it obviously inspired what was an unstoppable performance. The match, the night, belonged to him. When he popped up with the winner, he again resorted to provocative gestures, cupping his ears and staring pointedly at various United personnel.

We actually feared for his safety at that point: he has to live in this town after all. But he is one tough little hombre. Tevez emerged from a Buenos Aires ghetto blasted by crime and narcotics and dereliction. "As a kid, I

could never go out alone on the street," he has said, "it was too dangerous. Some nights you would hear gunshots and bullets crossing through the window or the wall of your house. In the morning, there were often dead people on the streets on the way to school."

An accident with a kettle of boiling water when he was an infant left his face and neck permanently disfigured. His first club, Boca Juniors, offered to pay for plastic surgery if he desired; he declined. "I will never do anything to my face," he said. "My scars are the proof of that previous life."

The second leg last Wednesday night was another belter. United went up a gear in the second half, the City midfield evaporated and Old Trafford was a cauldron.

Tevez was never going to summon up the same level of emotional energy that had so propelled him at Eastlands the week before. But, out of the blue, he pounced for a goal that was a wonder of speed and dexterity.

He is some player, no matter what the tarado thinks.


Sunday Independent