Tuesday 24 April 2018

James Lawton: Time to bring Tevez to Anfield, Kenny

James Lawton

James Lawton

Who would want to follow in the footsteps of Manchester United and Manchester City and open up their own version of the Carlos Tevez wars?

Who would be willing to go through this grisly and now bone-wearyingly familiar business, the first, cloying courtship, the expression of endless devotion, then the sneers and defections and the sight of him parading his young daughters through airports and television studios to announce still another emotional crisis?

Of course, everything depends on your needs, which might just mean it could be Liverpool. Yes, Liverpool.

You might say Kenny Dalglish simply has too much old-school nous to be lured into such misadventure, but as he takes his team to Stamford Bridge on Sunday and as he frets over the dwindling confidence in his team's firepower after the goalless home draw with Swansea, few front-rank Premier League managers are in quite such need of fresh impetus.

In the glow of King Kenny's return to power at Anfield, and some major activity in the transfer market, the assumption was that Liverpool had booked their return to the elite of the English game.

They had the youthful promise of expensive Jordan Henderson. They had the craft of Charlie Adam, the one conspicuous survivor in Blackpool's romantic journey in and out of the Premier League. They had the explosive Andy Carroll. And, in Luis Suarez, Liverpool surely had the signing of signings, a wonderful creative force of skill and a deadly finishing touch.

Unfortunately, only one of these sure-fire Liverpool heroes could be said to have justified his advanced billing and the enthusiasm that greeted his opening performances -- and he is immersed in one of the two racism controversies that is threatening to rip the English game apart.

Liverpool are fervently supporting Suarez in his denial of charges made by Manchester United's Patrice Evra, but privately they are agonising over the possibility the row could take some edge off their man's beautifully honed game.

And without a properly functioning Suarez, where would Liverpool be? Maybe they would need the kind of momentum which Tevez, for all his foibles, insubordination and belief that he is operating at the very axis of the world, is plainly capable of providing -- at least when happy that he is receiving enough attention, enough love and enough money. With Tevez's latest defection from Manchester City making still another serious inroad into his market value, it could be that, by the January transfer window, the Argentinian might just represent a reasonable, though necessarily short-term, investment.

Why would Dalglish be tempted? Because he needs some vital bite at a critical point in his attempt to re-animate the team that looked so lost under Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson. Because there is an unsettling amount of evidence that Liverpool's great transfer break-out is dying on its feet. Adam has impressive skills, of course, but they have not become a central force.

Young Henderson, at a jaw-dropping £18m, has not begun to justify the reputation that swept him into the England team last year and if Stewart Downing made an impressive contribution to England's victory over Sweden earlier this week, it hardly compensated for the disappearance from the spotlight of the hugely expensive Andy Carroll.

The raw north-easterner was supposed to be the toast of Merseyside by now, as well as England's great hope for next summer's European Championship finals, but as Downing ran with poise and put in some fine crosses as England were beating Sweden for the first time in 43 years, Carroll was hardly a glint in coach Fabio Capello's memory.

Someone dredged up Carroll's lack of progress in the build-up to Tuesday's game and Capello's reply was both curt and illuminating. "It is not me you should ask, but Andy Carroll," said the coach. Opinion in Liverpool is split, but only on the question of whether Carroll is either a slow or a profoundly reluctant learner.

Dalglish, the man who in his own playing days seemed to produce a sublime instinct and touch in front of goal quite effortlessly, might be appalled by some of Tevez's attitudes and behaviour, but at least he wouldn't present him with the chore of explaining some of the fundamentals of goal-scoring.

There is one certainty about Tevez this side of a complete breakdown in fitness -- one that, of course, is now threatened by his latest absence without leave from City. It is that while Tevez may come in scowling at all in his path, he gets around extremely quickly to producing dramatic, season-changing results.

In his first stint in the English game, he made the decisive contribution to West Ham's survival in the Premier League. At Manchester United he quickly established himself as a lion in the fans' eyes. They sang for him at the first hint of a crisis and, of course, he shamelessly exploited their faith during grandstanding rows with the management.

We have seen pretty much the same pattern at City, one set into a popularity that was so deep-seated on the terraces that only the outrage of his rebellion during the Champions' League game in Munich might have caused any permanent damage.

Of course, Tevez has destroyed any chance of redemption at City and, indeed, the strongest suggestion is that he is done with the English game. However, it is the place where he has provided the most serious evidence of a sustained ability to produce consistently high, even inspiring performances -- and then you think of how much Liverpool paid for the likes of Carroll and Henderson.

The way things are going Tevez might just be available for around half of their combined price of around £50m. It would hardly be a long-term investment; indeed, you might say it is impossible to imagine a more hazardous attempt to kick-start a team badly in need of some new momentum.

However, in a game filled with uncertainties, Tevez does come with something of a guarantee. If you can cajole him on to the field, the chances are that he will play -- and mostly to an extremely impressive degree. It is a reality that might just loom larger in the mind of Kenny Dalglish come Sunday afternoon.

Irish Independent

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