Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tevez set to give Mancini another dose of the blues

Reformed striker and his former manager battle for place in last 16 of Champions League

Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez
Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez

Ian Hawkey

With two years of hindsight, and both combatants now in separate homes in different countries, they look back on the divorce with a shrug or a smile.

Carlos Tevez, asked about Roberto Mancini some weeks ago, replied: "There are no problems between us."

Mancini stressed that, as manager and player, they "won titles together" at Manchester City, that their working accord was "fine by the end", before adding, with a grin, "apart from his little holiday".

Tomorrow night, in Istanbul, Tevez's Juventus and Mancini's Galatasaray effectively play off for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition whose special pressure contributed, one September night in Munich, to the most public of rifts.

Tevez's apparent refusal, as a substitute, to respond to Mancini's orders to prepare to enter a match City trailed 2-0 to Bayern, besmirches his reputation.

Mancini's shifting position over Tevez in the subsequent months would, rightly or wrongly, become a yardstick by which to judge his authority.

Tevez has been reminded of his notoriety as an employee from time to time since he joined Juventus from City in the summer.

The reminders regularly come from his new head coach, Antonio Conte, who chooses to praise the striker by describing how different he is from the rebel he had read about.

"I keep saying he has surprised us," said Conte, whose face-to-face meeting with the Argentinian helped persuade Tevez to choose Juve ahead of AC Milan. "I'd heard some things, but all I have seen is a dedicated champion."

Tevez is Conte's No 1 striker. He has nine goals from 14 starts in Italian competitions. He is yet to score, though, in the Champions League – a symptom perhaps of the uncertainty that overcomes the Serie A leaders and title-holders against foreign opposition.

Juve's may not be a Euroneurosis as endemic as the condition Tevez and his team-mates experienced at City, with whom he and Mancini twice exited club football's most elite competition at the group phase.

However, Juve do worry about how often their domestic swagger fades in Europe, and about how to approach the Istanbul assignment, knowing a draw would be enough yet losing would see them leapfrogged into second place in Group B by the Turkish club.

For Mancini, it looks like another crossroads moment in what, for him, is a hexed competition.

When he was appointed, several weeks into the season, a fortnight after his predecessor, Fatih Terim, had overseen a 6-1 thrashing by Real Madrid, the arrangement had a short-term feel.

Mancini has spoken of his interest in managing Italy's national squad, where a probable vacancy will arise after the World Cup.

Galatasaray knew that, but they needed an available, pedigree coach to deal with an emergency – their league form rickety, their Champions League off to a demoralising start.

Success, and status, in Europe is as important to Turkey's most decorated club as it has become to Manchester City.

Humiliation in Europe against Madrid meant the end of the respected Terim's stint in charge.

Bringing in Mancini gave the Italian an intriguing challenge: to break the European glass ceiling on his otherwise impressive coaching career.

Mancini has won major domestic trophies with all four clubs he has coached before now, cups and championships in two different leagues.

Yet in seven goes at the Champions League, he has penetrated the last 16-stage only twice and never guided a team to a semi-final.

The stumbles are seldom quiet, either. Before the Tevez mutiny in Munich, there was the meltdown at the Mestalla, another episode where control was lost, tempers soared.

Valencia had knocked Mancini's Inter Milan out of the 2006-07 competition and the mass brawl after the final whistle drew in not only a dozen players, but some members of the coaching staffs.

Twelve months later, with his Inter side eliminated by Liverpool at the same, first knockout round, Mancini offered his resignation.

He then changed his mind, which, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Inter striker of the time, would recount, eroded "harmony and optimism", and left "Mancini battling to get his status back. The trust in him disappeared".

At City, besides the Tevez incident, and the Argentinian's subsequent exile – his "little holiday" – and then reinstatement, Champions League setbacks would more than once lead to other players complaining of confusing tactical shifts.

EMBOLDEN

Last December, City finished bottom of their group. So far in 2013-14, Mancini has four points from his four games in charge of Galatasaray.

The 2-2 draw at Juventus in October may embolden his team for the return fixture, although a defeat at Copenhagen and a failure to contain a 10-man Real Madrid, who still beat Mancini's side 4-1 in Spain, signal a brittleness.

Wesley Sneijder should return to his role just behind Didier Drogba for Galatasaray, while Juventus will be missing the injured Andrea Pirlo.

Conte's team are otherwise at full strength, and took the precaution at the weekend of resting, for most of their victory at Bologna, their most important striker, Tevez, aka 'Apache', also now known for his angelic professionalism. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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