Welcome to Last Word on Footballs ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at striker Carlos Tevez. After making his debut with Boca Juniors 20 years ago at the age of 16, Tevez has gone on to become a club legend. El Apache, as he is affectionately known at Boca, has scored 88 goals in 251 games for Los Xeneizes, making him the tenth highest goal scorer in the club’s history.
Throughout 11 seasons with the Argentine giants, Tevez has won six league titles, a domestic cup, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League).
The Argentine has also enjoyed huge success in Europe, with his biggest achievements coming during his time in the Premier League.
Returning Players – Carlos Tevez
First Spell at Boca Juniors for Carlos Tevez
In his first stint with the club, which ran from 2001/02 to 2004/05, he was part of a well-oiled machine that included Juan Román Riquelme, Walter Gaitán, Sebastián Battaglia, and later Diego Cagna, Guillermo Schelotto and Marcelo Delgado.
Despite the abundance of talent that surrounded him, Tevez managed to standout. In three consecutive years, 2003 to 2005, he was awarded South American Footballer of the Year. In both 2003 and 2004, he was also named Player of the Year of Argentina.
After an impressive continental performance in 2003, scoring five goals in nine games in the Copa Libertadores, including a goal in the second leg of the final, Tevez was named tournament MVP.
However, the other side of his footballing legacy had also begun to emerge, one of controversy.
In the middle of the 2004/05 campaign, Tevez left Boca Juniors. A fractious relationship with the team’s new coach, Carlos Bianchi, caused Tevez to become disillusioned with his boyhood club and seek pastures new.
Teams Tevez Played for in Between
In December 2004, Tevez became South America’s most expensive player after making an £11.4 million move to Brazilian outfit Corinthians. He went on to help the São Paolo side win the league and became the first non-Brazilian to be named player of the year since 1978.
A year later, he was plying his trade alongside compatriot Javier Mascherano for West Ham United. He scored seven Premier League goals in 26 games, including a match-winning goal on the final day of the season, which kept West Ham in the division.
However, controversy quickly followed Tevez after it was discovered that he was partially owned by Media Sports Investment company and therefore may have been ineligible to play.
West Ham later paid a then-record £5.5 million fine to the Premier League and later paid £20 million to Sheffield United, who were relegated in their stead, in an out-of-court settlement.
As that episode played out in court, Tevez became embroiled in yet another controversy as a bitter row between West Ham and Manchester United publicly festered over whether Tevez was out of contract.
He eventually did swap East London for Manchester and went on to score 34 goals in 99 games for the Red Devils, winning two league titles, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League, during his two-year tenure.
However, Tevez did not figure into Sir Alex Ferguson’s long-term plans at Old Trafford and in 2009, he signed for cross-city rivals, Manchester City.
Tevez spent four seasons with City, helping the club win its first league title in more than 40 years, having already won the FA Cup in the previous season. Tevez finished as the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner in City’s championship season, with 20 goals.
However, his relationship with City manager Roberto Mancini started to sour in September 2011 after Tevez refused to come on as a substitute in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich and later handed in a transfer request.
After failing to get one, Tevez apologised publicly to Mancini and was eventually welcomed back into the squad. He stayed with the team for another season, scoring 17 goals in 47 games, before signing for Juventus.
Tevez was a big hit in Italy and enjoyed immense support from the fanbase of La Vecchia Signora. In two seasons with the club, he scored 50 goals in 95 matches and won two Serie A titles and the Coppa Italia in his final season.
Return to Boca Juniors
After narrowly losing to Chile in the 2015 Copa America final, the now 31-year-old Tevez completed a move back to Boca Juniors.
“It is a day of joy and great satisfaction,” Boca president Daniel Angelici said. “The return of Carlos Tevez in an extraordinary moment of his career and is fantastic news for all partners and supporters of Boca and Argentine football. The presence of Carlos will give another leap in quality to the great squad we have.”
As he touched down in Buenos Aires, thousands of fans eagerly awaited him at the Bombonera. Tevez quickly made it known that he was back to help end the club’s four-year spell without winning the Primera División.
“My heart’s exploding with happiness! Thanks for braving the cold and waiting for me. I’m already back home,” Tevez wrote on Twitter. “I’m returning in my prime, really that’s now. At 26 or 27, I was fatter than anyone. I feel better than ever, physically and mentally.”
Wearing the legendary number 10 jersey, which had previously belonged to Diego Maradona and Riquelme, Tevez immediately made his impact felt. In his second match with the club, he scored from a free-kick and Boca went on to defeat Banfield 3-0 in the Copa Argentina round of 32.
A few days later, he scored against Unión in the league. He went on to score nine goals in 17 matches, with five coming in the league and another four in the Copa Argentina.
By the end of the season, Boca Juniors had won the domestic double and Tevez became the first player to win back-to-back doubles in a calendar year.
However, after the triumphant return of the 2015 season, 2016 did not go as well. Tevez was heavily criticised after a poor performance that saw Boca lose the Supercopa Argentina to San Lorenzo 4-0.
He scored 11 goals in 27 matches across competitions but once again felt his desire to perform for the Bombonera faithful slipping away.
“If I do not find myself with that hunger for glory and to continue winning championships, I will step aside,” Tevez said.
He went on to describe his career at Boca as one with two very separate stages.
“The first very good [season] that we all won, I saw a Boca united with the people, the leaders all played for the same side and that made us win what we won,” he said. “In the second, after I returned, I saw a totally different Boca.”
Departure to China and Return for the Third Act
A year later, Tevez made a big-money move to China. However, his poor performances on the pitch and trouble adjusting to a very different life off of it meant that he would not last long.
He soon fell out of favour with the coaching staff at Shanghai Shenhua and his monumental wages – rumoured to be £600,000 per week – created tension with the club.
After just one season, in which he scored four goals in 20 games across three competitions, Tevez once again had his bags packed for Buenos Aires.
Tevez has come tantalisingly close to completing his final footballing mission, losing to River Plate in the final of the 2018 Copa Libertadores and losing a pair of semi-finals since.
This year could be his last, with his contract set to expire on June 30 and an option to extend until December not yet taken.
“I’m good,” he told ESPN Argentina when asked about his future at the club. “There is Tevez for a while and I am in a place where I feel comfortable and surrounded in a good way.”
With the group stage of the 2021 Copa Libertadores set to begin in April, Tevez will seek to cement his legacy at the Bombonera and bring the club its seventh Libertadores title and first since 2007.
Since his return, Tevez has 25 goals from 85 appearances. He also earned 76 caps for Argentina, where he scored 13 times.