“I gave up a lot of money to come here and be happy, obviously I’ve come back to Boca to finish my career at the club that I love and I am a supporter of.”
When Carlos Tevez uttered those words shortly after his sensational return to Boca Juniors in June 2015 few would have predicted anything to the contrary. The boy from Fuerte Apache had come home after a hugely successful spell with Juventus and following a glittering career in Europe, the club hero had now fixed his gaze on bringing further glory to La Bombonera.
Fast forward 18 months – Tevez has signed a deal with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua, potentially making him the best paid player in world football and is bidding farewell to Boca for the second time.
The critics have been quick to leap on this latest example of China’s ambitious football league throwing money at a recognised world star and have vociferously reminded Tevez of his words after leaving Juventus. It is easy to attack the move when a 32-year-old leaves his boyhood club for a staggering amount of money after a trophyless 2016 and the prospect of a year outside international competition but despite leaving with a heavy heart, Tevez would probably admit it wasn’t quite the fairytale return he had dreamed of.
The club currently need one more Copa Libertadores title to claim a record-equalling seventh and after being part of Carlos Bianchi’s triumphant side in 2003 and watching another Boca icon Juan Román Riquelme return to lift the trophy in 2007, Tevez will have been desperate to do the same. El Apache has enjoyed far greater success than Riquelme in Europe but suffered the ignominy of a semi-final defeat to Independiente del Valle in July and with it saw chances of a famous seventh Libertadores go up in smoke.
This ultimately failed campaign had seen league form over the first half of 2016 suffer and cost Rodolfo Arruabarrena his job but while Tevez’s form dipped in this period, he too wasn’t exempt from criticism and the first rumblings of his discontent were heard. To the backdrop of institutional chaos at the Argentine Football Association (AFA) rumours of Tevez potentially retiring at the end of the year surfaced and while matters on the pitch did improve, defeat to Rosario Central in the Copa Argentina quarter-finals saw the door to the Copa Libertadores 2017 slam shut.
However, while the world fixates on the figures being touted and Tevez’s apparently broken promise after his move to Shanghai, it is easy to lose sight of his enormously positive impact to Boca over a whirlwind 18 months.
Fresh from completing a league and cup double with Juventus, thousands packed into La Bombonera to welcome Tevez back and the returning hero took little time to settle back in. A title race that had hung in the balance at the midway point was tilted in favour of Boca after the introduction of Tevez and aside from his nine goals in fifteen matches, his irrepressible drive to win arguably dragged Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side to the title. Good fortune from poor refereeing was undoubtedly needed to lift the Copa Argentina but throughout Tevez’s career, trophies have gravitated towards him and within six months, he had completed a second domestic double of the calendar year.
So while detractors may point to a relatively poor 2016, Tevez’s influence without question helped to add two more titles to Boca Juniors’ packed trophy cabinet. It should also be added that while the Copa Libertadores exit was a bitter blow, the 32-year-old rediscovered his form this season and produced a memorable match-winning performance in the superclásico that leaves Boca top of the table and the team to beat come May.
The return from Juventus, while still at somewhere near the peak of his powers, was an incredible marketing tool for Boca and the league and the sale to Shanghai is a wonderful financial deal for the club at a time when Argentine football is as hard up for cash as ever. The accusations of being a mercenary appear rooted in a dislike for the Chinese Super League more than anything else, as Boca too have profited hugely from the deal and it is worth acknowledging that Tevez took a huge paycut to return in the first place and turned down huge offers from the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Atlético Madrid in order to do so.
Two years in China for money that simply put was too good to turn down could still leave the door open for a third spell at Boca. Agent Adrián Ruocco has already admitted that, “the contract has a clause that if Carlos doesn’t feel comfortable he can return in November.” Whether it happens at the end of 2017 or after the two years, if Boca are back in the Copa Libertadores, there is no way Tevez wouldn’t want another shot.
So, with the story not necessarily over, there is a lot to be thankful for if you are a Boca Juniors supporter. 22 goals in 49 matches over 18 months that yielded a league and cup double, there is little that Tevez owes the club.
ALL OF TEVEZ’S GOALS SINCE HIS RETURN