Was it only the money that prompted Carlos Tevez to switch Boca for China? Or was something else behind the move?
“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 support.”
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 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.
OFFICIAL: Shanghai Shenhua announced the signing of Argentine forward Carlos Tevez. pic.twitter.com/JJBwulJmcD
— TransferMarkt China (@asaikana) December 29, 2016
The transfer has sparked a January transfer window laden with rumour and gossip and as Belgian international Axel Witsel confirmed when he turned down Juventus to join Tianjin Quanjian this week, despite it being a difficult choice, “there was a crucial offer for my family that I couldn’t turn down.”
The 18 million euros salary spread over a four-year contract that Witsel will earn is dwarfed by Tevez’s reported earnings, as in addition to the $11 million transfer fee that Shenhua reportedly paid Boca Juniors, the 32-year-old is set to make an eye-watering $760,000 per week.
Reports in China have since tempered this initial valuation and said that the two-year contract is worth $40 million (including the transfer fee) which would be around $278,500 per week and rather than being the best paid player in the world, would put Tevez behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Regardless of the actual sum, it is an enormous increase on the salary that Tevez was earning in the cash-strapped Argentine Primera and any accusations of the Jugador del pueblo being a mercenary appear harsh given the pay cut taken to leave Juventus and offers from Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid that were ignored.
The money can’t be ignored and of course it would have been the deciding factor in Tevez’s decision just as it was for the likes of Witzel, Oscar or any of the high profile signings in the Chinese Super League.
However, few have a trophy cabinet as well-stocked as the 32-year-old’s and after lifting league titles in Argentina, Brazil, England and Italy, the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League, there is little left to win.
The return of Tevez to a packed Bombonera yielded immediate results and while Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side spluttered along, it was the voracious appetite for success from their superstar that dragged them to a league and cup double before the end of 2015. After a second double of the calendar year, having already achieved the same with Juventus, the stage looked set for Tevez to have his defining moment and lead Boca to a record-equaling seventh Copa Libertadores.
However, 2016 proved to be a year of frustration for Tevez and to the backdrop of lingering institutional chaos at the Argentine Football Association, Boca suffered the ignominy of a semi-final defeat to relative minnows, Independiente del Valle.
The 32-year-old’s own form had suffered, Arruabarrena was fired earlier in the year after a poor domestic start and it took months before the appointment of Guillermo Barros Schelotto began to bear fruit. An expletive-filled rant directed at a referee earned Tevez a three-match ban and as recently as September, it was clear that the return wasn’t the fairytale that he had dreamed of.
— Bostero Pasión (@Bostero_Pasion) December 20, 2016
Amid Boca’s struggles, his punishment and personal form, the Argentine media’s role, and the AFA scheduling, Tevez hinted at retirement telling reporters, “I will be talking with my family but yes, I would consider retirement.”
Failure to qualify for the 2017 Copa Libertadores denied Tevez what he desired most from his return but after a superb finish to the year, he leaves Boca Juniors top of the table and his own dazzling match-winning display in the Monumental to down fierce rivals, River Plate as the lasting memory.
Barros Schelotto’s side are now title favourites, even without Tevez, and having already won the league title and scoring 22 goals in 49 matches, El Apache doesn’t owe Boca anything else. A two-year deal in Shanghai that agent Adrián Ruocco has admitted, “has a clause that if Carlos doesn’t feel comfortable he can return in November,” doesn’t completely close the door on a possible third spell. Should Boca win the league and qualify for the Copa Libertadores again, don’t be surprised to see Carlitos back in the blue and gold once again.