Manchester City players claim they did not hear Carlos Tevez refuse to play
Manchester City players who witnessed the dispute with Roberto Mancini which has led the club to consider sacking Carlos Tevez were unable to hear enough in Bayern Munich's deafening stadium to support the manager's case that the player refused to enter the field of play.
Manager Roberto Mancini is firmly resisting the idea of attempting to sack Tevez, as he does not want to give the player the satisfaction of earning the big move he has been agitating for. The Italian – who believes the unsettled Arsenal striker Robin van Persie could be a replacement for Tevez, though probably not until next summer – fears that the huge controversy attendant on the Argentine's dismissal could destabilise the club and derail their season. City would have to pursue Tevez through the courts for the recovery of the value of his transfer fee, a process Mancini fears could drag on to next summer.
But as Edin Dzeko last night apologised for the act of dissent which also infuriated the manager on Tuesday's extraordinary night in Munich, it was becoming increasingly evident that the club's seven-day inquisitorial investigation into events will find it difficult to prove Mancini's version of events – that Tevez refused to play. The Independent understands that informal discussions at training yesterday established that some key witnesses cannot definitively say they heard Tevez specifically refuse to play.
The feeling from those with experience in football disciplinary cases – and one shared by the Tevez camp – is that clear evidence of a player's refusal to enter the field of play in the heat of a 60,000-capacity Champions League tie will be extremely difficult to come by, for the club's investigative, legal and human resources teams. Among the City substitutes, only Pablo Zabaleta speaks the same language as Tevez and he was also struggling to hear Mancini on the night in question. The relationship between those two players is not, incidentally, as strong as has been widely characterised.
Given the difficulty of establishing a coherent picture of what occurred in the Allianz Arena, there is a belief within the football community that the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) would win if City did sack Tevez and the PFA decided to challenge it. The risk of being forced to rescind a sacking may be another factor in persuading City that this is simply not a course of action which is worth pursuing.
Football's disciplinary system does provide City with a way out in which Tevez could be fined up to £1.4m. The disciplinary regime was changed after Leicester City 's decision to sack Dennis Wise for breaking the jaw of Callum Davidson in 2002 was overturned on appeal. At that time, the only options open to clubs for severe breaches were a two-week fine or sacking, so the PFA helped introduce heftier fines of up to six weeks of pay for exceptional cases, such as Lee Bowyer's alleged assault on an Asian student in 2000. The PFA must be consulted if a club intends to fine a player more than two weeks' wages.
Other aspects of the disciplinary regime may be a deterrent. For example, if they sack Tevez they will have to start paying him after six weeks if they then pursue compensation.
City are rapidly coming to terms with the fact that Tevez, whose conduct in Munich drew criticism from the PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle yesterday, will be staying. Mancini has told his chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak that he wants Tevez to be forced to train at Carrington until January and then sold on. He envisages the 27-year-old working either with the reserves or, one to one, with the club's conditioning team. City accept that by January, his value may be as low as £20m – less than half of the sum they are understood to have paid Manchester United for his contract.
Tevez is understood to be desperate to maintain a training regime during the maximum two-week period of suspension that City have imposed on him. He knows his weight is a problem and his generally poor physical condition is likely to see him dropped by Argentina national coach Alejandro Sabella, from the squad for the forthcoming internationals with Chile and Venezuela. Confirming Mancini's belief that Tevez has not been training well this season, Sabella said when he dropped Tevez for the last Argentina squad that "he's not fully fit; I've heard he's not training well at the moment and put on a bit of weight".
Of the various pronouncements about Tevez which were added to the mountain of comment about an issue which has touched a nerve in the game, those of PFA chairman Carlisle were most significant. While PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor fell short of condemnation, Carlisle said: "As players, we have to be mindful that we are contractually obliged to follow the manager's orders. If you are fit and ready to play and the manager requests that, then under the terms of your contract you have to do that."
In his apology last night, Dzeko said: "I know my reaction (to being taken off) was bad and I have spoken to the guys and to the coach as well. I have apologised for the reaction and Roberto has accepted it and said everything is OK and that we have to be positive for the next game. I was unhappy because we were 2-0 down and I wanted to win the game. It was something special for me to go back to Germany where I played for a long time and I wanted to do well and wanted the team to do well. Things didn't go well for us. That is why I was extra frustrated."
The City investigation will see players being asked to provide evidence which could potentially force a team-mate's sacking, though the difficult position that places some players in does not contravene PFA guidelines. The view from within the profession is that it is a perfectly acceptable course of action, as footballers are no different from any other professionals.