James Lawton: Prodigal son Carlos Tevez deserves no forgiveness from Manchester City
Now that the Suarez affair has dragged football into ultimate ignominy – the worry of a bank that its image is being tarnished by association with Liverpool Football Club (it's a bit like Al Capone complaining about the exorbitant cost of a glass of rye) – you have to wonder if the reputation of the English game has much further to fall.
Unfortunately, with the return of Carlos Tevez to the club and the city on which he has heaped so much distaste and mockery, it is showing the potential. There are compromises and compromises, of course, but this surely is a case of stooping very low indeed to conquer.
The idea of Tevez wearing again the colours of the Manchester City he chose to abandon on that pivotal night in Munich last September, and whose manager, Roberto Mancini, he now declares "treated him like a dog," surely goes beyond the terrain of a grown-up solution to the problems of both parties. It takes us into an extremely dark place, one where the concept of loyalty would be stretched to the point of ridicule.
Some crimes, you have to believe, go beyond forgiveness and if what Tevez has done to City over the last few months, if his behaviour towards the owners of the contract that made him one of the world's richest players, and his manager and his team-mates and his supporters, does not fly into this category, we have to conclude that in football nothing does.
Both Mancini and Tevez may have things to gain from some kind of accommodation. Mancini might just get an infusion of firepower at a vital point in a title challenge which has looked problematic in recent weeks. Tevez might just rehabilitate himself to the point where a serious football club would consider taking him away from Manchester without risking the charge of near criminal negligence in the face of wholesale anarchy. But then who has most to lose?
It is surely Mancini. He is on the record as saying that Tevez's behaviour in Munich and his subsequent defiance put him beyond the pale blue of City. Maybe Tevez would crucially augment the goals supply in a way beyond the recent powers of such as Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli, but at what cost to the standing of both Mancini and the club? How could Mancini call for ultimate professional standards, befitting those of champions and challengers to the greatest teams in Europe, while still harbouring a player who once contemptuously dismissed his orders during one of the most important games in the history of the club?
Win or lose with Tevez, City would be saying that there isn't anything more important than the striving for the right result, however it is fashioned, and however much respect for certain values is drained away. In the week that has seen Liverpool brought to heel by the absent American ownership over the fallout caused by the Suarez affair, the Abu Dhabi overlords of City for the moment at least appear to countenance the idea of Tevez's return to action on their behalf. Perhaps they believe this is merely to exploit, at a late hour, an extremely expensive asset and that with Financial Fair Play on the horizon the move represents a business-like stab at some damage control.
If this is indeed the case, Sheikh Mansour, owner of the world's richest football club, might need to reflect on something more than a still hazard-filled, short-term advantage.
Putting faith in Tevez's ability to support anyone's interests but his own does not on the face of it look like the soundest instinct. But there is, surely, another hugely important factor. It is how Manchester City, so relatively early in their huge "project", think of themselves and what values they imagine they are putting in place. The irony is that in the absence of arguably their most influential player, Yaya Touré, City have at times shown a quite ferocious commitment to the concept of the team – the element which had often looked most elusive as City stockpiled their signings. If Aguero's goals have ebbed away, his passion remains an ennobling aspect of a team fighting under great pressure to reimpose its authority. Joe Hart continues to grow and there have been especially impressive examples of commitment from such as Gareth Barry and James Milner.
These might still be the days of the making of Manchester City and evidence that Mancini, despite many misgivings, is indeed the man to carry the club to another level. Yet there is still another possibility and this week it has taken on a nightmarish dimension. It is of City failing after announcing that they still needed the services of the player who betrayed them that night in the Munich stadium more profoundly than anyone could previously have imagined. Winning isn't everything, it is the only thing, a great coach once said. But is it really? Not, you have to suspect, when it requires the help of someone quite as faithless as Carlos Tevez.