Roberto Mancini happy to forgive but Carlos Tevez is still embittered
Sometimes Carlos Tevez gets lost in translation. It is a testament to the way he has never assimilated here that, when a Spanish-speaker was engaged in south Manchester to instruct his family in English a little while back, he went along for some conversation with the teacher in his mother tongue – not for the lessons.
But last night's interview, with its namechecks for Manchester United and noxious recollections of that night in Munich, suggested the nascent hopes of a brief, bright twilight to the Argentine's Premier League career are still deeply improbable.
Before he sat down for his interview on Fox Sports Latin America yesterday afternoon, the clouds seemed to be clearing from his Manchester horizons. Only 22 days have passed since Roberto Mancini gave his most emphatic rejection yet of the notion of Tevez wearing a City shirt again – "This is impossible" – yet the mood music has changed. The manager's tone has softened remarkably, even in the past 72 hours.
Mancini, the pragmatist who has sanctioned Tevez's return to Manchester today, has most to gain from it. The last seven games in all competitions have yielded his City side 10 goals. The verve and the lustre have gone and the club are in need of the kind of goalscoring consistency which, frankly, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko cannot provide.
Tevez has not scored a goal since 17 May and has found the net four times in the past 12 months, but Mancini has not forgotten the fertile 12 months before that in which he delivered 30 goals. When City have achieved world domination and he is long gone, this club will remember Tevez as a significant part of their history. That part in the City narrative has contributed to the recent impression, and it may be a mistaken one, that he will not find the vitriol among supporters who, he declared last night, had "turned against me".
The signals from the boardroom in the past 48 hours have been that he will not be shunned by the club, either. You wonder how Mancini could tolerate the mere sight of the lank-haired Tevez around Carrington again, after all the press conference inquisitions he has caused. But to imagine the Italian will feel that receiving him back represents a climbdown, or a loss of face, is to assume that his emotions actually work that way.
In fact, Mancini simply does not care about public impressions. That is why, within a few weeks or so of Tevez refusing to enter the field of play for him at Bayern Munich last September, Mancini called him and invited him to the extraordinary 1am meeting at his home in Alderley Edge.
There's a consistent pattern. Yes, Balotelli smokes, Mancini said in December. Yes, Wayne Bridge should sling his hook. No, Adam Johnson doesn't work hard enough. Publicity doesn't bother him. He speaks as he finds and, as the Italian journalists who know him best will tell you, forgives and forgets.
But Tevez is evidently struggling to put the past four months behind him. Last night revealed a man still deeply embittered by events in Munich. His sour recollections of it suggested that this weekend's decision to forgo any Premier League appeal against City's decision to fine him £1.18m for bunking off to Argentina is no a sign of rekindled affection for the club. In this frame of mind, it seems improbable he could find the apology that Mancini has repeatedly says he needs from him.
The requirement of an apology will surely have been accounted for in a return to England which has been carefully planned. "There has been a lot of negotiation behind the scenes," Paul McCarthy, adviser to Tevez's representative, Kia Joorabchian, said yesterday, before the interview was broadcast. Neither side has ventured much idea as to what form an apology might take but a Luis Suarez type of contrition was not required. Another quiet conversation in Alderley Edge might do it and Mancini is under no obligation to divulge its details. Tevez just doesn't sound terribly willing.
Possibly today, though more probably tomorrow, Tevez will return to a small group of reserve players at Carrington, away from the first-team squad, for what his representatives believe will be two or three weeks of work bringing him up to first-team fitness.
You sense Mancini might have had a vague notion of his availability for the 28 April meeting with United which he refers to so often that he betrays his sense it will be historic. City fans have sensed the same – and though there have been some abusive comments on the Bluemoon Forum thread, one post on Saturday night summed up the optimism: "I want that title no matter what."
Neither club nor fans were holding their breath last night.