Carlos Tevez was in the spotlight from a very young age. By 2001, aged 16, he’d already made his Argentinian Primera División debut for Boca Juniors and went on to be named Copa Libertadores player of the tournament at 19.
He was touted as one of the countless “new Maradonas” but, unlike most given that moniker, showed signs of justifying the tag. All things considered, he was perhaps South America’s brightest young talent of the early 2000s. Which is probably why Brazilian side Corinthians invested a reported £15m – the biggest transfer in the continent’s history – to sign him in 2005 while he was still a teenager. Within a year, he’d captained the team to the Brazilian championship having also been awarded the league’s player of the year gong.
Tevez, then, was big news. So it was a bit of a surprise when, on Deadline Day in August 2006, he signed for Premier League also-rans West Ham United alongside team-mate Javier Mascherano.
It was one of the deals that helped kick off the Deadline Day phenomenon, and came right out of the blue for most people. Two of the planet’s most gifted young players, somehow, had ended up playing at Upton Park under Alan Pardew.
Mystery surrounded the dual transfer, with rumours enveloping Tevez, Mascherano and their “advisor” Kia Joorabchian, who it was claimed effectively “owned” the players as part of a third-party ownership contract. An investigation later confirmed much of this: West Ham had paid Joorabchian’s Media Sports Investment company (who had a 51% stake in Corinthians) for Tevez’s registration rights, rather than buying him directly from the “selling” club.
Still, with the transfer completed, Tevez could get on with showing his class in the Premier League. The only problem was, Pardew seemed loathe to put him and Mascherano in the team, preferring to pick Marlon Harewood and Hayden Mullins in their stead. West Ham duly slipped into a nine-game streak without a win. It included the worst run of defeats for the club for more than 70 years.
Unsurprisingly, Pardew was soon sacked and, miraculously, Tevez almost immediately began to fire. By February, Mascherano had already jumped ship and was playing at Anfield, but his compatriot appeared to have decided the best way to make a name for himself was simply to go out almost single-handedly keep his team in the Premier League.
What do I think of Alan Pardew as a manager? He played Hayden Mullins instead of Mascherano & Marlon Harewood instead of Carlos Tevez #NUFC
— Carlo Garganese (@carlogarganese) February 12, 2014
And that’s pretty much what he did. The Hammers were transformed, taking seven victories from their final nine matches of the season. On the closing day, Tevez scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over champions-elect Man United, pushing his side up to 15th and consequently relegating Sheffield United (who later successfully sued as a result).
Carlitos was named Hammer of the Year, an award he celebrated by agitating for a move away from West Ham. Eventually, he and his entourage succeeded in forcing through a transfer to Old Trafford. West Ham appealed against the deal, apparently annoyed that most of the funds for the deal wouldn’t end up in their coffers.
After plenty of machinations, MSI paid the Irons a whopping £2m to release Tevez’s registration. The Argentinian hadn’t lasted long in claret and blue but he’d left a lasting impression before departing on acrimonious terms. He’d do something very similar with Man United, but that’s another story.