HONG KONG (Reuters) - Carlos Tevez has been a major asset for the Chinese Super League despite the drama created by the Argentine since he signed for Shanghai Shenhua, his coach Gus Poyet told Reuters in an interview.
Drama has surrounded Tevez for much of his career and his spell in Shanghai since arriving from Boca Juniors in January on a deal among the most lucrative in world football has been no exception.
Injury and constant speculation that he will return to Buenos Aires have dogged the former Manchester United and Juventus forward and only this week he was quoted from Argentina talking about the “complexities” of a return to Boca.
Far from being an expensive mistake, however, Poyet is convinced the 33-year-old’s arrival has created greater global interest in Chinese football.
“Everything that happens around Carlos creates something all over the world,” Poyet, who was appointed head coach of Shenhua in late November, told Reuters in Shanghai last week.
“It’s incredible. I didn’t watch one game of Chinese football last year in England and my family didn’t watch one game because they weren’t on TV.
“Now, you can watch it on Sky and you can watch in South America live and I think it’s because of Carlos Tevez.
“People maybe say to me, ‘no it’s because of whatever’. But for me, it’s because of Tevez. Everybody depends so much on Carlos that whatever he does he creates something.”
Tevez has played only 11 times in the league this year, scoring just twice in a season in which he has been forced to deal with a persistent calf injury as well as continued speculation he wants to re-sign with Boca.
He was criticised when he visited an amusement park with his family soon after sustaining the injury and, when he suffered a recurrence, was permitted to travel to Argentina for treatment only after signing a document guaranteeing he would return to China.
Shenhua have struggled for consistency this season, knocked out of the Asian Champions League early on and languishing in 11th in the CSL with only eight games remaining.
They were forced to play nine games on the road following a fire at their Hongkou Stadium in late March and defender Qin Sheng was handed a six-month suspension by the Chinese Football Association.
“It has been difficult and very, very strange,” Uruguayan Poyet added.
“We would need three days to explain everything that has happened during the season because, between the stadium going on fire and having to play nine games away from home in a row, injuries, suspensions for six months, things I’ve never seen before.
“So many things happened and unfortunately we couldn’t get the consistency that I was convinced we would get.
“I’m not complaining, it’s just been a difficult season. But now we have to try to do something good and learn from that and be ready in a different way.”
And, despite all the speculation, Poyet is convinced Tevez will see out the season in China.
“He was out, came back and at first he wasn’t in his best moment but then he had two unbelievable games at home and he got injured again,” he said.
“So it’s been start-stop. He’s part of the team, part of this season. You can’t say it’s the manager or the assistant manager or the players or Tevez. He’s been part of this season where it’s been difficult.
“But I watched an interview he made in Argentina and he said clearly he wants to finish the season at the highest level and that’s the only thing in his mind.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney