Dangerous Tevez Precedent

It is almost impossible to believe it, but it appears that Manchester City has been paying Argentine outcast Carlos Tevez about $300,000 per week since early November, despite the fact that Tevez quit the club acrimoniously and provided every indication that he would never return to Manchester. Is City’s management crazy? Not quite, under England’s legal structure, but City’s decision looks irrational and profoundly strange from just about every other viewpoint.

Tevez was correctly suspended by the club for refusing to warm up during a Champions League match away at Bayern Munich. Essentially he refused to work in breach of his contract. Man City conducted a formal investigation after Tevez claimed that his refusal was merely a misunderstanding between himself and coach Roberto Mancini, but the evidence clearly established that Tevez was at fault. City suspended Tevez and fined him one month’s wages, but he appealed and the fine was reduced to merely two weeks’ wages. Nevertheless, the episode represented the final break between Tevez and Mancini, whose relationship became unworkable. Tevez took off to Argentina to serve his two week suspension in November and never returned to training. He has been enjoying the Argentine summer and instructing his agents to get him to a new club by any means.

Tevez has been trying to get out of Manchester for over a year. He loved the astronomical English wages, but hated life in England. Fair enough, but Tevez tried to have it both ways by invoking every ploy to pressure City into selling him for a fraction of the $70 million plus an annual salary of about $10 million that City invested in him. His bank account full, Tevez showed his true colors: all for Tevez, zero loyalty to the club that invested $100 million in him.

For its part, Manchester City has tried hard to recoup as much as possible of its bad investment, though no potential takers would match City’s imbecility. Milan is Tevez’s preferred destination, but Milan’s manager Galliani made only a typically low-ball offer, the same type that brought Ibrahimovic from Barcelona and Cassano from Sampdoria. Man City and Mancini have correctly said no thus far to the garbage offer, but unless a third club enters the fray with a seriously plausible offer Milan might be able to once again exploit another club’s misfortune.

So the question remains: why did Man City continue to pay Tevez despite the fact that he quit? It turns out that, broadly speaking, English employment law requires an employer to either pay or dismiss a non-performing employee. In this case City stands to recoup much more by selling Tevez and eating a couple of million in wages, but an argument might be made that the law unduly extends City’s losses. Why not pay the wages into an escrow account and challenge Tevez’s right to wages given his unilateral breach of contract? The danger of this situation is that others have taken notice and surely Tevez will not be the last one to pull off this sort of ploy. Mascherano, another Argentine who hated living in England, forced Liverpool to sell him to Barcelona by refusing to play. Other stars will surely follow.

The English law seems to be either poorly formulated or poorly applied – how do you sack a player who refuses to perform and run the risk of losing the entire transfer fee invested? City’s approach may set a dangerous precedent. Tevez is clearly wrong, yet he is not suffering any consequences. He is still considered a very good forward, an impact player. Ultimately, his millions will come from sunnier, Latin pastures come February, while Manchester City can only live and learn to refrain from paying idiotic transfer fees in its quest for glory.