- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In 2009, Carlos Tevez was hailed with a giant billboard reading: “Welcome to Manchester.”

Now, it could be time for a new poster of the Argentine star in the football-mad English city: “Good Riddance.”

Tevez broke a fundamental rule of sport _ that no individual is more important than his or her team _ when he sat moodily on the bench at a time of dire need for Manchester City, seemingly refusing to play on Tuesday night in the Champions League.

A millionaire striking. How pathetic and how distasteful at a time when so many less fortunate than Tevez are feeling the economic pinch.

If City manager Roberto Mancini is telling the whole truth here and Tevez really did mutiny, then football has witnessed a saddening new low.

Football clubs and managers have long complained that players and their agents are becoming too powerful, too unruly, as their wages _ and by extension their egos _ have grown ever bigger thanks to football’s bonanza of income from television, modern marketing and global popularity.

In Tevez’s apparent moment of madness in Germany, the sport and its fans saw just how far that balance of power has shifted. It also showed that the 2008 takeover of City by Abu Dhabi Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan isn’t a guarantee of success for the club. His vast wealth has brought an enviable collection of players. But money cannot buy the sort of team spirit that Alex Ferguson has spent 25 years nurturing cross-town at Manchester United _ where Tevez played before disregarding the city’s football divide by joining rival City.

City needed two goals to draw level with Bayern Munich in the Champions League. With 30 minutes to get them, Mancini called on Tevez, his top scorer last season.

At his rampaging best, the muscular, boxy Argentine can turn matches around with his penetrating runs on goal. Given how well Bayern were playing and how dispirited Mancini’s team looked, even Tevez might not have been able to rally City. But he is used to thriving in adversity. He grew up in a rough Buenos Aires neighborhood known as “Fort Apache.” He carries a childhood burn scar on his neck with some pride, refusing to hide it with plastic surgery. Because of his background, Tevez should be more aware than most how lucky he is to be so handsomely paid for kicking a ball. Besides, his teammates needed him.

But astoundingly, said Mancini, Tevez’s response when he called him was, “No.”

“He refused to do a warm-up again and he refused to go on the pitch,” the Italian said later, clearly fuming and shaken.

The reasons weren’t clear. Tevez disputed Mancini’s claim that he refused to play _ even though his crossed-arm body language on the bench suggested otherwise.

In a statement Wednesday, Tevez apologized to City fans for “any misunderstanding” and said: “I had warmed up and was ready to play. This is not the right time to get into specific details as to why this did not happen.”

Evidently, that wasn’t enough. Later in the day, Manchester City suspended Tevez “until further notice for a maximum period of two weeks” while it examines his conduct in Germany.

In hindsight, this was a crisis waiting to happen. Tevez has for months made clear that he wanted to leave City. Northern England in the dark of winter can be cold and damp and his wife, Vanesa, and their two young daughters struggled to adapt. But Tevez’s hoped-for move didn’t happen. In jumping from club to club over the years, scoring many goals but also making headlines for the wrong reasons along the way, Tevez has increased his market value and pay-packet so much that only the wealthiest teams like City can afford him.

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