Gareth Bale’s potential move to China has led to fears that he is wasting his peak years in a Mickey Mouse league. Carlos Tevez took that to another level during his time there.
If Bale does move to one of Shanghai Shenhua, Beijing Guoan or Jiangsu Suning, netting a £20million signing-on bonus and more than his current £350,000-a-week in the process, he will become the biggest star ever to play in China.
That will see Tevez knocked off top spot. And the former Manchester City striker would have some warnings for him. Firstly — try not to be pictured on a day out with your family at Disneyland when you are supposedly injured.
Tevez did that when his side, Shanghai Shenhua, were playing Changchun Yatai and became a pariah.
It had already started badly for Tevez. He was mobbed on arrival at Shanghai airport in January 2017 after completing a move that netted him £32m over the course of a season.
Not that he enjoyed the acclaim: ‘When I landed in China, I realised that I wanted to go back to Boca (Juniors). I was on vacation for seven months’.
Those seven months ended with a return to his boyhood club in Argentina after a spell in which he scored just four goals over 16 appearances.
The Chinese Super League was flush with cash but £8m a goal was still excessive.
Tevez arrived with an entourage of 20 people, excluding his family, and struggled to settle off the pitch.
Gus Poyet was his manager and said: ‘The language is complicated – but with the food, there are people who suffer a little more and that happened to Tevez.
‘At the beginning he did not eat almost anything. We had a barbecue… and we had to remove the Chinese food.’
On the pitch, it did not go much better. Shanghai were eliminated from the Asian Champions League after losing 2-0 against Brisbane Roar in February 2017. While he impressed on his league debut, a 4-0 win against Jiangsu Suning, he soon picked up an injury.
Then came the trip to Disneyland. His team were playing and Tevez seemed to be taking the mickey. Meanwhile, Shanghai put aside a questionable run of form to and won at Changchun Yatai for the first time in 10 years.
Fans started to call Tevez ‘Homesick Boy’. They wanted him to leave. He got to return to Argentina for treatment on an injury in August 2017, but that just caused more problems.
Poyet was replaced by Wu Jingui and the new manager was not happy with the state Tevez returned in.
‘I will not pick him right now. He’s not ready physically. He’s not fit to play,’ he said. ‘He is overweight… I have to take responsibility for the team and the players as well.
‘If you are unable do your utmost to play, there’s no point in picking you. I have coached lots of big stars, and my players are never picked on reputation.’
Shanghai Shenhua chairman Wu Xiaohui then came out and criticised Tevez publicly: ‘Due to a lack of winter training and match fitness, he didn’t meet our expectations.’
That led to Tevez questioning the Chinese game: ‘Chinese footballers are not as naturally skilled like South American or European players… like players who learned football when they were kids.
‘They’re not good. Even in 50 years, they still won’t be able to compete.’
Tevez would be left out of the two-legged Chinese FA Cup final and just a year on from his move to China, Boca announced he would be returning to La Bombonera.
His efforts were lauded by Diego Maradona: ‘He went to China, filled up Santa’s sack with dollars and came back to Boca. Perfect.’
In China they still view Tevez as a failure. Not settling, poor performances on the pitch and his swift exit all mean he remains the highest-profile mistake Chinese football has made.
Bale would do well to heed the warnings. Chinese money may seem like a sweet deal at first but as Tevez showed, it can turn sour in an instant.