As I was considering how to best handle the Carlos Tevez return, the thought suddenly struck me: I am, morally, a hypocrite. Back when the Argentine didn't come on in Munich and during the ensuing aftermath, I commented that I didn't care what happens to him. I didn't give two smelly farts what he decided to do; I just had the best interests of Manchester City Football Club at heart and, if he was or wasn't a part of that, then I wasn't fussed.
And for months, while the number 32 was AWOL, that was true. I was focused on watching City smash records and top the table and be brilliant without him. While we might have been light on striking options, we have, on the whole, been lucky with injuries and suspensions up top and very rarely has there been a game where the team didn't look like scoring at some point. The fact that the first time the blues did fail to find the net was on Boxing Day – a mere 18 league games into the season – tells its own story.
Especially when the extent Carlos Tevez's involvement in City's league campaign to that point had been one missed penalty. And that's it; the goals had come from everywhere else in the team, something which would have seemed very unlikely, given the reliance on Tevez the team had had over the previous two seasons. But, without him, City had been batting away records left, right and centre. And that, combined with his absence, made it very easy not to care about him: His actions meant that he wasn't available to play a part in City's season, so I could have a lack of interest. He wasn't here.
But now he is and I have to be perfectly honest. Morally speaking, I wouldn't like Carlos Tevez to feature for the first team again. City have stood their ground and refused to cut their asking price for the player, and, in turn, the player hasn't got the desired move away from the club: City won that battle of wills. There was only one place my support was going to go and it wasn't to the man whose actions didn't have Manchester City at heart.
For the last few months, barely a day has gone by where the talking point about Manchester City hasn't included (to some degree, at least) Carlos Tevez. City's achievements this season have been at the forefront, don't get me wrong, but most – if not all – of Roberto Mancini's press conferences since the start of October have finished with the question: “What's the situation with Carlos Tevez?” And that was followed by a roll of the eyes from every City fan watching. It feels there's been so much additional baggage for the last four months that RyanAir would have a field day with extra charges.
Yet, one apology and a strict training regime later, and the man who has recently been nothing but trouble could be a part of the first team set up. And I really don't want that. I don't want to see a man whose actions have been no help to the team whatsoever waltz his way back into the plans, by way of a carefully crafted statement with club officials and a bit of fitness work. Morally, I'd hate it: Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko have been the three strikers who have gotten the club to the top of the league and deserve to be the ones that win City the league; how would they all feel if they're dropped due to rotation or poor form for a man who was AWOL for four months? You couldn't blame them for getting the impression their hard work meant nothing.
And it wouldn't set any sort of example: It would say to the other players and to any potential future players that they can walk all over the club and, if they're good enough – because, for all that's happened, we can't deny that Tevez is a good player – then they'll always have a shot at working their way back into the team. And that makes me feel very uneasy.
They say that, while Tevez's attitude away from the pitch has been questionable, his actions on the pitch have shown that he will always give everything he can. Except that argument took one huge dent when, on the evening of 27 September, he disobeyed managerial instructions and stubbornly remained in his seat on a bench in Germany. The trouble for Tevez was that he held no power cards: City's strike force had been banging goals in without him and the club didn't need to offload him. They could afford to keep him and wait for the right offer when the transfer window opened – something that they did, but the right offer never came.
So far, City have played this perfectly. Mancini has left the door open for a return and re-registered him in the Premier League squad (with spare places, it was the sensible thing to do, even if he was AWOL at the time). And Tevez has continually turned his nose up at the chance of reconciliation, preferring golf in Argentina and commenting that he felt he'd been treated like a dog.
Difficult to agree with, given how City had bent over backwards to accommodate the striker the season before. There had been rumblings that Tevez had wanted to leave since May 2010, but Roberto Mancini handed him the captaincy, virtually guaranteed his starting place and built his team around the Argentine for the following season. There was even forgiveness for the transfer request debacle in December 2010. And then there's everything that's happened since. In reality, it could be fairer to say that it was Tevez himself who had, instead, treated the club like a dog.
However, eventually, be it through advice from a third party or through his own realisation that he needed to show some willing if he was going to earn a transfer away from the club, he apologised. With City not going to sell him in his absence and a contract that isn't running out soon, he was backed into a corner and the only way out was to do as the club wanted him to; but, as the song goes, sorry seems to be the hardest word. And, to be perfectly honest, this sorry doesn't feel like the most sincere there's ever been – AWOL for months, comments to the media and his actions in Munich don't suggest any sort of regret.
That being said, the apology was issued and the club have clearly accepted it: It wouldn't have been released as a statement on the official website unless they were completely happy with it, after all. Though is it possible to forgive and forget, kiss and make up, and thrust him back into the squad, ready for the final push?
Well, here's where it gets tricky and the boundaries get a little blurred. What would you give to see City win the Premier League? How much would you give to see Vincent Kompany et al lift that trophy sometime this May? And this is why I'm morally a hypocrite, because, if it was going to be the difference between City finishing top of the league and City finishing in second place, I would have no problem with Carlos Tevez pulling on that blue shirt and scoring goals – if that is, as he says, what he wants to do from now until the end of the season.
No problem at all, despite having spent months saying otherwise. Of course, there are fans who would take issue and I can fully understand why. In fact, I admire their principles. But, the truth is, if a fit Carlos Tevez's inclusion in City's matchday squad – be it in the starting line-up or coming off the bench – was enough to bring the title to The Etihad, then my principles that want him to play no part in the success can get stuffed. In a few years' time, I won't care he played a part in lifting that trophy, but I will care that the trophy was in the cabinet.
The interesting aspect to consider, however, is that his inclusion could have completely the opposite effect. While we're talking about the man having the ability to score important goals, we're talking like the rest of the squad will simply accept that he's back and going to join in. Outwardly, I've no doubt that the players will be 'delighted' to have someone of the Argentine's ability around the club again, but that's not a guarantee that it won't cause unrest or disharmony. As I have already said, how will the other strikers feel to lose their place to him if not because of injury or suspension?
His return could mean his goals fire City to the title. However, it's not outside the realms of possibility that it could also be the catalyst that derails the steam train that has, until now, been relentlessly chugging towards top spot in May. It's a very delicate balance.
The biggest bonus here, though, for us fans is that the manager is Roberto Mancini. As evidenced from his time in charge of the club, he suffers no fools. He may appear to be the nice and friendly to the watching world, but behind the scenes I would argue he is ruthless. Anybody who isn't right for the team and for the football club is moved on and replaced with somebody who is. He's a man in total control and if there's anybody that knows the relationships between the players and what decision to make regarding Carlos Tevez, it's him. The phrase 'in Mancini we trust', which has been floating around various fan forums and on Twitter, has never been more appropriate and this is surely one of the biggest decisions he needs to make.
This week, Tevez has took part in a behind-the-scenes match and, judging by the reports of the few who saw it, he's well off the required fitness to be playing any first team matches any time soon. In fact, after four months without training, he's probably going to have to complete something of a 'pre-season' again before being ready, so the debate as to if he does play a part is perhaps a little premature. The convenience for the manager is that Tevez can always be 2-3 weeks away from full fitness until the summer; he already has his excuse written for him if he decides that Tevez's inclusion would upset the apple cart and he wants to keep him well away from any action.
The ideal outcome, in my own personal opinion, would be for City to go on and win the league and for Carlos Tevez never to feature in another of the club's matches. But when I take a moment to think about that more deeply, I find that my ideal outcome is simply that City go on and win the league. As long as that happens, I don't really care. Roberto Mancini is the man paid to make the decisions that will win or lose this title and he's got form for getting nearly every one of his calls correct. There's no reason to believe he won't do the same again.
Perhaps I can never forgive Carlos Tevez what he's done this season, but I can certainly put it to the back of my mind and make it the elephant in the room: The club takes precedent over one man and if it's in the best interests of the club to ignore what's happened since Munich, then I can do that, too.
If, morally, that makes me a hypocrite, then so be it.