MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Five months after waving goodbye to Mario Balotelli, Manchester City is preparing to offload another enigmatic striker to Italian football and bring an end to one of the most divisive and controversial careers in the Premier League's 21-year history.
When Carlos Tevez — sporting a hair band and a broad grin — stepped out at Upton Park in 2006 to be paraded as one of West Ham's two big-name Argentine signings that summer, English football was warned to expect a striker of great potential but one already with plenty of baggage.
He sure lived up to his billing. As he made his way to Turin on Wednesday to wrap up his expected move to Juventus, Tevez will likely look back on his seven years in England with a mixture of fondness, bemusement and, to some extent, regret.
He will go down as one of the best forwards the Premier League has had, dovetailing a relentless workrate with an eye for goal that saw him score 84 times in the league for West Ham, Manchester United and City combined. From 2006-13, only four players have scored more. He won three league titles — two with United and one with City — and also a Champions League with United.
His time in England, however, will be better remembered for the chaos he caused off the pitch. He was under huge scrutiny from the moment he left Corinthians, where he was refusing to play, and signed for West Ham along with Argentina teammate Javier Mascherano. They were the subject of third-party ownership, which is against Premier League rules.
Tevez scored the goal that kept West Ham in the Premier League in 2007 — at Old Trafford, no less — but the London club was hit with a fine of 5.5 million pounds (now $8.5 million) for infringing regulations and will never be forgiven by fans of Sheffield United — the team that was relegated instead of West Ham.
Tevez's time at United from 2007-09 was trophy-laden but had an acrimonious ending after then-United manager Alex Ferguson decided not to keep the striker. That summer, Tevez made the move to the blue side of Manchester for an undisclosed figure — some reported a fee of 47 million pounds (now $72 million) — and was greeted by City fans with the incendiary poster "Welcome to Manchester," infuriating United supporters.
An already-fierce city rivalry had gone up a notch. It was at City, though, where he really made the headlines — and not necessarily for the right reasons. True, he played an integral role in City's rise as a force in the Premier League and was captain for a spell, but his four years at Etihad Stadium were marred by repeated transfer requests for various reasons, and his decision to not warm up when asked to by then-City manager Roberto Mancini while a substitute during a Champions League match at Bayern Munich.
It led to Tevez spending six months off the team — three of those on unauthorized leave in Argentina where he improved his golf swing and was hit in the pocket to the tune of almost 10 million pounds in fines, missed wages and sacrificed loyalty bonuses.
He was welcomed back at the end of the 2011-12 season and helped City win its first English league title in 44 years. But it is amazing to many how he has stayed at the club for so long after such insubordination in Munich.
His off-the-pitch antics didn't stop there, either — in April, Tevez was banned from driving and ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service for driving while his license was suspended and without insurance.
A transfer — worth up to 12 million pounds ($18.5 million) when bonuses are thrown in — to Juventus seems a decent result for both teams. Juventus gets a world-class striker, still only 29, on the cheap on a three-year deal as it bids to defend its Serie A title, and City gets a high-earner off the wage bill and a combustible, wantaway striker out of the squad.
Having also dispatched Balotelli to AC Milan in January, life at City will certainly be calmer under new manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has taken charge this offseason in place of the fired Mancini. In Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, City still has stellar strikers at its disposal but the X-factor that Balotelli and Tevez bring will be sorely missed — by City fans and lovers of the Premier League around the world.