Argentina Primera Division

Post-Tevez, The Boca Machine Is Rolling On

Unless you were hidden under a rock in January you will know that Carlos Tevez left boyhood club Boca Juniors to join the Chinese Super League (CSL). For years Tevez said he wanted to leave Europe and re-join Boca whilst his legs would still allow it, rather than waiting until Father Time had caught up with him. He was true to his word, returning at the age of 31, reportedly turning down interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Atlético Madrid in the process. However, despite proclamations that he was back in Buenos Aires for good, it’s not surprising that the lucrative offer from Shanghai Shenhua turned his head given the ludicrous amount of money on the table. It’s also feasible that he could star for Boca once more after his Oriental journey is over, providing he steers clear of injuries and that his legs don’t betray him overnight.

Many Boca fans lamented his departure as he is a hugely popular figure at the club. After coming through the youth ranks, Tevez spent three years in the first team at Boca before departing for Brazilian club Corinthians in 2004. During those three years he helped the club to a league title, Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores, and the World Club Cup. Tevez scored 38 goals in 110 appearances, and also won a plethora of individual awards, including the South American Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004.

He re-joined in the summer of 2015 from Juventus having scored 20 goals in 32 appearances during his last season in Turin as the Old Lady lifted the Scudetto and Coppa Italia, as well as losing the Champions League final to Barcelona. Hopes were high, although the results have been mixed. He helped Boca to a domestic double in late 2015 although he garnered some negative press for a terrible foul which broke the leg of young Argentinos Juniors player Turco Ham. The following season was a poor one for Boca, as they finished 10th in Zone 2 of the league table, exited the Copa Argentina at the quarter-final stage, and were humiliated in the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores by Ecuadorian minnows Independiente del Valle. During this time, the manager who was in charge upon his return, Rodolfo Arruabarrena was sacked but Tevez had a respectable goal record of 22 in 49.

Over in China it was a less than auspicious start as Tevez’s debut coincided with the club crashing out of the Asian Champions League at the first hurdle, losing 2-0 at home to Brisbane Roar in a preliminary round. In the CSL Shenhua are currently seventh after a win, loss and a draw in the first three games. During his first four games Tevez has yet to score from open play, netting once from the penalty spot. In February Argentinean sports newspaper Olé reported that despite the obscene wages he is receiving Tevez is struggling to come to terms with the way of life in China and may be craving a return to his homeland.

Boca meanwhile are doing just fine without their former captain and talisman. Since the restart following the summer break, Boca have won three out of four, the only blot on the copybook being a home defeat to Talleres. In fairness, Boca dominated the game and played some superb football therefore it’s not necessary to read too much into that defeat. Boca are five points clear and have a vastly superior goal difference compared to their rivals with only twelve games to play in the league. The next four fixtures look eminently winnable so another healthy points haul in those games will stand Boca in good stead before a tough run of games which includes a trip to Estudiantes and the Superclásico versus River Plate.

Tevez’s striking boots have been filled by Dario Benedetto, the striker bought from Mexico’s Club América in the summer of 2016 for around £4m. In netting three goals and providing two assists, the Argentine hitman has played a part in five of Boca’s six goals since the league resumed and now has ten in 13 for Boca. Several other forwards are also pulling their weight. Cristian Pavón, aged just 21, has scored 7 in 18 and is allegedly courting interest from several of Europe’s biggest clubs. Ricky Centurión, the former Racing and São Paulo winger, has six in 16. Walter Bou, whose big brother plays for Racing, has scored six in 14. Flying Colombian full-back Frank Fabra is impressing on the left-hand side, and Uruguayan midfielder Rodrigo Betancur is shining in midfield. On Monday night the teenager was in Turin undergoing a medical ahead of a proposed move to Juventus, underlying his progression. Influential midfielder Fernando Gago was recently tied-down to a new three-year contract which is great news for the club.

Although predicting what will happen in the crazy world of Argentine football is difficult, it looks likely that Boca will win the league without Carlos Tevez. The test will come next season if they have to tackle the Copa Libertadores without him. Saying that, who knows, Tevez himself may be back in the blue and gold of Boca by then to once again spearhead the team.

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