The Xeneize hope a Chinese import – their former star forward – will fill void left by injuries to Benedetto and Bou, ahead of a challenging second half of the season. But the well-paid star, despite Angelici’s hopes, may not come cheap.
Just a few short weeks ago, Boca Juniors’ position at the top of the Superliga looked all but impregnable following their victory in the Superclásico. But that win over River Plate was followed by two straight defeats for the Xeneize, which has thrown the race wide open. Still, Boca may just have a secret weapon lined up for after the summer break – a Chinese import by the name of Carlos Tevez.
It had appeared that the forward’s much-discussed return to Argentina after just a year with Shanghai Shenhua might be an unnecessary luxury. Darío Benedetto looked unstoppable in front of goal and off the back of the centreforward’s goals Boca had racked up eight successive wins from the start of the season. A 2-1 defeat at home to Racing Club, however, was accompanied by even worse news: a cruciate ligament tear for Benedetto, who is expected to miss up to six months of action and whose World Cup hopes may now have been ended in the worst manner imaginable.
A subsequent injury to Walter Bou left Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s men further depleted up front, although youngster Guido Vadalá filled in admirably at the weekend as bottom-placed Arsenal were unsurprisingly dispatched at the Bombonera. Ironically, Boca’s closest challengers have a man who would be a tailormade replacement. Nicolás Blandi joined San Lorenzo in 2014 from his boyhood club and has now netted six this season, a record which has helped the Bajo Flores club draw level at the summit, albeit having played one more game than their rivals.
There is no doubt that welcoming back a forward like Tevez would give Boca a timely offensive boost in the new year, especially considering that the club will be fighting on two fronts in 2018 due to their participation in the Copa Libertadores. What, then, would Tevez be gaining from the deal? It would be a much-needed return to his old stamping-ground after a season that, while financially beneficial (Tevez is one of the highest-earning players in the world at Shenhua) has been a sporting disaster. The former Argentina international scored a paltry four goals in 19 games in China, and his perceived lack of commitment and professionalism has left a negative impression on the fans of the Asian giant club.
This Sunday the striker was warned by his exasperated employers that he must report back to training on December 26 after the Christmas break – leaving plenty of time for Boca president Daniel Angelici to convince the prodigal son that one year in China is enough.
“I met with Carlos in China, but we did not see much of each other because he had to travel for family reasons to Argentina, but the plan was to come back together,” Angelici explained to reporters. “He is still under contract with the Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, he has a release clause, and negotiations will therefore take their time. Tevez knows that he has the doors open at Boca because it is his home but we understand that we must respect the Chinese club, because they made a big investment in the player.”
The clause in question is a release, estimated to be set at US$6 million, that Boca would have to pay in order to free Tevez from the last year of his Shenhua contract. The Xeneize are determined not to put up money for their returning star, but rather come to an amicable agreement that would cut short his Chinese nightmare.
Tevez indeed holds one valuable card in negotiations: an astronomical annual salary of US$40 million, a sum that Shenhua would be loathe to pay if a repeat of 2017’s awful performance is on the cards. That leverage, plus the fact that Tevez is owed money by his club and could potentially relinquish that claim in return for a free transfer back to Argentina, could prove decisive when Angelici and his Chinese counterparts discuss a deal.
Will Tevez complete another homecoming? And if so, will Boca fans be receiving the star player of 2016 or a pale shadow of their idol? Those questions will be answered in time, but there is no doubt that inside the Bombonera Carlitos’ return is the main priority for what will be a crucial transfer window for the club.