Gary Neville and Kia Joorabchian have continued their fascinating back and forth following the former’s comments about Carlos Tevez’s commitment during his latter months at Manchester United.
Tevez spent two seasons at Man Utd and enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Old Trafford, winning back-to-back league titles and lifting the Champions League before sealing a controversial move to rivals Manchester City.
Earlier this week, Neville spoke out at the Argentine’s defection to their local rivals and accused the forward of ‘downing tools’ during his second season with the Red Devils, a view which brought an incensed response from the player’s agent, Joorabchian.
Sky Sports’ pundit Neville and Joorabchian have now engaged a passionate debate – eagerly watched by fellow pundit Jamie Carragher – in a bid to settle their differences, and we’ve brought you the full extract from a fascinating discussion.
You may want to stick the kettle on…
“I’m here because I feel that Gary said something a couple of days ago and I feel that he was absolutely wrong,” Joorabchian said on Sky Sports The Football Show. “I often let things go but I think that when you go after somebody and you’ve made a lot of wrong and incorrect statements, then by letting it go will not do the benefit to the public listening to fake information.
“Gary mentioned about Carlos down tooling and his professionalism and he also mentioned that there were problems in his second year about people talking in his ear. So generally I have three comments and three questions for Gary.
“In terms of the people who he claims were talking into his ear, I’d like to know who he thinks were talking into his ear and what he thinks they were saying in his ear because unless he was hacking them or taping him then it was impossible for him to know what they were apparently saying in his ear.
“And I’d like to know who those people are. Furthermore, I must apologise as I gave an incorrect stat in my previous interview, I said Gary played four times in that year, he actually played one time in Carlos’ first year because unfortunately Gary was injured.
“And he played ten minutes against Roma. When Gary made a comparison between year one and year two, Gary could not have known too much about year one because he played ten minutes that year, not four times as I incorrectly said.
“He was mostly on the treatment table and that’s the actual year he said good things about Carlos. And finally I think that Sir Alex Ferguson was one of the greatest managers of my time and irrespective of what side of the hairdryer you were on, you had nothing but respect for the man.
“The one thing that I think I learnt in my time about Sir Alex was that he had his finger to the pulse all the time and he was a strong coach, he knew what his players were doing in the training round, off the training ground, at home, on a week day.
“And by Gary making those comments about the second year he’s somewhat questioning whether Sir Alex had his finger to the pulse because Sir Alex picked Carlos 51 times during that season of 2008/09, 51 times. He picked Rooney 49 times, Berbatov 44 times and Gary himself only played 29 in that season.
“In those moments Carlos played 51 games, picked by Sir Alex, 15 goals, seven assists. Berbatov 14 goals, 11 assists and Rooney 20 goals and 13 assists.
“Sir Alex would not have picked someone 51 times a season if they were down tooling or being unprofessional unless Gary thinks Sir Alex took his eye off the ball.”
Gary Neville: “I’ll answer your questions one by one, Kia. The period from Christmas when it was quite obvious Man Utd weren’t going to exercise the option, there’s no doubt that Carlos, in those last few months of the season, became disinterested, distracted; he wasn’t the same around the training pitch. He went into more of a sulky mood because he was disappointed that the club weren’t signing him.”
The pair were interrupted by Jamie Carragher, who had settled in and helped himself to some popcorn as the debate continued.
“This is serious stuff and you’re messing around!” 😂
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 15, 2020
“Kia, you’ll know that Carlos definitely wasn’t the same player in the last four, five months of the season,” Neville continued. “I don’t know what stats you’re referring to there but I looked at the Premier League and Champions League stats of Carlos over the two seasons.
“I said a few days ago that Carlos was among the best front three that I’ve ever seen in the Premier League. In the last six months he only played 18 times in the Premier League, which is the same as the first six months in its entirety and he only scored five goals in his second season in the Premier League.
“Carlos’ performances in the second year dipped and the same in the Champions League; he scored a lot fewer goals. There were definitely other complications Carlos had in terms of the club not triggering his option – you’ve admitted that – and I saw Carlos in the last five months at the club. I was watching the boy.
“Carlos was a warrior on the football pitch. In the first 12 months at Man Utd, I’ve never seen anything more brilliant than him with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. But in the last four months, the drop in his manner and performances – maybe because he wasn’t being taken on by the club – was alarming.
“At that time there was no problem third-party ownership but I felt there was so much distraction, noise around the third-party ownership and how much they might make, these were things that were in Carlos’ ear all the time. And a lot of the appearance numbers you gave were as substitutes; he was definitely a different person in those last few months at the club. ‘Downed tools’ might be a bit crass but Carlos was distracted, different and nowhere near the level he’d been at in those last months. You must accept that?”
KJ: “Sir Alex said himself when he signed Carlos that Carlos was going to give him 15 goals every season. The club decided to sign Berbatov instead of signing Carlos that year; Carlos at the beginning was put to the side but as the season went on, Carlos was more involved. He played 12 times in the Champions League and the season before he played 12 times in the Champions League.
“At West Ham at the beginning under Alan [Pardew] he played on the wings but Sir Alex knew how to get the best out of every one of his players. I don’t think Carlos was distracted. Towards the end of the season, when he scored and ran over to the touchline with his hands at his ears, he wasn’t distracted, he was very focused. I think he was trying harder and harder to prove to Sir Alex that was going to be making a mistake by not signing him.
“When the deadline passed and Sir Alex didn’t sign him and we arrived in Rome for the Champions League final, I think that was the moment that broke Carlos’ back, being benched for the Champions League final. He came on as a sub and Man Utd ending up losing. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that for his entire second season, he downed tools and wasn’t professional.
“Carlos missed three games through injury; he hated the treatment table. He had massive fights with doctors. I can understand what you’re saying in terms of Carlos, maybe, was distracted in his mind because he wanted to stay and he hadn’t had his contract sorted out but that would go for any player. If Man Utd had exercised the option, there was nothing the third party owners could have done. The Premier League made very clear the third-party ownership had no say in Carlos’ future while he was a Man Utd player. It was Man Utd’s choice, not Carlos’ choice.”
GN: “You count 12 Champions League games but Carlos actually started four Champions League games that second season. He was one of the best players I ever played with so I’m not questioning Carlos’ talent but to only be starting four games in the Champions League in the second season – I think it was 18 out of 38 in the league – that’s less than 50 per cent of the games so Sir Alex wasn’t picking him. He had him on the bench quite a lot; from a stats point of view, that’s very different from starting games.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Carlos in the second season, through Berbatov, through the distraction of the option, there was so much pressure from the fans and the media honing in on the situation, it became too much for him and he was very different in his personality and around the club. He looked like he’d switched off. Maybe it was because he didn’t feel loved. Maybe ‘downed tools’ is the wrong expression but in the last few months, Carlos was nowhere near the same player. I was never questioning his talent.”
KJ: “You compared his year one against his year two. My question for you was how could you compare when you were not there in year one? You can’t be speaking from experience. And even when he was a substitute in some of the games, he still scored 15 goals for the club and in year one, 19 goals. He went and won the Premier League again with Man City. You made a strong remark about his professionalism but who was saying things in his ear to him?”
GN: “The first thing Kia, to suggest that I didn’t know what was going on in the Manchester United dressing room when I was in there every single day, I managed to go to every single game and I was in the dressing room before matches and was witnessing it first hand, probably more than I would if I was actually playing where I would be looking at it from my own performance.
“I was in the dressing room every single day with the players, the injured players still go into the dressing room every day, watch training, see the players, sit with the players so to suggest I couldn’t comment on what Carlos was like in year one when I watched every single game and was in the dressing room with him, I don’t think it’s correct.
“In terms of the people in his ear, it is an assumption that when someone is third party owned, I mean Carlos was owned by a company, he wasn’t owned by a football club, in fact I don’t even know who owned Carlos Tevez. However, if you’re owned by somebody else outside of the football club, they must be speaking to you about what is going on with your contract.
“I basically knew that the speculation around Carlos in that second year, when the Manchester City rumours started – that they were going to pay double what Manchester United were going to pay – those rumours were being fuelled all the time and my assumption is that will distract players and there’s no doubt people would have been speaking. For you to say you wouldn’t have been speaking to Carlos, you’re so close to him and you wouldn’t have been speaking to him about Manchester City’s interest.
“When did you first mention Manchester City’s interest to Carlos Tevez? Let’s be honest here, you would have mentioned it while he was still playing for Manchester United, you must’ve done. We know what goes on.”
KJ: “So when I said if you had bothered to call me, I would have filled you in and you would have had more information. When I mentioned you didn’t do your research, it is definitely in this case because the Premier League made it very clear after the West Ham incident that no ownership of Carlos whatsoever was allowed during the time he was playing at Man Utd. So the company that had the rights to Carlos’ playing contract had to give up all their rights in favour of an option and Man Utd were the only people who owned that option so during the two years, he had no third party ownership whatsoever. Man Utd had him on a two-year contract with an option to pay a further fee to keep him for another four to five years, he actually had a five-year option with them.
“So if you had called me, I would have explained it to you and you would have known that there was no third company owning him while he was at Man Utd. Yes, when the option expired, the rights would have gone to a third party, but until then, there was no third party.
“Second of all, if you are referring to me as the people who were talking in his ears, Manchester City’s takeover didn’t happen until the season when Berbatov signed for United in that famous moment when City signed Robinho. City had no interest in Carlos and had not spoken about Carlos because nobody knew about Carlos’ situation until almost May of the following year and Carlos was very determined at that point in time to stay at Man Utd so when you say people had spoken into his ears, no one had done it because we couldn’t even influence the situation even if we wanted to because Man Utd had the premier option on him.”
GN: “I’m aware of the option situation, however, with the economic rights of Carlos Tevez, the money was going to a third party and when Carlos Tevez went to Manchester City that third party…”
KJ: “The economic rights were given up when he signed for Man Utd. The deal was finished, there was no third party at that moment in time.”
GN: “But I’m talking about when Man Utd were going to trigger that option, the third party then resumed a level of control over Carlos because they were receiving the money from Manchester City. Who owned Carlos Tevez?”
KJ: “Let’s go backwards onto Liverpool. Liverpool had the exact same contract based on [Javier] Mascherano. There was a third party who owned him and when Mascherano signed for Liverpool, the third party gave up its right and Liverpool had a chance at any moment to exercise an option and that was that because they owned his rights and they could just extend that contract further for another four years.
“It’s exactly the same as if you, when you were a player, had signed a contract with another club and said six months before our contract expired, you had signed a contract with another club and you were going to move. In that moment, you have no decision once you’ve signed a new contract of where you’re going to go because you signed a contract to go there. Carlos had signed a contract to go to Man Utd and stay there permanently for two plus four years, which adds to six. He had no decision making in that.
“So when you are now trying to change the situation on third party ownership and take it down a different line, I’m trying to bring it back to the question you had raised about down-tooling and professionalism and not about the third party. If you want to have a debate about third party ownership, I’m happy to have a debate about it.”
GN: “I know why you’re taking it away from third party ownership because the moment that Manchester United didn’t trigger that option, the third party owners came back into play. Earlier, you said to me would Sir Alex Ferguson have taken his eye of the ball, why did he not trigger the option then if he thought Carlos Tevez was the right player for Manchester United?”
KJ: “Well exactly. At the end of the season, David Gill called me and said ‘we want to exercise the option on Carlos, we will be in touch’. When you guys were in South Africa that year for pre-season, both David Gill and Sir Alex made an interview about it. After the move of Berbatov became available, I think they needed to use the money for that particular transaction and they used that transaction rather than purchasing Carlos. In January he had the option and the moment Sir Alex wanted to sign Carlos was in May of that year.”
“Sir Alex said: ‘We want you to stay’ before the Champions League final. And then after the Champions League final, he called Carlos and said: ‘I don’t know where you are – Carlos had already been back in Argentina – but I’d really like you to stay and come back to United.’
“But the option had already expired at that moment in time and Carlos was already looking at other options because he was quite disappointed that during the two seasons, Sir Alex had not signed him.
“So at some point in time, Sir Alex had changed his mind in wanting to keep Carlos as he realised he was about to lose him. Maybe during the period of time they felt that because they had the option and had the chance to just a sign a paper and send it to the Premier League and sign Carlos for four years, they didn’t believe they had any urgency to do so.
“And maybe after the urgency had finished, they realised they were about to lose him and that was too late.
“I don’t think talking about professionalism and downing tools has anything to do with that.”
GN: “OK, I’m trying to connect the dots here – Man Utd signed Dimitar Berbatov at the start of the 2008-09 season. They beat Man City to the signature of Dimitar Berbatov and City were quite upset as they thought he was going to them.
“During that next season, Dimitar played some games, Carlos played a lot less and Man Utd decided not to trigger his option part of the way through that season, around Christmas or whenever it maybe.
“Am I right in saying the owners of Carlos Tevez made double the money by going to Man City rather than staying and triggering the option of staying at United and it was actually in the interests economically of the owners of Carlos for him actually to not sign that option and him not to have a good second season at the club.”
KJ: “The point you are referring to is about what the financial, economic rights of the player after United did not trigger his option and what you have to realise is a lot of players, when their contracts run down and go for free, they obviously demand more at that moment of time than they do when someone has to pay £100m or £80m for them.
“The point was, of course Man City were going to pay more for him than Man Utd, and so at that moment in time were Real Madrid and Barcelona, who had both made official offers for Carlos once his option had expired and the word had got out that his option had expired.
“But Carlos’s decision was that he was quite taken back by Man City’s at that moment approach, because Man City had come in with a lot of love for him and he had felt maybe towards the end of the contract in May he wanted to stay at United and United had not exercised that option and so it was time for him to move on because maybe Berbatov was the new darling of the club.
“But I don’t think the financial issue had anything to do as Carlos was not going to make any financial gain by signing for Man Utd or Man City, or Real Madrid.
“As you know, transfer fees stay with the clubs. Clubs and the ownership of those keep the transfer fees. If a player is sold out of Man Utd, he does not benefit financially, other than maybe renegotiating his playing contract and it gives him a chance to renegotiate his playing contract. He does not gain anything from the transfer.
“And at that moment in time, the owners of Carlos and Javier Mascherano actually had no say in where Carlos went, because in the end, Carlos decided where he went by himself.
“You know very well that Carlos is a very strong player, quite as strong as you, I think he would have had no problems in debating this with you all day long, and Carlos is a different kind of person.
“You have to remember that when Carlos was born, his father had been shot and killed pre him being born in Buenos Aires by drug dealers. He was born to a mother who was an addict, he was taken out of a hospital with first-degree burns by his aunt and her husband.
“Carlos is a guy that has lived right down at the bottom in the favelas and he has never forgotten during this Covid-19 scenario, he is on the front line of creating his foundation and donating lots and lots of his own personal wealth into that area and promoting that.
“He lives very close to the favela where he was brought up, his friends are still from there and he is not a guy that forgets that and he is not the sort of guy who someone can go up to and say: ‘Hey, you have to now go to Man City, now go to Real Madrid.’
“He was never like that throughout his career and now when he was at Juventus he played two years and then wanted to go back to his boyhood club, just the same like you guys, and again won another trophy. So he is not a guy that could be influenced in any way…”
"You can talk about Mane, Salah and Firmino, I love them to bits, plus Sterling, Aguero and Sane at City but you look at that front three of Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo at their peak, it was out of this world." pic.twitter.com/LC1zpRhXxv
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) May 13, 2020
GN: “Kia, I am fully aware of Carlos’s back story when he came to Manchester and, like I’ve said before, I was aware that he was a warrior of a football player.
“But I do believe that someone of Carlos’s background would also require financial and career support and influence around his business side of things, because that is natural and the same for all football players. We are not businessmen when we are playing football, we only think of playing football.
“And my view when you asked me who was influencing him, he was influenced, in my opinion, he must have been, by people who owned him because they were very good friends of his.
“And my point is the owners of Carlos Tevez, who had a very good relationship with him, so that Carlos could just play football and somebody who had an incredible will to play football, those owners made double the money out of Carlos Tevez going to Man City instead of staying at Man Utd.”
KJ: “The owners of Carlos Tevez were not good friends of his and they had no relation with Carlos Tevez. If you understand and want to talk about third-party ownership because you are now trying to move the scenario into a different spectrum, I do not have a problem with that – the way the third-party ownership works right across South America, and how it worked is clubs could potentially sell the potential revenue or gain of a player to third parties in order to raise capital to pay because they do not have the same the number of TV rights, the same number of sponsorship numbers etc and they need to create capital.
“The players don’t necessarily know who could potentially gain a percentage of their rights when they are sold. They do not actually even get involved in that, it is more club to financial scenarios. A lot happened here in the days when clubs needed to raise cash.”
GN: “Kia, me and you have done one incredible thing by the way – we have kept Carragher shut for 20 minutes. That is incredible!”