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15 Dec 2010

Despite his dramatic transfer request, I am told Carlos Tevez plans to report for duty at Manchester City's Carrington training ground on Tuesday afternoon following a four-day break in Tenerife.

And I understand that, after undergoing a minor eye operation in Italy before the Europa League match against Juventus on Thursday, City manager Roberto Mancini will hold talks with his captain in a bid to persuade him to stay.

But should the attempt fail, the dispute between player and club will then intensify.

On Monday, BBC Sport broke the news that City are not prepared to grant Tevez his wish of leaving Eastlands in January and are bracing themselves for legal action against the striker's adviser, Kia Joorabchian, if the Argentine refuses to play or retires.

The development was proof that this latest football saga is not just about Tevez's genuine heartache at being thousands of miles away from his daughters, who live in Buenos Aires with his estranged wife Vanessa.

The bigger picture is a developing power struggle between Joorabchian and City's board, especially chief executive Garry Cook. Two-and-a-half years ago, their relationship was healthy and mutually beneficial. Now it is deteriorating drastically, with the pair said to be communicating solely via email.

Having done business with Cook when he was a Nike executive in Brazil, Joorabchian, an ex-director at Sao Paolo giants Corinthians, recommended the Englishman to City's then owner Thaksin Shinawatra, who appointed Cook as chief executive in May 2008. In return, Joorabchian played a significant role as City went about their spending spree.

After brokering the £18m deal transfer of Jo from CSKA Moscow to City in 2008, Joorabchian continued to exert significant influence at Eastlands following the takeover of the club by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in August 2008.

Joorabchian was reportedly involved in the first mega-signing by the new owners - the £32.5m purchase of Robinho from Real Madrid - and was alongside Cook when City officials met AC Milan representatives last year with a view to luring Kaka to Manchester.

In July 2009, City paid Tevez's representatives, including Joorabchian, who owned the player's economic rights, £25.5m to secure his services after his decision to leave arch rivals Manchester United.

However, over the last two seasons, encouraged by City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and with Uefa's "financial fair play" rules looming into view, the club have made a concerted effort, led by City's football adminstrator Brian Marwood, to reduce the amount of money paid to agents and 'advisers' like Joorabchian.

This has paid off, with City halving their annual outlay on fees from £12.8m to just under £6m, although one well-placed City source suggested that Joorabchian resents the resultant loss of power, influence and earnings.

The club has compiled e-mail evidence which they believe proves that Joorabchian asked for a contract extension for Tevez earlier this season, contradicting the player's statement that he "could have signed an improved contract, offered by the club this season". They also point to Tevez's purchase of a second home in Manchester as evidence that the player is not necessarily intent on leaving the area and that other forces may be at play, namely Joorabchian's desire to engineer another big-money move. Joorabchian, they point out, also advises Mark Hughes, who was sacked by City last season.

City are upset by what the official described as "contradictory messages" coming from the Tevez camp. First, the striker was homesick and unhappy with Mancini. Then he had no personal gripe with the manager, blaming instead a rift with senior executives, a claim described as "ludicrous and nonsensical" by a City insider.

On Sunday, City went public, stressing in a statement that they were "particularly disappointed" by Joorabchian's role in the Tevez affair. Tevez said he "hugely resented" the suggestion he had been unduly influenced but there is a feeling at City that it is Joorabchian, more than Tevez, who is the problem.

Some may understandably ask precisely what City expected when they signed the Argentinian given Joorabchian and Tevez are no strangers to controversy. They first teamed up after the businessman's MSI company bought Corinthians in 2004 and secured the economic rights to the striker.

Two years later, Tevez was sold to West Ham and helped them stay in the Premier League, although the club were subsequently fined £5.5m for breaking rules on third-party agreements regarding player transfers and sued by relegated Sheffield United.

Tevez then joined Manchester United only to leave after a successful two-year 'loan spell' and despite the offer of a lucrative five-year contract and a £25.5m fee. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson hinted that Joorabchian's role in the player's contract negotiations had proved an obstacle to striking a deal.

Having been forced to sell Robinho to AC Milan this summer for half of what they paid for the Brazilian, City are in no mood to roll over again. The club are prepared to sell Tevez in the summer, on their terms, but not in January.

If Tevez is as unhappy about staying in Manchester as his associates suggest and refuses to play or retires, the club say they will sue for breach of contract, seeking tens of millions of pounds in compensation from Joorabchian himself. Given Tevez has three-and-a-half years left to run on a five-year contract worth around £10m a year, that could amount to a claim of around £35m.

A loan deal similar to the one agreed with Santos for Robinho is still possible as a compromise, but Dr Gregory Ioannadis, a lecturer in sports law at Buckingham University, fears the Tevez camp could ultimately win the day.

"If Tevez refuses to play or quits, breaching his contract, then that contract is rendered void and, because of the Bosman Rule, Tevez could then go and play for whoever he wants," said Ioannadis.

"It would then be normal for that club to pay the compensation. Ultimately the power lies with the player so clubs therefore are best advised to sell as soon as possible. The player's value will only decrease if he just sits in the stands.

"City could claim for compensation - and seem prepared to do so - but Fifa are unlikely to award the City the amount they would want. I would expect City to have to seek recourse at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. I still believe the most likely outcome is that Tevez will be sold in January."

Sources close to Joorabchian say he remains friends with City's owners but that he feels he has been "betrayed" by Cook, blaming him for the dispute over Tevez escalating. They point to the unhappiness of other key members of City's squad as proof that Tevez is not alone in the way he feels about his chief executive.

They also insist that Cook has gone back on certain commitments made to Tevez when he signed. The Tevez camp believe City are bluffing over their refusal to sell next month and are simply playing hardball in an attempt to keep any transfer value as high as possible. Tevez, they say, simply hates life in Manchester and is intent on living somewhere where his ex-partner will be prepared to base herself and give him access to his children. Namely Spain.

Two months ago, Mancini was asked whether he would be interested in signing Wayne Rooney after the United striker refused to sign a new contract at Old Trafford. The Italian's prediction that United would bow to the player's demands and that Rooney would stay proved accurate. At the time, Sir Alex bemoaned the role of Rooney's agent Paul Stretford. Mancini would be forgiven for feeling the same about Joorabchian.

City may rely on Tevez even more that United do on Rooney. The difference between the two clubs is that City may make a stand.


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