The world of football transfers is an awkward, murky business. But the deal involving Tevez and Mascherano to West Ham in 2006 is truly in a world of its own.
Why are Football Transfers so complicated?
In a word: money.
Anybody who’s played even a day’s worth of Football Manager will understand a little bit about what goes into a modern transfer in the game of world football.
If now, then I implore you to take a look at Daniel Geey’s book, ‘Done Deal: An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business’ as it’s the best authority on the subject than I’ve been able to find.
In it, Geey explores the fundamentals of a deal that we’d all expect.
Like a player’s transfer value, their wages and offerings for their representation.
However, when we peak beneath the surface (even a little bit), the issue generally lies beneath the big headline figure as reported by the news, and is found right in that awkward ‘so, which bank account should we use’ situation. A question Tevez and Mascherano’s representatives know well.
Nowadays, football associations have centred on a set of rules that prohibit illicit activity in the procurement of elite players from one club to the other, but there are always a few slippery buggers that slip through the cracks, but we’ll get to that …
The Early Rise of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano
Being the striker, Tevez tended to attract more attention at the time than Mascherano.
As documented in ‘Apache’ – the Netflix series dramatising his early life as a starlet in the Boca Juniors ranks, Carlos Tevez lived a troubled life before he showed an aptitude for the game and Boca were willing to offer up an opportunity for him to showcase his skill.
Soon enough, he became a little hero in the local barrio and was even listed as a potential heir to the great Diego Maradona after receiving the number 10 shirt aged just 20.
Thereafter, he signed a record-breaking deal with Corinthians in January 2005.
By contrast, Javier Mascherano’s arrival attracted little fanfare.
Though the $15 million required to obtain his services from River Plate didn’t go unnoticed, and the pair (as two relative ‘outsiders’ to the Brazilian club) struck up a quick kinship on the pitch.
Javier Mascherano was the brutish, battling midfielder in the heart of the action, while the tough, uncompromising Carlos Tevez ventured higher to finish off the move off.
Together, they won the Campeonato Brasileiro in 2005 – with injury mooting Mascherano’s involvement compared to Tevez who was named the league’s best player for that season (and the first ‘outsider’ to do so in just over 30 years).
Argentina at the FIFA World Cup 2006
For many reasons, this remains to be one of my favourite World Cups ever.
Partly because it’s the first one that I properly remember.
It was a tournament chocked full of incredible moments, capped off by ‘dark horses’ Italy taking home the gold in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal brewing closer to home.
That somewhat set the tone, with controversy never far from the headlines for this 2006 World Cup in Germany. Peter Crouch clasping Brent Sancho’s hair in the group was a starter, before the Battle of Nuremberg set in days later, and I don’t think we really need to talk about Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi any further, do we?
One moment that stands out is the technically outstanding goal scored by Esteban Cambiasso against Serbia & Montenegro for Argentina in the group stage. Who capped off a wonderful 54-second long move consisting of 25 patient, progressive passes to carve through the Eastern European back-line to hammer them into a 2-0 lead.
A beautiful, rhythmic reminder of what the Argentinians were truly capable of.
Better still, Javier Mascherano won the ball back to start that move.
And Carlos Tevez featured in that tournament with a goal of his own.
Tevez and Mascherano move to West Ham in 2006
Now, this is where it starts to get a bit complicated.
Firstly, the world couldn’t understand why Tevez and Mascherano chose them.
These two men were being courted by some of the biggest and most successful clubs in the world, including Manchester United, Liverpool – even Real Madrid.
And at the time, West Ham weren’t this olympic-sized institution with a forward-thinking mentality and a wandering eye on Europe every season. If anything, they were on borrowed time to remain in the Premier League at all!
But nevertheless, the world had to stand by in amazement as the unmistakable frames of Tevez and Mascherano stood beside a beaming Alan Pardew at Upton Park.
Who had apparently been given “assurances” that his West Ham United operators had done their ‘due diligence’ in procuring the mercurial Argentinians to East London.
But did either of them really understand the idea of ‘third-party ownership’?
What is Third-Party Ownership in Football?
In short, it’s a right bloody mess.
Because some associations don’t mind it, while others ban it.
Kind of like with the Bosman ruling. It’s a European ruling that seems to hit this grey area when other confederations get involved, and was apparently a big talking point when players like Ronaldinho were seen as traitors in their home club for making use of it.
I don’t think Tevez and Mascherano can be seen as a similar-level mercenary for turning their back on Corinthians though, as everybody seemed to be paid handsomely.
Corinthians were already in a deal with Media Sports Investment (MSI), whose money had been partly the reason why they could sign players like them in the first place.
Them, and another agency (Global Soccer Agencies) had soon worked their way into every contract pertaining to the services of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.
Meaning clubs would have to deal with them as well as the players themselves.
So, perhaps the aforementioned ‘bigger’ clubs like United and Madrid were turned off at the initial prospect of delving into these murkier waters just to sign one or more of these lads, but West Ham seemed to be caught unawares.
For now, they could just enjoy their shiny new asset in their bid to scathe off relegation for what was a pretty systematic Premier League battle for them around this period.
Their Troubled West Ham Journey
Carlos Tevez took a while to get going.
Though he would eventually come good.
In an eventual 4-3 loss to Tottenham Hotspur later on in the season, Tevez shone with a brilliant close-range free-kick and two assists to force the game to the wire.
That rather set the tone as even a managerial change with Alan Pardew swapping places with Charlton’s Alan Curbishley did little to curb his impact on the season, before defeating champions Manchester United on the final day to preserve their Premier League status.
Javier Mascherano however, didn’t really enjoy his time at West Ham – often declaring himself as “homesick” and relying on torrents of fan mail to make his way through the limited number of appearances he was able to muster during his tough time in London.
Tevez and Mascherano wouldn’t last at the club for very long.
Tevez would eventually move to Manchester United (in a move that didn’t end well for them either), while Mascherano would find solace at Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool team.
West Ham’s Court Battle with Sheffield United (2007)
With the writing on the wall, the issues became clear.
West Ham (knowingly or otherwise is immaterial) had controvened FIFA’s rules between their factions of allowing a third-party ownership transfer to move forward under a confederation which strictly forbade it from happening on their shores.
And with Tevez and Mascherano having differing effects on the club’s relegation battle, concerned clubs who did go down all of a sudden had something to say about it.
Sheffield United were about a day’s worth of work away from surviving themselves, and had won in their argument that their signings had tipped the scales out of their favour.
FIFA agreed with them and ordered West Ham to pay some damages.
So, in a deal where they thought they’d got a lucky break in signing two of Argentina’s brightest prospects for nominal fees in their bid to hurting some of the bigger boys, they wound up with egg on their face and a fine of unprecedented levels.
All in all, the Tevez and Mascherano saga cost West Ham around £5.5 million worth of damages to Sheffield United, which affected their forthcoming transfer activity.
Not exactly the second coming of Ardiles and Villa to Tottenham, was it?