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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 April 2007, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano
The signings of Tevez and Mascherano shocked English football
The fortunes this season of Messrs Tevez and Mascherano have thrown some light on one of the oldest tensions in English football.

That is the conflict between, on one hand, the open minded and innovative, and on the other, the blinkered and conservative.

The tension was there in Alf Ramsey, who won the World Cup with a new 4-4-2 system, incorporating Brazilian-style attacking full backs and a near post cross move inspired by the Hungarians.

But he plunged the England team into one of its darkest decades when he came back from the 1970 World Cup to announce that we had nothing to learn from the Brazilians.

It was there again in 1978, when fresh from winning the World Cup with Argentina Osvaldo Ardiles landed at White Hart Lane.

The great and the good of English football, in their infinite smugness, lined up to say that he would be back home by Christmas.

Happily, Tottenham manager Keith Burkinshaw was a more enlightened soul.

Backed by the belief of his boss, Ardiles went on to grace the English game for a decade, giving a prolonged masterclass in shielding and moving the ball.

Nearly 30 years later two of his compatriots have shown to English crowds what was blindingly obvious to anyone who had watched them grow in South America.

Tevez his is not some newcomer, finding his way in professional football

Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez can really play. But proving their point has taken them longer than it might have done - a state of affairs for which, unfortunately, English coaches must surely take some of the blame.

After one of West Ham's recent victories the Argentine press reported a phone conversation that Tevez had with his old Boca Juniors team-mate Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Tevez was reported as saying that this season there have been times when his coaches have driven him crazy.

It is hardly surprising.

It took West Ham a long time - maybe too long for their Premiership survival - to discover something that had been apparent ever since the Copa Libertadores campaign of 2003 - that Tevez does his best work close to the opposing goal.

This is not some newcomer, finding his way in professional football, that we are talking about.

Tevez was chosen as South America's player of the year for 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The job of the coach is to get the best out of the talent at his disposal.

But with Tevez this did not happen for months.

He was always likely to have problems adapting to the speed and physicality of English football. But with better handling it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he could have been producing more earlier in the season.

The case of Javier Mascherano is even more damning. When he made his West Ham debut in September then-coach Alan Pardew described his display as 'accomplished' and added that he looked outstanding in training.

Liverpool fans would nod their heads in agreement.

They have quickly seen that Mascherano is a class act, a holding midfielder who not only wins the ball, but has the technical gifts and the understanding of the game needed to set attacks in motion.

Admittedly, after a while it seems clear that West Ham were not selecting Mascherano for reasons that had nothing to do with his performances.

But before that there were months when he was treated as a bit-part player, given the odd substitute appearance here and there.

Could they really afford to leave out a player of his quality? A glance at the table suggests otherwise.

The fact that it has taken a Spanish coach to rescue him re-enforces the point that this has not been English football's finest hour.


My question concerns this summer's Copa America, I'm going to be in Venezuela and want to go to a few games. I am assuming that, with the exception of the final and semis, it will be easy to purchase tickets on the door for games. Am I right? Also do you have any idea of prices?
Ralph Hannah

This is the first time the tournament has ever been staged in Venezuela, so we're all on new ground.

They are saying, though, that tickets will be available on the internet - the official site is

Stay patient - a man in a hurry in South America is always liable to be unhappy.

I have a question regarding Brazil as one of the biggest exporter of football talents. Why is it that Brazil is the biggest exporter of talented players, but when it comes to coaches they are not?
Brian Resida

This is something which irritates Brazilian coaches, who feel they should be given more opportunities with European clubs.

Perhaps the main reason is that in the eyes of Europeans Brazil's coaches have a credibility problem - when the Brazilian national team win, the credit goes to the talent of the players.

When they lose, the coach is blamed.

So the coaches are not given many chances to show what they can do. Perhaps that might start to change after the success that Scolari is having with Portugal.

But Vanderley Luxemburgo's spell with Real Madrid didn't do his colleagues too many favours.

OK, he had little time and no one has succeeded there recently.

But he was bragging to the Brazilian media that he was changing the entire tactical approach of Spanish football, right up to the moment when his team suffered that massacre at home to Barcelona.

With the game focusing more and more on fitness who could do you think is best equipped from South America to win a World Cup other than Brazil and Argentina if fitness comes into play especially against the more well drilled and organised European counterparts?
Trevino Alfonso

I think Colombia, for a number of reasons.

First, they've looked at the advantage in height and power that Brazil has over them at youth levels, so this is something they are working on.

Secondly, they have a relatively big population so they have more people to choose from.

And thirdly, because their tradition means that they produce players with talent - and for all the importance of fitness and athleticism, it will always be talent that tips the balance.

Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

Controversy on the road to 1,000
21 Mar 07 |  Americas


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