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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

CarlosTevez (left) and Javier Mascherano
Tevez and Mascherano joined West Ham at the end of August

However troubled times may be at West Ham, the duo of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano are entitled to a sigh of relief.

Tevez told the Argentine press that he is enjoying the fact that he can wander round London unhassled, and that he no longer needs a car with special reinforced glass.

He could not be carefree if he was still with Corinthians, the Brazilian club he and Mascherano were with before they made the move.

'Too big to go down' is a dangerous phrase in football. But it should be true in the case of Corinthians. Not just because the club can boast some 25m supporters. But also because the partnership with the controversial MSI company gives it far deeper pockets than the competition.

Corinthians outlay on players' salaries is reportedly three times bigger than the amount spent by Internacional, the Brazilian club who recently won the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League.

Yet with just eight rounds remaining in the Brazilian Championship, Corinthians find themselves in the relegation zone.

How can so much money be spent to so little effect? After all, last year they managed to win the title.

There has always been the feeling, though, that MSI were more interested in buying and selling players than in genuinely building a team.

The company and the club administration have more often than not been at loggerheads, and coach after coach has been fired or forced to resign. In other words, the set-up has been a disaster.

Tevez (l) in action for Corinthians in the defeat by River Plate in May
Tevez (l) in action for Corinthians in the crucial defeat by River Plate

The wheels really started coming off when they were knocked out of the Libertadores by Argentina's River Plate at the start of May.

It was a defeat with terrible consequences. It sparked a riot by their own fans, put a halt to the idea of raising the club's worldwide profile and made the sale of Tevez inevitable.

It also came after just three rounds of the domestic championship. Before the blow could be assimilated Tevez was gone, strike partner Nilmar suffered a long-term injury and the team were at the wrong end of the table.

When a big club finds itself in trouble the pressure can be unbearable - especially so at Corinthians, where the supporters have a tradition of attacking teams which underperform.

The current side are showing the classic signs of a lack of confidence. They keep inventing newer and more ridiculous ways to help the ball into their own net.

They plunged to a new low in the first half of Sunday's visit to the Maracanã to take on Flamengo. I cannot recall the last time I saw a team so slow in the zone of transition.

It was as if the strikers had come to Rio but the rest of the side had stayed in São Paulo. Terrified to make a mistake, they made the biggest mistake of all - they hid from the game.

Two goals down at the interval, as they walked off the pitch they were reminded by their travelling supporters that "you have to be a man to wear the shirt of the Timão" - the big team, the club's nickname.

These last eight games will be a test of how big the players really are.

Against Flamengo they improved in the second half, but still lost 3-0.

After the game coach Emerson Leão paid tribute to the fans' performance.

But their passion comes with a capacity for explosive violence that Tevez and Mascherano are very unlikely to encounter at Upton Park.

  • Tim Vickery takes part in Up All Night's World Football phone-in every Saturday morning at 0230 BST on BBC Radio Five Live

    West Ham sign Tevez & Mascherano
    31 Aug 06 |  West Ham Utd
    Passarella paying the penalty
    09 May 05 |  World Football
    The Argentine connection
    07 Mar 05 |  World Football
    Tevez - an Argentine in Brazil
    06 Dec 04 |  World Football
    Search for more Vickery columns
    12 Jul 05 |  World Football


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