I'm conscious of the fact that I've barely written anything about the captaincy situation so far this season. This is out of character - I've previously written about it, criticising Kolo Touré's performance of the role and advocating for his replacement by either Nigel de Jong or Vincent Kompany. I was surprised by the Tévez appointment, and didn't know what I thought at first. But the more I think, and the more I watch, the more I sympathise with it.
Initially I thought Tévez was poorly suited to the role. His lack of English, his erratic and bolshie behaviour might well have excluded him; how different to the loyal, honest Richard 'Boxer' Dunne. He's certainly not a conventional captain in the way that Vincent Kompany is: vocal, consistent, articulate in both English and French (thus allowing him to cover two of the squad's three major linguistic groupings). He would have been the natural pick, and Nigel de Jong would not have been too far behind. (Given that de Jong is one of the world's most infamous footballers after the World Cup the idea of him captaining one of the world's most hated football clubs - from a seige mentality, 'two fingers up' perspective does hold some attraction.)
But there are reasons to appoint a captain beyond merely the case of the player who best fits the checklist. One of the key facts of City in 2010 thus far has been just how dependent were are on Carlos Tévez. He's scored 20 in 27 games this calendar year, but even that stat feels like it undersells him. Just think of the games where we looked flat before he opened the scoring and turned the game. The 3-0 win at Molineux, where he scored twice, both goals in the League Cup semi against United at home, and the goal at Old Trafford that almost took it to injury time. At Stamford Bridge in February we were 1-0 down but out of it just before half time. But Tévez spun Terry, tore past Carvalho and drew us level. Or the Wigan game, where we played miserably and relied on a Tévez hat-trick within the last twenty minutes to win it for us. Then on Sunday, against Wigan again, it was his chip just before the break that allowed us to go in on a high, with the win in our nostrils. If you don't think that changed the game, compare the respective second halves of the Sunderland and Wigan games this year.
I think it's fair to say that no team in the Premier League is as carried by one individual as we are by Tévez. For Gerrard there is Torres. For Rooney there is Scholes and now Nani and Berbatov. But Tévez is the sole carrier of our torch, the only man capable of lifting a flat performance, of carving something out of nothing through his own bubbling blend of will and talent. At times last season he was not just our only competent finisher but also our only creative player, the only one who could create a chance - even if it he had to take it himself. With Robinho back at Santos and Ireland drifting out of favour he was certainly our most effective trequartista even if he lacked the chances to show this.
Carlos Tévez is the difference between a pedestrian, tidy but fairly inconsequential team and a very different outfit: with Tévez charging around up front we can beat almost anyone: we did the double over Chelsea last season, and he scored three of our six goals. If we are going to achieve anything, this year or in the next few years, he will be at the centre of it. And therefore Mancini is right to do everything possible to keep him interested and motivated. If giving him the captaincy is what is required to sustain and enhance his emotional involvement with the club, then it has to be the right decision.
Tévez needs to be as invested in the project as it is in him. If his time at Manchester United taught us anything, it is that he needs to feel like the most important man at the club, as if the whole enterprise rests on his shoulders. Now, this wasn't the case at Old Trafford. But, as it happens, it is at City. By giving him the armband Mancini is reminding Tévez that our stories, and our chances at glory, are intertwined. When Kolo Touré discussed losing the captaincy, he said the manager told him it was so Tévez would be 'more involved in the set up' - and made reference to Diego Maradona at Napoli. Just because a comparison is lazy doesn't mean it's irrelevant. As an unlikely captain himself Maradona led Napoli to the most successful spell in their history. He carried the team, the armband was a manifestation of that fact. If we ever win anything under Roberto Mancini, it will be thanks to Carlos Tévez. It is only right that it should be Tévez who would lift the trophy.