Ahead of the second leg of Juventus’ Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid, Michael Lintorn argues that this has been their leading striker Carlos Tevez’s best ever season, or at the very least his finest since moving to Europe in 2006. Here’s why…
The goals keep flowing
Though Tevez’s career goal-per-game rate isn’t far off the widely accepted one-in-two mark, there is a perception that he has never been quite prolific enough to confirm uncontested membership to the world-class bracket. He has completed just three 20-goal league campaigns and never claimed outright ownership of a league top-scorer prize.
The Argentine’s 20 strikes this term in Serie A – the self-styled toughest league for forwards – are on course to change that. His all-competition total of 29 is already his joint-best since leaving South America with a minimum of five more matches to play, and is two shy of his all-time high of 31 for Corinthians in 2005 (achieved in eight more appearances than he has made to date in 2014/15).
Mastering the Champions League
It seems like an odd thing to say about a player who lifted the trophy in his first season, but Tevez has rarely brought his top form to the Champions League. He only contributed four goals to Manchester United’s 2007/08 triumph – none in the semi-finals or final – and that total fell to two in 2008/09, both at home in 2-2 draws with inferior opposition. Even worse was to come though…
The 31-year-old’s controversial switch to Manchester City in 2009 meant sitting two years out of the competition and he seemed to lose the little nous that he had learned in that time. He didn’t score in seven 2010/11 Europa League outings or six Champions League fixtures across 2011/12 and 2012/13 and carried that baggage to Turin, starting all six group games last term without firing.
Mercifully, that horror run is now over. A brace against Malmo in a 2-0 victory last September ended a 14-game, five-year-plus wait for a Champions League goal and he has notched seven times in 11 showings in 2014/15 – more than in his five prior campaigns combined. They certainly weren’t all against Malmo-level opponents either: four of those have arrived in the Old Lady’s five knockout ties to date, and he is [4.3] to grab at least one more at the Bernabeu.
A growing trophy cabinet
Tevez’s most successful season was 2007/08, when he snapped up both the Premier League and Champions League for Man United, yet he hasn’t been had much to shine since, with the past five years providing a mere three major honours. It is possible that he will match that tally in 2014/15.
Juventus had Serie A sewn up by May 2, the earliest of our protagonist’s five European title wins, they are [1.46] to overcome Lazio to regain the Coppa Italia and [6.8] to outlast Real Madrid and Barcelona to bring the Champions League back to Italy.