Manchester City have no shortage of club legends: Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell and many, many more. Whether it be leadership, goalscoring ability or incredible skill, the reasons for them being heralded as club greats are obvious.

On Saturday, a former City hero announced his retirement from football at the age of 38, bringing an end to a glittering 20-year career. Carlos Tevez will likely never be regarded as a City legend; there will be no statue erected outside the Etihad Stadium or a mosaic unveiled at the City Football Academy. Arguably though, he is one of the most important signings in City’s history.

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It just didn’t seem real when on July 13, 2009, City announced that they had agreed a deal to sign Tevez. Just a year into the Sheikh Mansour era, City were looking to make the jump from mid-table to the Champions League places, and that required top-quality players.

City fans had enjoyed the flair and inventiveness of Robinho the season before – the statement signing that heralded the dawn of a new era for the Blues – and in 2009 the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz were recruited to add firepower to the squad. But Tevez was a level above, and then some.

Even if had Tevez never kicked a ball for City, the act of signing him would have still been a hugely symbolic moment in City’s rise to dominance. The Argentinian striker had just finished a two-year loan spell at Manchester United, and when he rejected an offer to make his stay permanent, City swooped in.

City didn’t technically buy Tevez from United – the player’s advisors owned his economic rights – but it felt like City had got one over their neighbours. After years of being looked down upon with a mix of pity and scorn, an elite player was leaving United for City. That just didn’t happen.

The ‘Welcome to Manchester’ billboard at the bottom of Deansgate is the stuff of legend, another statement that the ‘noisy neighbours’ were here to stay.

On the pitch Tevez was incredible. He resembled a guard dog let off its lead, all barking and running and relentlessly doing everything at 100mph. If he wasn’t chasing down defenders, salivating at the prospect of nicking the ball from them, he was on the ball himself, making the most of his short and stocky stature to muscle his way through gaps that didn’t exist. He was quick, strong and deadly from any range, a true nightmare for any defender.

Over 148 appearances for City in all competitions Tevez scored 73 goals and assisted 35 more. Many of those 73 strikes were stunning.

There were the rockets against Chelsea in 2009/10 and 2010/11, the brilliant jinking run and finish against Wigan and the unforgettable free-kick against Stoke. The goals against United in the League Cup semi-final – City’s first cup semi-final in decades – showed a pure striking instinct that City had previously lacked, while the celebration, cupping his ears in front of Sir Alex Ferguson, was the first real sighting of Tevez the wind-up merchant.

Tevez will likely not be regarded as a legend at any of his European clubs – West Ham, United, City and Juventus – largely because of the manner of his exits. While he left City on good terms in 2013 after four years at the club, the falling out with Roberto Mancini that saw him go AWOL for a large chunk of the 2011/12 title-winning campaign left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths.

Yet when he scored a stunning hat-trick at Norwich a few weeks after returning from Argentina, celebrating with a cheeky golf swing, it was hard not to fall right back in love with him.

Tevez was a brilliant player, something City have had no shortage of, but he symbolises the start of a new era and a changing of City’s identity. By signing Tevez, City were able to start competing at the top and feeling like they actually belonged there. For that, El Apache deserves to be recognised.

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