Tevez and Mascherano: Chadwell Heath to Olympiastadion
It was nine years and a million miles from the Olympiastadion in Berlin, home of Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games and the site of the Champions League Final on June 6, 2015.
This was West Ham’s windswept training ground in Chadwell Heath, Essex, a scruffy suburb to the East of London hemmed by public housing and gridlocks of commuter traffic.
Hardly the glamorous introduction to Premier League football envisaged by two 22-year-olds from Argentina with a smattering of English between them.
They had flown into the excuse for an English summer a few days earlier from Brazilian side Corinthians with dreams of fame and fortune in Europe as something of a job lot. The Hammers had bought their contracts from a third party in what would turn out to be a controversial and ill-fated package deal.
But back in August, 2006, all Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano cared about was getting on the field at the Boleyn Ground and showing Hammers then manager Alan Pardew what they could do.
As it turned out, that was easier said than done.
Mascherano, in particular, struggled to overcome the language and cultural barriers. Remarkably, he spent six months on the bench of what appeared to be a relegation-doomed team, kept out of the starting eleven by the likes of Hayden Mullins, Lee Bowyer and Nigel Reo-Coker.
In true West Ham fashion, he was allowed to go on loan to Liverpool where he quickly settled in alongside Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso.
It wasn’t much easier for Tevez, but his bullish nature was more suited to a bottom of the table scrap and the season finished with him almost single-handedly saving the team from relegation, scoring three priceless goals as the Hammers won seven of their last nine games, including a 1-0 victory over Manchester United on the final day.
About this time, the murky deal that brought the two friends to West Ham became a little clearer. It emerged that their registrations were owned by two offshore companies represented by Iranian-born businessman Kia Joorabchian – a clear breach of Premier League rules that maintain clubs should have sole ownership of players’ contracts.
West Ham avoided having any points deducted to the fury of their relegated rivals but were fined (pounds) 5.5 million after pleading guilty at a 2007 tribunal to bending the rules.
It was probably worth the fine to West Ham to remain in the top flight, but they lost what turned out to be the biggest prizes.
As we now know, Tevez and Mascherano – now both 30 -went onto much bigger and better things.
Tevez took his rumbustious, exciting, controversial talent to the two Manchester clubs before reinvigorating the sleeping Old Lady of Juventus. He may drive managers and owners crazy but fans love his never-say-die spirit on the field.
If anything, Mascherano has been even more successful, even if he was a quieter force of nature. His successful Liverpool career was only a foretaste of his move back into defense for Barcelona, the greatest club team in the world, certainly at this moment, and possibly of all time. He also drove Argentina to the World Cup Final last summer while Tevez languished at home the victim of a feud with Messi or the coach or most likely both.
One thing is for certain; theirs will be one of the most watched personal contests once the whistle blows at the Olympiastadion.
In the moments before the game they may well take a look around the giant stadium that has seen so much history and consider the journey they have shared…all the way from the sweaty chaos of Sao Paolo to the concrete backwaters of English football to the very pinnacle of the game at the scene of Jesse Owens quadruple gold medal triumph that spat in the eye of everything Hitler believed in.
They've come a long way indeed, and it's fitting their paths will meet again on June 6.