A lot has been said about Tevez recently, and although what he did (or refused to do) cannot be justified in any way, it seems to overshadow the fact that Tevez is a world class player. And there is plenty of evidence to prove this.
In the 2003 Copa Libertadores Final, after winning the first leg in the Bombonera 2-0, Boca were travelling to Brazil to play the Santos of Diego and Robinho, at the time considered the brightest players in the Brazilian league, and the match was to be played in one of the cathedrals of Brazilian football: The Morumbi.
This was a solid Boca team, all the way from the keeper up to the attack, were Tevez was the source of the inspiration, the magician. But he was also hard-working, the first defender when the team lost possession, a player who never dived or tried to get the opposition booked or sent off.
Santos went all out looking for the first goal that would settle their nerves. Boca defended well and whenever in possession Tevez would receive it, hold it up against central defenders twice his height and making the rest of the team play. He got kicked time and time again, but he would never fall, never complain. This guy is made out of much stronger stuff than most footballers nowadays. And after all the defensive hard work the team did for the first 25 minutes came the moment of brilliance, the game-changing moment: After a good run into the box, Battaglia and Tevez exchange 3 one touch passes between them to leave Tevez unmarked and hits a lovely shot into the bottom corner, impossible for the keeper to get to. There was still 70 minutes to play, but Tevez had just won Boca’s 3rd Libertadores in 4 years, and there was no way back for Santos. The Maracana was silent except for the 5,000 Xeneizes in a corner of the stadium.
After that, Diego and Robinho barely touched the ball. Santos needed 3 goals to go to penalties, and 4 to win it. They got one back through Alex, but were always going to be left exposed in the back thanks to Tevez and Delgado’s speed up front.
Our second goal was coming. After a good run back from Tevez to get the ball back, the ball fell to Delgado who was completely unmarked on the halfway line, and with the keeper rushing out to meet him 40 meters away from his line, Delgado hit it into an empty net. By then, the Boca bench had put on a shirt with a special message: “Keep Trying”, in clear reference to River Plate. And after Schiavi’s penalty to win the match 3-1, the Cup was back where it belonged after a one year absence in 2002. There were many important players during that tournament for Boca, but Tevez was the one that had something different, something he learned on the potreros, the pitches that he played in Fuerte Apache, that gave Boca the Cup.