Last updated : 30 August 2004 By editor

From The Times:

'The 20-year-old who led Argentina to the Olympic title and has been compared to Maradona

Carlos Tevez maybe just 20 years old but he is already battle-scarred and hardened, boasting a broken tooth and a deep scar that winds its way from just below his right ear to the top of his chest. Given that he grew up in the notorious Buenos Aires slum known as "Fort Apache" he can probably consider himself lucky that his lesions are only skin-deep.

He has been making headlines from the age of 8, when All Boys, his local club, signed him up to play in their under-12 side — despite the fact that he was 4ft 6in at the time. Boca Juniors, the club that gave Maradona his debut, signed Tevez as a 12-year-old, beating River Plate for his signature in a saga that drew only slightly less coverage in Argentina than Wayne Rooney attracted here last week.

He has already led Boca to the title and the Copa Libertadores, a feat that won him the South American player of the year award last season. He also won the South American under-20 title with Argentina and was an integral part of the side that lost the Copa America final to Brazil on penalties in July. That day he wept as he left the pitch but, on Saturday, he got some degree of compensation, scoring the goal in a 1-0 victory over Paraguay to lead Argentina to the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Athens. To say that he dominated the tournament is an understatement. Argentina won every game they played, scoring 17 goals and conceding none. Tevez hit the back of the net eight times in five matches. "We knew he was good, we watched him on video plenty of times," Daniele Bonera, the Italy defender and a victim of Tevez in the semi-final, said. "But when you step on the pitch with him, it’s a whole different matter. Pace, strength, movement, technique — he has it all. It’s uncanny. It’s like there’s someone controlling him on the PlayStation."

Perhaps the most incongruous thing is his appearance. Part of the reason he is compared to Maradona is that he has a similar short, stocky build. Yet the strange thing is that his wide rear end, barrel chest and hint of a paunch make him look like Maradona in his midthirties, not Maradona when he was the same age. It is rare to see any professional athlete, let alone one of the best footballers in the world, with that sort of physique.

And yet Tevez can make his body do prodigious things, whether it is lifting his hefty 5ft 8in, 11st 11lb frame past towering defenders to win a header or accelerating into space and leaving opponents in his wake.

The most refreshing fact is that Tevez appears to be distinctly down to earth. When he signed his professional contract with Boca, he was asked if he wanted any bonuses or extras. He requested that the club rent a house for him and his family, not too far from where he grew up. Despite being a millionaire several times over, he still lives there with his mother, father and four younger siblings. His bedroom looks like that of any teenage football fan.

The walls are plastered with posters of Maradona and Ronaldo, while one of his prized possessions, David Beckham’s Manchester United jersey obtained when Boca played United in a friendly match two years ago, hangs above his bed.'