West Ham United launched a summer spending spree during the recent transfer window which garnered widespread media attention and hype among the expectant fanbase, but not one of their signings have shaken the footballing world to its core quite like the famous double deal they completed in 2006 to secure the signatures of both Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez.
The photograph which displays a delighted Alan Pardew stood in-between two fresh faced Argentinians is one of the most iconic images of the Premier League era. West Ham’s manager at the time looks like a proud father who has just watched both his sons sign professional contracts in the same day as if, somehow, he was solely responsible for their special talent.
The pride written all over Pardew’s face was certainly not misplaced: indeed, the Hammers had just secured the signatures of two players who had been widely tipped to reach the highest heights of European football. Football manager enthusiasts and avid watchers of South American football salivated at witnessing Mascherano and Tevez showcase their potential in the Premier League.
It was an incredibly groundbreaking deal which was aptly described as ‘the biggest transfer coup of the summer’ by the Daily Telegraph; make no mistake about it, this was a deal which shocked the footballing world to its core. Nobody saw it coming and yet, out of nowhere, the Irons had brought two of South America’s most promising youngsters to Upton Park.
But neither Tevez or Mascherano hit the ground running in English football in the manner which many had expected them to. Mascherano made just 3 Premier League starts for the Hammers before joining Liverpool in the January transfer window on a loan deal spanning nearly 18 months – by the end of his first season in England he was in Liverpool’s starting XI to face AC Milan in the final of the Champions League.
Whilst Mascherano was busy establishing himself as a first-team regular at Liverpool and highlighting Pardew’s failure to recognise his true potential, Tevez was intent on writing himself into West Ham folklore. The bullish centre-forward failed to score in his first 16 Premier League appearances, but his moment of relief arrived in April 2007 as he scored a direct free-kick and provided 2 assists during a cruel 4-3 home defeat against Tottenham Hotspur.
What happened next will remain in the hearts of the Hammers faithful for eternity. Tevez embarked on a goal-scoring spree which saw him net 7 goals in the final 10 games of the season as the club scrapped with Sheffield United to avoid relegation to the Championship.
The final day of the Premier League season arrived and West Ham travelled to Old Trafford to face a game worth millions of pounds as they flirted with the prospect of relegation. Amid extreme controversy relating to the legality behind Tevez’s transfer to West Ham and Kia Joorabchian’s reported third-party ownership of his client, the Argentine turned the media attention towards his performance on the field of play by netting the opening goal against Man United on the stroke of half-time.
United failed to reply in the second-half and West Ham secured three points whilst their closest relegation rivals Sheffield United suffered a 2-1 defeat against Wigan at Bramall Lane, and with that result Tevez had unquestionably scored one of the biggest goals in the club’s history. To this day the bitter rivalry between West Ham and Sheffield United over the Tevez deal continues to fizzle as one of the most intense, unique and recent rivalries in English football.
Mascherano has gone on to lift 2 Champions League trophies with Barcelona, 5 La Liga titles and 5 Copa del Reys, making 333 appearances for the Catalan giants in the process whilst pivoting in a midfield anchor role and marshalling the defensive unit from centre-back.
Meanwhile, Tevez continued to establish himself as one of the most controversial figures in Premier League history by completing a switch from Manchester United to Manchester City in 2009 – a deal which was greeted with another iconic image: this time a blue banner scattered across the northern powerhouse detailed a picture of Tevez wheeling away in celebration along with the deliberately antagonistic phrase ‘welcome to Manchester’.
Not only did the Argentinian pair shock the world with their initial decision to move to east London, their abject opening to life in English football, legal issues related to Joorabchian’s ownership of the players, season-defining goals, controversial transfers and above all, the enormity of the success they have respectively achieved have, with the benefit of hindsight, made West Ham’s deal arguably the most dramatic in the history of the Premier League.
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