A born winner he may be, but not even in his wildest dreams did Carlos Tevez imagine winning the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League titles in his first season with Manchester United. And yet Carlitos has done just that, taking his personal haul of silverware to 10 trophies. Not bad at all for a 24 year old.
And no sooner had United completed their win over the Londoners, the kid with the Midas touch made a remarkable admission. "When [John] Terry went up to take his penalty I was very calm inside," reveals the ice-cool Argentinian. "I just didn't feel that we were going to lose the game. I don't know why I was so confident, God maybe, but I honestly wasn't suffering. Did I look nervous?"
Day of redemption
One could be forgiven for thinking that the winning habit has changed Carlos Tevez. Yet he remains as approachable and easy-going as he has always been, although the trademark grin is just that little bit broader having helped see off Chelsea.
"It's a wonderful feeling to be champions of Europe with a big team like United. I knew we were the best side on the continent and we proved that today."
Changed days, then, from his arrival in the UK when he struggled to adapt to life with relegation-threatened West Ham United. Yet, despite talk of a return to Boca Juniors or a switch to La Liga in Spain, Carlos found his feet and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now a firm favourite with the Old Trafford faithful, the former
Boca star is habitually praised by United manager Sir Alex
Ferguson, who in the build-up to Wednesday's final even
compared him to Eric Cantona, perhaps the club's biggest idol
of the last two decades.
Rather than making him rest on his laurels, Ferguson's words provided further motivation. "The fact that a coach with his record speaks so highly of me is something that makes me very happy. I'm delighted to be working with him."
Football aside, Tevez is happy with life in a city that has welcomed him with open arms. "I've got a year left on my contract and the manager has said he's very happy with me so everything's just fine. I've settled down with my family here and my English is getting better too. I find it pretty easy to understand now although talking is a little bit harder. Even so, they still don't let me put any cumbia [Colombian dance music] on in the changing room," he adds with a chuckle.
Dreaming in Japanese
The penalty-shootout win means Tevez has become the first Argentinian player to win the Copa Libertadores, Toyota Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League. And he would like nothing more than to add the FIFA Club World Cup to his growing collection of international trophies. "It's something I'd love to do, particularly with Manchester United. They've given me so much since I came."
Come December there is every chance he could be facing his beloved Boca Juniors in Japan. Last night Los Xeneizes took another step towards making that dream meeting a reality when they beat Atlas 3-0 to advance to the semi-finals of the Libertadores.
"They're the team closest to my heart and it would be strange to play against them," comments a momentarily pensive Tevez. "But it would be great if they won the Libertadores and we got the chance to play them. I'd love to see them all in Japan," he adds, a wide smile returning to his face.
Savouring the moment
For now, though, it is time to share the moment with his nearest and dearest. "As soon as the game finished I started thinking about my uncle, who's not very well right now. Everything I have done at United has been for him and I'm saving this shirt for him too," says the front man, who also celebrated his team's triumph with his young daughter.
Naturally, there were plenty of well-wishers anxious to congratulate Tevez on his latest achievement. "My phone hasn't stopped ringing but I haven't picked it up yet because I wanted to celebrate this special moment with my team-mates. Things won't be changing much either. I'm going on holiday and the first thing I'll be doing is tossing the phone in the water!"
While that break may be well-earned, it could mean him missing out on Argentina's crunch FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 qualifying clash with Brazil in June. "I'm not sure but I don't think I'll be able to make it," he explains. "I think I need a break. We'll just wait and see."
The only thing on Carlitos' mind for the moment, however, is reflecting on United's epic win in Moscow and sharing his joy with his fellow countrymen, who would have been proud to see Tevez parading the trophy with an Albiceleste shirt and the national flag draped around his shoulders. "I've no idea where they appeared from," he admits. "It was great to have them there, though."