Adored on the terraces in S?o Paulo, 22-year-old Carlito Tevez is the first foreigner ever to win Brazil's player of the year.

The fact that he hails from Brazil's fiercest rivals has not proved a barrier to fans of Corinthians accepting him as one of their own.

In January 2004, the Iranian-born Kia Joorabchian, Brazil's version of Roman Abromavich, shocked the Brazilian football world by smashing the transfer record, paying $20 million to bring Tevez from Boca Juniors to S?o Paulo's best-supported club.

It was a striking move - Brazilian fans are well used to seeing all their best players sold overseas, but to bring in a star from abroad was something new.

In his first season Tevez won the Brazilian championship with Corinthians. He was top scorer and won plaudits in all quarters - even being praised by Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - an ardent Corinthians fan - for bringing a new thaw in relations with Argentina.

And the football world has sat up and taken note.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was in Brazil in May at the Corinthians match with River Plate, raising speculation that Carlito will move to England after the World Cup. Milan are also chasing his signature. 

Affection

"Chelsea have an intention to contract me," admitted Tevez. "There is a reason they have come to see me play. But it is very difficult to leave Corinthians. They have a great affection for me and my family," he says.

Tevez has fans all the way up to
the Brazilian presidency

The club have reportedly tabled an offer of $37 million.

They better cash in quick – Tevez has already said he plans to retire at the grand old age of 28 to spend time with his family.

Persistant, aggressive, short and stocky, Tevez has lit up the Brazilian championship. He wears his hair in plaids and dances ´cumbia´ when he scores a goal - the music of the Buenos Aires favelas.

He has even released a predictably awful CD.

Tevez, 22, comes from a similar poor background to Argentinean legend, Diego Maradona. He grew up in Fuerte Apache, a favela, or slum, in the northeast of the capital Buenos Aires. It's a violent neighbourhood where his best friend, Dano Caba?as, was murdered aged 17.

By that age Tevez was already playing for the Argentina in the youth World Cup and under the guiding hand of Roman Maddoni, a man he calls "a second father" and who brought him to Maradona's former club, Boca Juniors.

In 2004, Carlitos scored eight goals to win the Olympic gold in 2004 for Argentina.

Celebrations

The same year, he led Boca Juniors to victory in the Libertadores, scoring the winner in the final at home and sparking great celebrations in the heart of La Boca, the rough-tough working class 'barrio' in the capital, Buenos Aires.

Argentinian fans have high hopes
Tevez will help win the Cup

Cementing his status as a legend at the tender age of 21, he capped it off in his final game for the club with victory in the World Club championships in Tokyo – a competition valued far more highly on the South American continent than in Europe.

He won a place in the senior Argentina squad - alongside his boyhood hero, Juan Roman Riquelme – and arrived at Corinthians in January 2005.

Argentinan manager Jose Pekerman, a triple-World Cup winner at youth level with the national team, knows Tevez well, although his place in the side is not guaranteed as the coach is still tinkering with his best 11.

Argentina have been World Champions twice, at home in 1978 and 1986 in Mexico.

Both victories were marked by controversy – the first was a coup for the then hardline dictatorship in Argentina and is remembered for one dubious match when Argentina, needing to win by four goals to progress at the expense of Brazil, ran out 6:1 winners against a Paraguay team many believed were either paid off or threatened.

The second, of course, was Diego Maradona's cup - from the infamous 'hand of god' goal, to the greatest goal of all-time, both in the same quarter final match against England.

Diego himself has already annointed his successor, naming 18-year-old Lionel Messi of Barcelona as worthy of the title of 'the new Maradona'. But Tevez has the capacity to out-shine his compatriot.

After a disasterous campaign in 2002 when the team went out in the first round, this time Argentina expects much of Tevez.