De Jong: Tevez will be welcomed by all

Nigel de Jong claims all of Manchester City’s players are ready to welcome Carlos Tevez back into the team.

The controversial Argentina striker has not played for City for six months, due to his infamous dispute with the club, but he could be in contention to return next week.

The 28-year-old has been training for the past month with a view to a first-team comeback and manager Roberto Mancini has said he is close to match fitness.

Tevez could now be back in a City shirt in next Wednesday’s Barclays Premier League clash against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium and De Jong believes he could have a key role to play.

The Holland international said: "Everybody is keen. He is still a player for Manchester City, we never doubted that.

"Of course he had some difficulties with the club but he is here now and we like to look to the future instead of the past.

"Nobody ever doubted his qualities. It was just the fact of him having some difficulties with the club.

"In the group, and as a player, he never changed. I think the qualities he had are an asset for any team, and also us at this stage."

Tevez’s return could give City a timely lift in their title challenge after surrendering top spot to arch-rivals Manchester United last weekend.

City, who had led the table since October, now trail United by a point with 10 games remaining following a 1-0 loss at Swansea on Sunday.

It has been suggested bringing Tevez back could unsettle forwards Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli – who have scored 53 goals between them in all competitions – but De Jong does not see it that way.

The 27-year-old said: "It is not about being fair – everybody knows the history that he had with the club.

"For us the main goal is to win the Premier League, nobody can distract us.

"If that means Carlos has to be part of it, for the last few games of the season, so be it.

"It doesn’t change the fact that all the strikers in the squad are important.

"I think it is just a big help towards the end of the season."

Tevez has played twice for the reserves since returning from his unauthorised leave in Argentina and is now back in full training with the first team.

He participated in Wednesday’s session ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon – even though he is ineligible to play – and did so in a blue and white City hat.

Asked about the possibility he could play against Chelsea, Mancini said: "We will see in the next week. It depends on Carlo.

"If Carlo is okay then probably, but it depends on a lot of things."