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Tevez wage cut comments met with anger, does not account for struggles of many South American players

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Burley: Footballers have become easy targets (2:14)

Craig Burley says the players have become scapegoats for the financial problems caused by the pandemic. (2:14)

"A footballer can live for six months or a year without getting paid," said Boca Juniors forward Carlos Tevez last week -- generating an angry reaction from many other Argentine players.

Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez dismissed Tevez's statement as "a lie." Veteran midfielder Nestor Ortigoza of Rosario Central called on Tevez "not to mess with the wallets of other people."

Tevez, of course, even at 36 years old, is on a far better contract than most, and earned plenty of money during his years in Europe, not to mention over $800,000 a week and $40 million a year in China with Shanghai Shenhua. As the coronavirus shutdown piled on the pressure for players to accept wage cuts, the response to the remarks of Tevez point to a universal truth: It is much easier to tighten the collective belt if everyone is wearing the same-sized trousers.

Even Diego Maradona, an old friend of Tevez, was forced to disagree. "True, there are players who can go a while without getting paid. But there are others who can't even go a month without receiving, and we have to make sure that these players are helped."

This is the first problem confronted by attempts in South America to reduce wages. Around the continent, even in first divisions, there are many players on comparatively low salaries, without a lot of fat to be cut.

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Then there is another problem entirely -- the historic mistrust that players justifiably feel toward the clubs.

Wages paid late or not at all are a worryingly common part of the South American game, and at one time or another the problem has provoked strikes in each country on the continent. There is a common question asked by a player thinking of joining a new club: Does the month have 30 days, or is it closer to 90? In other words, will I get paid on time?

Sergio Marchi, the head of Argentina's players' union, voiced concern that in their efforts to cut salaries, some clubs "are looking for excuses or mitigating circumstances to cover up bad management or mistakes made when drawing up the budget."

In an atmosphere of mistrust, it is hard to negotiate. But it is even harder to reach a satisfactory conclusion if there is no negotiation. In Bolivia, the football association and the club presidents have attempted to impose a solution on the players, proposing that 50 percent of the wages be paid for the month of March, and only 25 percent for April and May.

The captains of the 14 first-division clubs held a video conference and angrily rejected the plan. Their resolve is strengthened by the fact that some players, especially at Club Deportivo San Jose, have already gone a few months without being paid. The players' union will attempt to work out a deal -- but the climate for talks has been made more difficult by the high-handed manner in which the clubs have acted.

The voice of common sense is provided by ex-Bolivia international Julio Cesar Baldivieso, a fine attacking midfielder in his playing days and currently the coach of Bolivian side Club Aurora. "I don't believe it's good to take unilateral decisions," he says. "The directors have to sit down with the players and coaching staff to work out a good deal. Impositions don't work in football. Dialogue is the ideal.

"We have to get real and recognize that we are not a European country, where the players earn millions, and so cutting wages will have an effect. Bolivia is different. Few clubs pay well, and the majority of the players earn very little. A decent pair of boots cost $300. With a big salary cut, how is a player going to have an adequate diet, buy enough proteins to ensure a good performance? So it would be much better if the clubs and players could talk to try and work out an agreement."

One thing is for sure: This back and forth won't be ending any time soon.