Robinho completed a surprise move to Manchester City on the last day of the summer transfer window and many will be eagerly waiting to see how he performs at a club that is on the rise rather than part of the established elite. Lucas Brown had a look back at how the mercurial Brazilian ended up at Eastlands...
The transfer to Manchester City may be more about money at this stage than football ambition, but if the 24-year-old, who was billed as the Pelé during his early days in Brazil, can finally earn the respect that he craves and his talent deserves then it could be a perfect match. Finances may no longer be an object to Citizens after their Middle East takeover, but they will want something back for their outlay and the kid from Santos will have to perform as well as, if not even better, than he did at his best in Spain.
Despite only having played at the highest level for six seasons, Robinho is something of a veteran of everything that football can throw at a player both on and off the pitch. Despite being hailed as the next best player to come out of a country that has a conveyor belt of stars that are tipped to be the next best thing on annual basis, the forward was still thought of as to frail to attract firm interest from one of Europe's biggest clubs. It even took Madrid a year to weigh up making the outlay that they eventually would do in 2005 after he failed to perform for Santos in the Copa Libertadores final against Boca Juniors in 2004.
Brazilian legend Tostao gave a damning verdict of the lightweight trickster before he moved to Spain as he stated: "Robinho is an exceptional striker, but he's unlikely to be as good or have the same global prestige as Ronaldinho Gaucho or Kaka. Robinho lacks the physical structure of these two great players." During his first season in la Primera those were the thouhts of many as he was pushed and pulled around by the more sizeable defenders assigned to mark him. Robinho himself admitted that he had to put on more muscle to cope with the differences because his infamous step-over manoeuvre was no longer enough.
Moving To Europe
Away from the game, Robinho endured a terrible ordeal when his mother, Marina de Souza, was kidnapped for 40 days at the end of 2004. Reports suggested that after making several appeals for her release, the ransom demand was paid and she was returned safely and unharmed. It was a saga that pushed Robinho closer to Europe and when Madrid came calling he jumped at the chance to move. Settling into a new country and a new league was never going to be easy, but there were glimpses of the talent that had made him a darling of the Santos fans.
Whether the fact that he had real self belief or whether it was the fame going to his head, Robinho's opinion of his performances and ability began to grow and he began to make headlines for the wrong reasons. After demanding that Fabio Capello play him regularly, a statement that was met with short shrift by the unimpressed Italian, Robinho said similar things to the national team trainer Carlos Alberto Parreira and insisted he should play up front with Adriano, another publicity stunt that did not go down well.
Last summer things began to change for the starlet with Bernd Schuster making it clear that he valued him highly and felt that he could be the key player in the club's bid to retain their title. As with many top players he was in demand off the field as well as on it and reports that he had demanded 40 condoms during celebrations of a Brazil win did not go down well with Real Madrid after he returned late to the club and was dropped for the visit to Espanyol in October.
Despite that, Robinho was to win over any doubting fans at the Bernabéu as he went on to net eleven goals as Madrid won the league championship once again. His performances saw him hailed as a potential Ballon d'Or winner in the next few seasons and his relationship with Los Merengues appeared to be stronger than ever. A verbal commitment was made by both parties it appeared with the club claiming that he would become an idol while Robinho claimed that he wanted to remain at the club for many more years to come as he aimed to become the best player in the world and to lift the Champions League trophy.
All that mutual adulation began to unravel when Robinho and his agent, Wagner Ribeiro, let Madrid know that they felt his talent should be rewarded and reflected in his pay packet. Having signed from Santos on a deal worth €2m-a-year, he had his head turned by the public renewal of players such as Raúl and Guti, who were reportedly given contracts worth closer to €6m-a-year. Madrid were willing to negotiate, but did not consider paying the player anywhere close to the €5m that his representative stated that he should be given. With the club realising that they would find it hard to persuade the player to accept less, it is reported that a decision was made to offer him to Manchester United as a makeweight in the Cristiano Ronaldo quest.
That was made public and made the divide between Robinho and the club even greater. Talk that he was ready to leave saw several of Europe's biggest clubs take notice and it was Chelsea that eventually made a concrete move with a bid, that had been preceded by letting the player know that €6m was on the table for him. While Los Merengues recognised a good deal when they saw one, coach Bernd Schuster wanted to ensure that if he was to lose such a talent then a replacement was required and it became public knowledge that the Brazilian could leave should a new face arrive.
Chelsea were so confident a deal had been done that managing director Peter Kenyon was quoted as saying a deal would done within "48 hours" while the Blues' club shop offered fans the chance to buy the new away shirt with Robinho's name on the back. Those developments incensed Madrid and basically put an end to any deal because, allied with Schuster's annoyance at the inability to add to the squad, Madrid were not going to be forced into a sale. That was, of course, until Robinho held a press conference when he made his relationship with the club untenable and president Ramón Calderón as left with no choice but to look for a buyer.
Whether he was very lucky with the timing of Manchester City's take over or whether he had known about it beforehand is a matter for debate, but with Robinho surprised are never far away and his decision to move to a club that is on the rise rather than already established has once again caught everyone out. In England he will not doubt have the same teething problems he faced in Spain where yet another layer of muscle maybe required to fend off some tough challenges, but at his new club he can be assured that he will be treated with the respect his talent deserves and his ego demands.
Lucas Brown, Goal.com