On September 1, 2008, Manchester City completed the purchase of Robinho from Real Madrid. Just over a year later, rumours persist that City’s marquee signing will soon leave Eastlands for a return to Spain with Madrid’s biggest rivals, Barcelona. The Brazilian joined the City revolution for a British record £32.5m, but, according to The Guardian, “does not want another day in Manchester.”
The arrival of the player once dubbed ‘The New Pele’ was intended to herald City’s own arrival on the world stage, in financial terms if nothing else. But in the 14 months Robinho has spent in Manchester, no other players of the forward’s stature have been lured by the Abu Dhabi billions that power the club, with Kaka famously spurning City’s advances. The signing of Robinho was a matter of circumstance as the player was desperate to leave Madrid. It appeared his destination would be Chelsea and even the day before Robinho joined City, he was quoted by the BBC as saying: “The situation has not changed, I want to leave Real and play for Chelsea”, and “I am thinking only of Chelsea and want to play there.” But the Stamford Bridge side failed to agree terms with the Spanish giants, leaving the Sky Blues of Manchester free to swoop for the attacker.
City Chief Executive Garry Cook has been adamant that Robinho will not be leaving, but faced with the prospect of an unhappy superstar at the club – especially one who has already shown he will not be shy when voicing his displeasure should he be prevented from leaving – Cook’s hand may be forced. Robinho is an understandably tempting option for Barcelona. Not only does he have experience of La Liga from his three years in the white shirt of Real, but Robinho will also be eligible for the Champions League. Currently nursing an ankle injury, Robinho did travel to Abu Dhabi with the rest of the City squad ahead of a friendly with the United Arab Emirates national team with officials from Barcelona also present as they prepare for next month’s Club World Cup draw. However, Robinho has since joined up with the Brazil squad for Saturday’s friendly with England, although it is believed he is still short of fitness and will not play any part in the game. Cook was quick to play down any meeting with the Catalan giants, insisitng “There are no plans to meet Barcelona here this week to talk about Robinho. We want to talk to him this week but only about getting him fit to play for us again.” City may publicly deny their star player is angling to leave England, but few would be surprised to see Robinho playing at the Nou Camp next year.
The Catalans were heavily linked with Valencia’s David Villa in the summer as they look to replace Thierry Henry on the left of their attack. Henry, now 32, has been prolific for Barca with 32 goals in 62 games, but the Barcelona hierarchy know he may not have too many years left at the highest level. Robinho, like Henry, looks to cut inside from the left onto his more dangerous right foot and could slot into Pep Guardiola’s side without disruption. And the sight of Robinho in Barca’s red and blue would have the added benefit of annoying Barcelona’s hated rivals, Robinho’s former club Real Madrid.
Whether Barcelona can afford Robinho is a different matter, however, as ESPN reported this week that Barca could only afford the Brazilian on loan. But if Robinho forces the move through, the Spanish side may well find the cash to take him back to Iberia. Whatever happens, there will certainly be a few more twists and turns to tend with, but we will only know what is truly going on when the man himself speaks out. However, there is no doubt of the appeal of European Champions Barcelona – especially for a Brazilian in the mould of Robinho.