A much changed Manchester City side made it through a tricky tie with Scunthorpe United to reach the FA Cup fifth round, but the headlines again revolved around just one man. Robinho’s presence in the starting line-up meant more stories of his underachievement in Manchester were inevitable, but the Brazilian may soon be out of the spotlight.
In the aftermath of the 4-2 victory over Nigel Adkins’ side, Robinho admitted to a Brazilian television station he had played his last game for City. It appears now the former Real Madrid forward will be returning to his home country with first club Santos, and the only sticking point is for how long. City are only willing to release him until the end of the season while Santos would prefer 12 or 18 months. The impasse may have been solved by the time you read this, but as Robinho prepares to leave England, it is important not to get carried away with the magnitude of his failure in the Premier League.
While it is impossible to argue Robinho has been a total success on these shores, to suggest he is the worst Premier League signing ever, as The Times did on Monday, is unfair. Robinho’s name was included on a list of five flops – the other four were ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Massimo Taibi, Chelsea dud Andrei Shevchenko, Newcastle United disappointment Jean-Alain Boumsong and Joey Beauchamp, who spent 58 days at West Ham after joining from Oxford United, but decided he could not stand travelling to East London every day and so joined Swindon Town just under two months later. To compare the magical Brazilian with Beauchamp, Boumsong or Taibi is ridiculous – Robinho at least finished as City’s top scorer last season, a feat none of those three came close to replicating.
Shevchenko, on the other hand, is a fair comparison. The Ukrainian cost Chelsea just under £31m, only slightly less than the £32m it took to bring Robinho to Eastlands, and was an even bigger disappointment than Robinho has been. By the time Shevchenko arrived at Stamford Bridge, his career was already on a downward trajectory – at 30, his best years where behind him. Robinho, however, is still only 26 and should he be allowed to leave City permanently in the near future, will have big name European clubs fighting it out for his signature. In 75 games for the Londoners, Shevchenko managed 22 goals, meaning he scored in 29% of the games he played for the capital club. After his goal against Scunthorpe, his first of the season, Robinho has netted 16 goals in 47 games, finding the net 34% of the time. It is more a sign of how forgettable Shevchenko was that Robinho could be considered a poorer piece of business than the former Milan player – and both men unsettled their team-mates with their longing to return home and uninterested performances.
If Robinho’s final game for City for a while does prove to be the defeat of Scunthorpe, at least he signed off in some style, teeing up Martin Petrov for the opener and notching the final goal himself with a cool finish after a slick passing move. City were not up against any old Iron on Sunday, evidenced by the cavalcade of chances the hosts fashioned. As their nickname suggests, Scunthorpe are made of stern stuff and it took great resolve from Mancini’s men to stand up to the bombardment they were faced with as the game drew to a close, but stand up to it they did and a fifth round date with Cardiff City was their reward. With league form patchy all year, both cup competitions have provided welcome respite for the Blues’ fans and players, and attentions can once again turn to the Carling Cup.
The return date with Manchester United promises to be a thrilling occasion, but Mancini cannot afford to go to Old Trafford with the intention of simply protecting their 2-1 advantage. This season, whenever a team has gone to the home of the champions with mere survival in mind, a sound thrashing has been dished out. But when the visitors have taken the game to Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges, United have looked shaky as City found themselves earlier this season. There is a fine balance to be struck here between shoring up the defence without losing the forward line’s firepower and if the Italian gets it right, Wembley beckons.