It would take a very brave person to bet on Robinho’s name adorning Roberto Mancini’s team sheet as the Premier League season opens against Tottenham on August 14. Yet as of now, Robinho is once again a Manchester City player and will be expected to conduct himself as such. This means committing himself to training at the club’s Carrington training ground and making himself available for selection.
The problem is that Robinho shows no such desire to integrate back into the City squad. Reflecting upon his six-month loan at Santos, the mercurial Brazilian spoke decisively about his plans. ”I hope to continue. My heart is here and I want to stay but I have to talk to my team,” he confirmed, making disappointing reading for Eastlands fans.
Robinho’s words may be influenced by the glorious circumstances with which he has, for now at least, signed off from his beloved Santos. His team clinched the Copa Brasil in his farewell appearance, a 2-1 defeat to Vitoria sufficient to seal a 3-2 aggregate victory. The trophy added to his collection of the 2002 and 2004 Brazilian Championship titles won with the club he calls ‘home’. Significantly, the total is three more than he has won at City since his record-breaking £32.5 million transfer from Real Madrid on the transfer deadline day of August 2008. His inability to inspire his City team-mates in the same way as he has acted as the catalyst at Santos has been the greatest issue with the Premier League’s most expensive import.
As a result, his comments will raise further doubts about his commitment to his parent club. Nevertheless, as things stand, Robinho is once again a City player with a chance to resurrect his ailing reputation in England. “I have to talk to Manchester City about what will happen with me in the future. I have a contract with them and that has to be respected,” he said, clearly stating his intentions whilst doing little to dispel the doubts that remain about his commitment to the club.
Unless a deal can be waged whereby Santos can once again pay the player’s exorbitant wages for the Brazilian league season, Robinho will indeed be forced to respect his lucrative contract. In spite of the pessimism regarding his consistency and his obvious angling for a move away from the club, his precocious talent means City supporters will still harbour ambitious hopes of him finally justifying the club’s initial outlay.
Memories of his World Cup performances with Brazil, until their hapless capitulation during the second-half of their quarter-final against the Netherlands at least, are brimming with incandescent flashes of talent. Clinical finishes against Chile and the Netherlands proved there is substance to add to what was once perceived as an effete style and sent British audiences wondering why he couldn’t replicate that form for his employers. It seems inconceivable that, if a move to Santos cannot be renegotiated, he will not be part of City’s 25-man squad. Chances to redeem his reputation and lead City to success may arise.
In Robinho’s absence, City’s pre-season has lurched from the poor to the disastrous. Pitched into the cauldron of noise that is the Signal Iduna Arena, Mancini’s team froze in a 3-1 defeat by Borussia Dortmund. Another Brazilian who has enjoyed a tempestuous relationship with Manchester City, and whose future with the club remains clouded, got on the score sheet for City. Forgotten striker Jo converted Shaun Wright-Phillips’s cross to equalise Lucas Barrios’s opener scored from the spot. If the defending which led to Barrios’s penalty was disorganised, then the Kagawa and Lewandowski’s clinching goals were born out of calamity which has became City’s trademark since the club’s formation. No matter how much money is spent, it seems, tradition cannot be erased.
At the other end of the pitch another Brazilian’s return from loan this pre-season is offering hope. Adding to an already potent attack boasting Carlos Tevez, Adam Johnson, Emanuel Adebayor and David Silva, three goals in three pre-season games for Jo has revitalised his flagging career at Eastlands. Linking fluently with midfield playing in a hitherto unfamiliar second-striker role, there is sharpness to his movement which was alien to the lethargic striker who frustrated City fans prior to being loaned out. His finish against Dortmund carried the hallmarks of an instinctive goal-scorer ready to challenge for a first-team spot.
In an unlikely chain of events, Jo’s form shows he is the example Robinho must look to upon his return. Doubts about his temperament and willingness to adapt to Manchester’s climate and way of life there may be, but his talent is true. Following Jo’s lead might see the unlikeliest of redemptions for this record-breaking talent.