x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Robinho returns from the cold

Out of favour at Manchester City, a loan move to Santos has catapulted him back into Brazil attack.

Robinho's loan move to Santos in January from Manchester City saw him rediscover his best form and return to the Brazil first team.
Robinho's loan move to Santos in January from Manchester City saw him rediscover his best form and return to the Brazil first team.

Not everyone was surprised when Robinho's spell in Manchester did not quite go to plan. Socrates, the former Brazil captain, smiled when asked about the "outrageous talent" that is Robinho. "England is too cold for Brazilian footballers," Socrates said. "It doesn't matter how talented the players are, the culture is so different so it does not surprise me when Brazilian players do not do as well as they should.

"The way of life is so correct and organised in Europe. It's not like that in Brazil, where things are more spontaneous. "I was in Florence for a year with Fiorentina and sometimes I didn't want to train, but to hang out with friends and party. There's more to life than football, but Europe can be very regimented." Robinho's transfer fee remains, at £32.5 million (Dh178.75m), the most expensive paid by an English club, after he joined Manchester City from Real Madrid in 2008.

The Brazilian attacker enjoyed his first year in Manchester and was judged to be a success by most City fans. His name sat among the leading lights of the Premier League in the top scorers' chart and he frequented Manchester's Brazilian restaurants - all of which have opened since Brazilian footballers started arriving in the city five years ago. Requesting a house with a swimming pool was always going to limit his options among the surfeit of newly built apartments in the city centre, so Robinho headed south to the adjacent and leafier county, Cheshire, living close to Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Owen Hargreaves and Robbie Savage.

It was there where this reporter met him on a cold December afternoon as the light faded on the frost-whitened hills of the Peak District nearby - an alien landscape for someone familiar with the sun-baked beaches of Sao Paulo. Not everything went smoothly. The brilliant Brazilian was supposed to be picked up from City's Carrington training ground at 1pm, but somehow "escaped" and "has been uncontactable for two hours".

Robinho has a history of avoidance when it comes to reporters. At Real Madrid, he would sneak out through a tiny window at the club's new training ground to avoid the scores of journalists who gather there every day. At City, only a few reporters who cover the club for the national newspapers were allowed to speak to him Robinho's experience in Manchester soon turned sour and he returned to Brazil on a six-month loan to his former club, Santos, at the start of this year. He had to move. When he was not playing at City, Brazil coach Dunga dropped him from Brazil's last three World Cup qualifiers, this cold-shoulder after he had played a part in their 15 previous matches, more than any other Selecao striker.

In Brazil, Robinho was immediately back to his free-scoring best. Santos, once Pele's club, play in the port city 50 miles from Sao Paulo and, thanks to Robinho, won the state league which features bigger clubs like Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Palmeiras. Robinho scored in his first three matches, all wins. It was big step down from the Premier League, though, playing in front of 20,000 at home and away crowds averaging 10,000. The move revitalised him and he in turn has revived the Brazilian national team.

Since Dunga brought him back into the international fold, he has been one of Brazil's most influential players, both before and during the World Cup. His future with club football is undecided, though City still hold his contract. It's a little clearer for Brazil: they meet Holland in an eagerly anticipated World Cup quarter-final today in Port Elizabeth and Robinho is expected to shine, just as he has done in the tournament so far.

sports@thenational.ae