x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Robinho sets the City alight

In the space of 24 hours, the Manchester City manager found himself with new owners and Robinho.

Robinho held a press conference on Sunday in Madrid to say that his "head was at Chelsea". A day later he signed for Manchester City.
Robinho held a press conference on Sunday in Madrid to say that his "head was at Chelsea". A day later he signed for Manchester City.

MANCHESTER // One hell of a day is how Mark Hughes described it - and no one will disagree. In the space of 24 hours, the Manchester City manager found himself with new owners in the league of Roman Abramovich and then landed Robinho from Real Madrid.

It was a dream scenario, more heaven than hell, though. Hughes was not alone in pinching himself to see if it was all really happening, but shirts displaying Robinho's No 10 were already being printed and snapped up by eager fans yesterday. The £32.5million (Dh213m) deal to bring the mercurial Brazilian to Eastlands, or Middle Eastlands as it is now known to delirious supporters, was struck hours after the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment said they had bought the club and just before the transfer deadline, stunning Chelsea who had been firm favourites to land him.

"It's a huge statement of intent," admitted Hughes. "A lot of credit has got to go to Dr Thaksin [Shinawatra, the club's former chairman and owner] for being able to bring the Abu Dhabi company to the table and this huge investment that is going to go forward. "They wanted to present something to the people of Manchester and they have been able to do that. "It's a fantastic time for everybody connected with Manchester City. It's just the start of the things we're trying to make happen.

"If we're going to get to the places we want to get to we are going to have to compete against outstanding teams. "We have to attract world-class players and that is what we have done." Robinho is in that category. At 24, his best years are yet to come and Hughes believed he can light up the Premier League, with his debut, ironically, to be against Chelsea on Sept 13. "He is an exceptional talent and opposition teams are going to fear him," he said.

"He brings a breadth of quality into the squad. If you can add the quality of the likes of Robinho then immediately the whole team has a lift, a positive lift. "That can help lift performances right through the squad. Irrespective of how we play him, he'll have an impact." It was the fact he was making the wrong kind of impact at the Bernabeu that forced Real to sell him. The Spanish champions had become tired of his demands to leave, his tears and tantrums. It seems they were happy to see the back of him.

Pedrag Mijatovic, the club's sporting director, said it was a decision agreed by everyone, particularly the coach Bernd Schuster, who did not want an unhappy player to disrupt his team's bid for success. "I support and approve of Schuster's decision to sign off on the transfer of Robinho, whose attitude made it evident he was no longer professionally involved with the group," said Mijatovic. The Real president, Ramon Calderon, was a bit more open and harsh with his words as he revealed: "Robinho had a problem with his frame of mind that was more important than we thought it was.

"When he talked about his situation he cried and asked to leave Spain. His departure from Madrid is not only for sporting reasons, there's something more which I can't understand." Neither will many others as he has sacrificed Champions League football for a team only with rich promise. It is no secret the Arabs are huge admirers of the Samba stars with Kaka, Ronaldo, Lucio and Ronaldinho regular visitors to the UAE. Several Brazilians have coached league clubs, while Carlos Alberto Parreira and Mario Zagallo have led the national team.

The pressure will be on Robinho. Despite finding form at the end of last season to help Real to the Primera Liga title, he has often been criticised for his approach with his partying lifestyle a major factor. City will be hoping he stays focused and they get value for money, something Chelsea did not feel was the case as they refused to meet the asking price. It may well have been too much, but what the signing has done is elevate City into the major league in English football, and if their new owners keep true to their words on other targets, Hughes and the City fans are going to have many more unforgettable days like this one.

As the former City hero Mike Summerbee said: "It's about time we had little a bit of luck. We can now compete with the biggest clubs in the country, in fact anybody in the world." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae