On August 31st 2008 football fans, managers and players were all waking up with anticipation and excitement. Transfer deadline day always has the power to give the football world some shocks and shake-ups- and this was to be no different.
In fact, it proved to be a historic day. Fans of Manchester City were left pinching themselves as their club, struggling for finances and shrouded with controversy, due to their allegedly-corrupt chairman at the time Thaksin Shinawatra, not only became the wealthiest club in the world, but also broke the British transfer record by signing Brazilian Robinho for £32.5 million.
Stunned, bemused, confused, excited were just a few of the adjectives used during that day, along with a plethora of profanities. It was true. A crowd of City fans turned up at Eastlands chanting ‘we’ve got Robinho’ in a stunned, giddy manner. Robinho was pictured meeting Mark Hughes for the first time in an airport, then went on to declare just how happy he was about signing for Chelsea in his first press conference as a Manchester City player- a great way to endear yourself to the City faithful.
But didn’t he endear himself to them. The samba star scored on his debut with a sublime free kick during City’s 2-1 home defeat ironically against Chelsea. A hat-trick against Stoke City and a jaw-dropping goal against Arsenal, not to mention assists all over the park and Robinho was flying. His quirky persona off-the-pitch was winning him more fans and his hefty price-tag was looking a small price to pay for such an influential and flamboyant player. He was even getting on the bus and mingling with the public to go on shopping trips in his spare time. Robinho was playing for Manchester City, in the Premier League, and didn’t everybody know it.
What has happened? Where has Robinho’s form gone? He hasn’t scored a goal since before Christmas and strangely, he seems to be playing with a severe lack of confidence- his penalty against Sunderland at Eastlands proved that. It is widely-documented that when City play away Robinho tends to go missing- it’s as if City are playing with 10 men.
The Brazilian’s off the pitch dramas haven’t gone amiss either. The drama surrounding his sudden disappearance from City’s training camp in Tenerife in January was quickly followed by allegations of rape that were strongly refuted. Even his fellow country-man Pele has recently accused Robinho of taking drugs whilst back at home in Brazil, although Pele has been quick to stress that his quotes were taken out of context.
A player of Robinho’s calibre and stature will always be thrust into the media spotlight, but he has endured a lot of unfair and harsh criticism. The 24 year-old is still in his first season in the Premier League and is among the top scorers. His goals have proved to be vital for City and without them the club would undoubtedly find themselves in a perilous situation. He links up consistently well with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stephen Ireland, supplying a dangerous attack for City and clearly relishes playing in the same line-up as Elano. The beauty of Robinho is that he is the kind of player that is capable of producing moments of magic that can turn a game on its head and mean the difference between gaining a point and taking all three.
With that in mind, have the media treated Robinho unfairly? He is quite a difficult player to accommodate for in a team, but the vast majority of managers would quite happily bend over backwards to have his skill and threat in a side. What with Martin Petrov and Michael Johnson returning from injury soon, Hughes will be left with the unenviable decision of whether to drop Robinho until his form returns.
But that is the thing with Robinho: he is unpredictable. At the moment we don’t know which Robinho will turn up to Eastlands and whether he will continue to suffer from travel sickness. All we know is what kind of a talent he is when he is on form- he can leave opposition defenders trailing in his wake and causes opposition managers all kinds of headaches. He does struggle with the physical aspect of the game, against teams like Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers, but that should improve the more he adapts to the Premier League.
The likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Gianfranco Zola were all players with the kind of calibre that made the Premier League exciting. They were the type of players that you were thankful played in England. Robinho is no different. His transfer has been the talk of the football world all season. A lot of City fans are still baffled that Robinho has been playing in the sky blue shirt this season and he has continued to thank the fans for their loyal support, stating that they are ‘the best’.
Perhaps with a couple of seasons under his belt, Robinho will prove to be a true asset to a team, and will produce consistent displays of instrumental football. He has the potential to be a true ambassador and advertisement of what the Premier League is all about. Whether he will be playing his football at City or another club in the league remains to be seen. But with City in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals, he stills has time to prove even his most vindictive critics wrong during what has been the most eventful debut season in the Premier League.