Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Robinho leaves, permanently

With none of the shock or the awe of two deadline days ago, Robinho has left Manchester City for good. A summer sale was the only plausible outcome as soon as we loaned him back to Santos in January. That was done to ensure he had as good a World Cup as possible, thus increasing our chances of selling him. And I suppose it worked; he played pretty well in the World Cup, and has got a move to a high-prestige club, as he wished.

I think he'll do well enough at Milan. I imagine he'll prefer it to Prestbury, and there's no doubt that the style of football is closer to his comfort zone than the Premier League. With Ronaldino, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato he will find team-mates more simpatico than Carlos Tévez or Craig Bellamy. It's also perfect from an MCFC perspective: a decent fee (estimated at £18m), a foreign club, and - to use a dreadful Californianism - 'closure'.

Because, unlike in January, we now know that Robinho's time at Manchester City is done. The figurehead and totem of the ADUG takeover has not survived the changes his arrival heralded. Consecutive managers have decided that he does not fit in a squad of less talented but more focussed players. Mark Hughes never had the political capital to follow through on this instinct, but Roberto Mancini did and so Robinho was gone within a month of the Italian's arrival.

So how will his time at City be remembered? There is hardly anything from 2009/10 worth commenting on. Injuries, transatlantic flights and Craig Bellamy prevented him from having any impact more influential than a meaningless goal at Glanford Park. But 2008/09 is different. It would be churlish and myopic to deny his excellence and his impact on arriving in England. For that autumn, he enchanted us just as much as his old pal Elano had done one year before. The chip against Arsenal, the skills against Portsmouth, the clip against Twente, the dance against Hull. Not to mention in the spring his drive at Goodison Park, his pass to Ireland in the Nordbank, his volley against West Brom. He was possibly - pace Kinkladze - the most gifted player I've ever seen at City. He didn't make the most of his talent, but he was still a privilege to witness in blue.

So why the separation? I think he just wasn't what we needed at our stage in our development. Mark Hughes was trying to transform a mid-table side into a UEFA Cup-level team; Robinho was just the last thing we needed. He was always incongruous, in the league, the club, and the Mark Hughes project. And when Roberto Mancini arrived, under desperate pressure for results, he had no interest in someone who had not played well for eight months. And Robinho had no interest in allowing a selection battle jeopardise his World Cup - departure was the only option. I know it's vulgar to quote oneself but it's easier than finding different words for the same thoughts. This is what I wrote when he left for Santos seven months ago:
Robinho as a footballer came to mirror Robinho as a signing. All symbol, all gesture, with no solid foundation or basis. Just as he was bought to add glamour and spice to a team that needed strengthening in key areas, his performances themselves prioritised style over substance. A pedalada here, a rabona there, but when there's no effort, no thought, he is revealed to be the bauble he is. His play, just like his purchase, was a case of putting the icing before the cake.
He had some great moments, and represented the promise of the Abu Dhabi era at City. After years of Trevor Sinclair and Antoine Sibierski he was a thrilling deliverance from grey mediocrity. But ultimately he was more promise than product; a memorable companion on our journey but certainly not someone to lead us into the promised land.

Robinho MCFC 2008-10. 50 starts, 16 goals.


J Coastie said...

I like how you ended this. I'll miss some of that playing from when he first came to us, but after everything else I was ready to see him go. I do think that his signing was the first thing to show other players that we are serious about growing stronger and signing those ready to fight for the title with us. But not much from him after that.

I have a question for you...lately it seems that everyone interviewed has comments about us. But not the usual ones. I think I can count at least 4 or 5 people saying that we WILL be a title challenger, just not this year. As much as I want to be a challenger for it this year, I'll take what they're saying as a good thing. So my question is...do you think that Mancini will still be around next season if we don't win the title? Personally I like him here. I know that there are others who would argue but I think he has what it takes to get us there. And most of the people interviewed seem to feel the same way. Any thoughts?

Jeff said...

later, loser.

Scragg said...

Top top article mate. Really enjoyed that.

phil said...

I like how you end these types of articles-- almost like an obituary. RIP Robinho.

Heavyriffs said...

All the lazy, malingering, or just generally disruptive players have been dismantled and removed from the squad, so I credit Mancini for that, Hughes would never have had the bottle...