Belfast Telegraph

Robinho must grow out of crying game to justify record transfer fee

The 'new Pele' played a major part in Real's two recent La Liga triumphs but could not handle his lack of status at the club, writes Pete Jenson in Madrid

The road never ran smoothly for Robinho at Real Madrid, right from the kidnapping of his mother that almost stopped his £17m move there three years ago to the Brazilian coach and mentor who signed him being sacked a few months after he arrived.

Long before it all ended in tears this week, literally if the Real president, Ramon Calderon, is to be believed, there were signs that the club and Robinho were just never going to hit it off.

Pele set the bar for the 21-year-old who arrived at Real from Santos in 2005 when he proclaimed: "This is the new Pele". Stories of Robinho being booked in Brazil for incitement – five stepovers in front of a full-back who finally lost his temper and lashed out – added to the myth.

His 24-minute cameo in his debut as a substitute in Real's win over Cadiz just three days after he landed in Spain increased still more the feeling that something special had just begun.

But, played as a central striker by Wanderley Luxemburgo, he weakly bounced off central defenders as Real struggled in La Liga. Luxemburgo, who had also been Robinho's coach at Santos, was sacked. Without the kingmaker, the boy who would be king was suddenly back to just being a boy.

That is how he was treated at the Bernabeu right up until his departure – patted on the head when he scored a good goal, never given the contract he felt he deserved and ultimately lined-up as a makeweight in the failed attempt this summer to bring Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to the club.

After Luxemburgo left in December 2005, Robinho was taken under the wing of his fellow Brazilians Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos but they both left the club the season before last.

Stories of Robinho arriving for training smelling of alcohol were leaked to the press as, under the now England manager Fabio Capello, Real continued to be concerned about their failure to get the best out of someone who all the while remained a first choice for Brazil.

Robinho took to leaving training via a ground-floor window to avoid meeting the Spanish press. His agent, Wagner Ribeiro, intent on getting him a big money move out of Madrid – even, as it turned out, if that meant exposing his client to a season of Uefa Cup football – became his closest friend.

The final straw, and by far the best weapon in Ribeiro's battle to take Robinho from Real, was the club's transparent willingness to write off their Brazilian winger as part of the Cristiano Ronaldo deal.

When that fell through last month there was still no willingness from the Spanish champions to raise Robinho's salary to anywhere near the level he was asking for and the sorry tale came to an ugly head on Sunday when, perhaps now behaving like the child he felt he was being treated as, he put his cap on backwards and told the world's press that Bernd Schuster, his coach, was "not his dad" and could not tell him what to do.

While he may never have been the new Pele, Robinho did contribute more than his fair share to the successive La Liga title triumphs Real have enjoyed in their last two years.

On countless difficult away grounds he would conjure up some magic to give Real a narrow victory and, although he faded somewhat last season, before he got injured in January his form was as good as anyone's in La Liga and Real were telling everyone who would listen: "We told you so."

The prodigy must now try to fulfil his potential in the Premier League. "I've never played in England before and I want to show everyone what I can do," he had said before a Champions League game against Arsenal in 2006, already displaying a desire to perform in front of English fans.

"You need time to adapt. We are used to a slower pace with more touches of the ball. You have to get used to a very strong, physically demanding game in England."

He is also prepared for the pressure that will come with his massive price tag. "There is always pressure wherever you go," he says. "I'm used to it because I was in the Brazil team very young and that means having to perform in every game."

The man crowned "king of the step-overs" or bicicletas as they are known in Spain, finally got on his bike.

"Get Lost" screamed the front page of one paper here that had led with "And God created Robinho" the day after his spectacular debut.

Divine or dire? At 24 the man dubbed a crybaby by Real Madrid still has plenty of time to make it the former.

Belfast Telegraph


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