- By William Taylor – Non League correspondent & Fall From Grace Creator @WilliamTaylor0
Fall From Grace is a weekly feature on TheFutbolNetwork where William Taylor takes a look at players who were once hailed as the game’s finest or on the cusp of greatness but have since fallen away into obscurity. This weeks edition looks at former Real Madrid and Manchester City forward Robinho.
Brazil – a footballing country that prides itself on bringing through world class, samba starlets that will conquer the world, and building teams that firmly leave a strong mark on history. It’s produced some of the best ever in Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivellino, Sócrates, Cafu, Romario, Zico and many, many more. It was also the foundation for a team that certainly did leave their mark on history; as the best ever: The 1970s Brazil team. Although Brazil is so fantastic at bringing through this raw, spectacular talent, it occasionally forgets to drill into its players that consistency is the key to progress, as we found out with Alexandre Pato last week.
This week is no different as we focus on a player who was set to become the next big thing from the hotbed of Brazil – Robson de Souza, or to you and I, Robinho. When Robinho was just 15, Pele dubbed him as his heir and he went on to prove that he just might be. At 18, Robinho signed his first professional contract for Santos FC, Pele’s former club. He played a significant part in Santos’ winning of the Campeonato Brasilieiro, which had not been won since Pele had been there himself. He offered a different edge to a promising Santos side and showed it even more in his second season where he bagged an astonishing 21 goals and led Santos to the final of the Copa Libertadores. His form in Brazil bought him interest from the majority of European Super Powers by 2004, but Santos stood strong and rejected all offers. Despite the fact Robinho only played 12 games in the 2004-2005 season due to his mother being kidnapped at gunpoint, he scored 9 goals and continued to impress.
In July 2005, Santos gave up hope of tying to keep hold of such a talent and sold the starlet for €60,000,000 to Real Madrid. As soon as he arrived, the young man was given the sought after No.10 shirt, formerly of Luis Figo and justified his number and price tag in his first season as he scored 14 goals and contributed significantly in the Spanish capital. However, in the 2006-2007 season, Robinho found himself on the bench and on the wrong side of Fabio Capello;
this despite a Man Of The Match performance in the season’s opening Classico. Robinho only found himself in the first team squad in the new year and did eventually end up playing a role in Madrid’s 30th League title, the third of his career. His good form continued in the following season as he struck 15 goals in all competitions, two being against Recrativo de Huevla to secure Real’s 31st title and Robinho’s 4th. He also managed 8 league assists, this considering he picked up an injury half way through the season and only returned with a few games to spare, is very impressive. He would end up being Madrid’s 3rd highest goal scorer in his time there, only trailing Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Raul. However, the next season Robinho was subject to broken promises from Madrid’s then president – Ramon Calderon -despite the fact he was still in red hot form. He was promised a renegotiation on his contract twice but it never materialised. This was believed to be because Calderon planned to use Robinho in the deal for Cristiano Ronaldo. Understandably, the Brazilian then demanded a transfer away from the club and set his sights on England.
He wanted to move to Chelsea. However, it didn’t quite pan out that way. Manchester City boasted some second hand Brazilian flair of Jô and Elano, but wanted to up their game. They bought Robinho for £32,000,000 in September 2008, on the same day the Abu Dhabi Investment Group took over City. He scored almost immediately on his debut and it took City’s then record signing only two months to bag his first hat trick, against Stoke City, as he impressed all throughout English football. He finished the season with 14 goals and as the fourth top Premier League goal scorer. Not bad going for a first season in England. But, as they say, good things never seem to last. The fact that it was after only one season that Robinho’s decline occurred is what makes his fall from grace that little bit worse. In the 2009-2010 season, Robinho was plagued by injury at the start and never truly recovered, playing 14 games and scoring only one; that against lowly Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup. In the January transfer market he completed a 6-month loan to his native home of Santos as he wanted to get recognised for the upcoming World Cup. He helped them to their first Copa Brasil title and returned to City under a false presumption that he was a reignited flame.
However, he still wanted a move away. On deadline day of 2010, Robinho moved to Milan for £15,000,000 and never really lived up to the price tag that had decreased so massively. Though he showed promise in his first season, mustering 15 goals in 45 appearances, he was again plagued by injury and managed only 17 more goals over the next 3 years. Milan had beaten him, just as it had Pato. He again returned on loan to Santos, in an attempt to reignite his career once more, but it never materialised as his mediocre record continued. He is now signed for Guangzhou Evergrande in China on a 6-month basis and is 31. A real shame to see such a talent fade away.