Manchester City fan Ted Poole remembers Robinho and the beginning of the Mansour era at Eastlands…
The impression Robinho left on English football is best summed up by the matches closest to his arrival and departure and Manchester City. He arrived as the first marquee signing of the new Mansour era, with all the hype that comes with a new record transfer.
To most English fans he was something of an unknown quantity- everyone had heard his name, knew he was at Real Madrid (which meant he must have been a bit alright) and had probably heard he was renowned for his flashy tricks and dribbling skills- but he had yet to make a real impact on the European stage. Nonetheless, his signing caused a lot of shock and disbelief.
For City fans, he was almost immediately a symbol of hope for better things to come, as well as the absurd spending that would realise this vision. His debut came against Chelsea, the original ‘bought success’ side, and when he stepped up to score from a free kick it seemed like a hero had been born. Naturally (and possibly also symbolically) City lost this match, but Robinho had shown us all enough of a spark that we believed that City could have a huge star on their hands.
Throughout this season his assets were clear; he wowed the City of Manchester Stadium with incredible technique, a flair for the unexpected and some inspired finishing. If he had been able to replicate his home form in away matches, he would have come across as a bona fide star. Unfortunately, only one of his twelve goals that season came away from home; a penalty against Newcastle. Not only that, but when he did not perform, he wasn’t anonymous, he was visibly woeful. This is always the downfall of a flair player- when your tricks aren’t coming off, you look like you don’t even belong on the pitch.
On balance he ended the season with the majority of fans still behind him, and many of the City faithful were salivating at the prospect of a Robinho/Tevez/Adebayor front three for the coming season. When the new season began though, he looked a shell of the man he had been the year before, and seen as the year before he had only performed in home games, that left very little of any value.
There was a lot of talk that he and manager Mark Hughes were on poor terms, that he had a bad attitude, didn’t take training seriously and spent too much time partying. Again though, as a player of his prestige, he didn’t slip under the radar. He became a subject of open dislike for the fans- he’d been like a broken promise for the fans, who had come into the previous season with so much hype and seen the side not much better off than they had been before, and were seeing the present season shape up much the same. His only goal that season came in his last game for the club, a cup tie against Scunthorpe, after which he was immediately substituted.
He had played so poorly for the bulk of the match that it had felt as though he was being kept on the pitch as an opportunity to redeem himself. Very few fans were disappointed to see him go.
Although his own poor attitude, probably stemming from never really wanting to sign for City in the first place (upon signing, he made comments that implied he believed he was going to Chelsea), can be an easy way to write off his failings in the Premier League, his flop can be better attributed to his signing fundamentally being a bad idea. The new owners had arrived and wanted to flex their financial muscle, and they had grabbed the first ‘World Class’ player that they could.
However, Robinho was and is a luxury player- he has always been at his best when he’s flanked by other genuine goal threats. He needs defenders to have other concerns than keeping him quiet- alone he is very easily bullied out of the game and this was always going to be more obvious in the Premiership. Asking him to carry an incredibly mediocre side was doomed to fail from the start. To be brutally honest, outside of ‘most expensive flops’ list, Robinho, like Shevchenko before him, will be another foreign star who is forgotten in Premiership history.