Robinho: In Europe, the coach sends you out to run. Here in Brazil, I play...By Ashley Gray
Last updated at 11:00 PM on 08th February 2010
Sponsorship across the front of his shirt, the front and back of his shorts and down both arms. The walking advertising board in the Santos No 7 shirt has to pay for his salary somehow.
Silky skills: Robinho thrills the crowd with some fancy flicks and tricks
Until Robinho signed, Santos did not have a shirt sponsor. Now they have three for his first match; this is what Robinho has let himself in for. Not only has the 26-year-old seen his £160,000-a-week wages halved by agreeing a six-month loan from Manchester City’s bench to Santos, he will also have his image pawned out to companies bankrolling the extravagant signing of a club with £8.5million debts.
Back with a bang: Robinho enjoyed scoring on his second debut for Santos with a beautiful back-heeled effort against rivals Sao Paulo
Robinho is home, quitting the cold English winter for the baking Brazilian summer, where youths line the Gonzaga beach to play football at temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius.
Right now he would be happy if he never played for Manchester City again. After a rock star’s entrance by helicopter last week, hand in hand with Pele, now 69, and soaking up the adulation of thousands of fans, he declared it would be great to stay for four years, giving the prime of his career to a club he left on bad terms five years ago when Real Madrid came calling.
‘I came here in search of happiness,’ he said after a dream debut that saw him come off the bench and score the winning goal at Sao Paulo with an exquisite backheel on Sunday.
‘I get depressed when things are not right. I know my responsibilities. On Sunday, I made a lot of people happy. The goal wasn’t difficult. It was the only way I could score.’
Sealed with a kiss: The Brazilian celebrates his goalscoring return
Robinho smarts when he recalls how Madrid tried to use him as part exchange in their bid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. Robinho thought he was equal to the Portugal star. He wasn’t 17 months ago and he certainly isn’t today.
In his final season at the Bernabeu, a place on the bench was all too common, which brings him to the naive conclusion that then-manager Fabio Capello does not like Brazilians.
On the ball: Crowd pleaser Robinho shows off some tricks
Back to work: Robinho is put through his paces in his first training session
With the same scenario being played out at Eastlands this season, Robinho admits he does not understand the tactics of another Italian boss, Roberto Mancini.
‘He has a different way of thinking,’ said Robinho. ‘In Brazil, the coach respects the player’s characteristics.
‘In Europe, they are used to playing with two lines of four players, and they don’t want to know what you can do.
For the jersey: Robinho gets into his new shirt as fans pile in (below)
‘There, if you are a forward, the coach sends you on to the pitch just to run. You have to run and that’s it.’
Tactics are less rigid in Brazil, where line-ups tend to be picked around the best players.
But for all that he might feel at home (for now), City are not about to simply let go of a player for which they paid a British record £32.5m. And when Robinho takes a harder look around the tatty, 18,000-capacity Vila Belmiro stadium here and the standard of matches he is about to face, he will soon realise that here is not a place he can fulfill his ambition of being the best player in the world.
The 2-1 win against Sao Paulo put Santos top of the Sao Paulo State Championship,
a once-great tournament which has become devalued thanks to the expanding national league, which only really kicks off once Robinho is due back at Eastlands.
In good company: Robinho is welcomed back to Santos by Pele
by precarious improvised housing - rather than at the 67,000-capacity Morumbi.
Brazilian football these days is for rising teenage stars and those at the end of their careers like Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, not for those in their prime. Unless you are Robinho.
‘I am preparing mentally and physically to be the best player at the World Cup,’ he says. ‘I’m at a good age. I have to get flying!’
Pele had won two of his three World Cups by 26, while Robinho is hoping for his first in South Africa.
It was the legend who discovered his apprentice 11 years ago. Training Santos’s youngsters, Pele excitedly professed that Robinho would be a great player. He even organised a dentist to sort out the 15-year-old’s toothy grin.
Different wavelength: Robinho admits he struggled to accept Roberto Mancini's tactics and way of thinking at Manchester City
There is a New King emerging here. Neymar, 18 last week, is O Novo Rei and Santos are braced for a raid from City for a player who has been involved in three-quarters
of his club’s goals this year.
As part of the Robinho loan deal, City acquired a first option on forward Neymar and 20-year-old playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, who both impressed against Sao Paulo.
Neymar’s agent Wagner Ribeiro, who previously represented Robinho, is understood to have already informally spoken to Chelsea and Real Madrid about a move when the time is right, but Santos insiders expect City to make a move after the World Cup.
Although the £44m buy-out clause in his contract is prohibitive, the price can soon tumble if an extended deal for Robinho is up for grabs. Perhaps then Robinho can get comfortable as the King of the Pharmacies.