Back in the rhythm: Robinho wakes up from City nightmare

Milan striker was an expensive flop at Eastlands but seeks to show his true worth on returning to England tonight

Last spotted at Scunthorpe's Glanford Park in January last year, Robinho returns to English football tonight having come part of the way towards repairing his tarnished reputation.

The second leg of Tottenham's Champions League tie with Milan, tantalisingly poised at 1-0 to Harry Redknapp's team, is a far cry from that wintry night in North Lincolnshire.

The £32.5m Brazilian ended his 17-month sojourn with Manchester City with a fittingly frustrating parting gift, a goal registered with a flourish high into the opponents' net to round off a 4-2 victory in the FA Cup fourth round when a more simple strike would have done the job just as well.

He looked almost embarrassed to celebrate the goal, his one and only of the season, walking with his arms spread wide as if mimicking the aeroplane he would shortly be taking back to his native Sao Paulo, to start a loan spell with his former club Santos.

Robinho had every right to look embarrassed as he disappeared out of City on the next available flight to Brazil. He arrived as the most expensive British transfer ever, a landmark signing that heralded the dawn of a new era at Eastlands under the extravagant ownership of Sheikh Mansour, for a fee of £32.5m and unprecedented wages of £160,000 a week. Already those figures have been dwarfed by the £200,000 a week City's benevolent financier is now paying Yaya Touré and the remarkable £50m fee that Chelsea recently paid out for that goal-shy striker Fernando Torres.

A chorus of "What a waste of money" is sure to greet the 27-year-old's every touch of the ball tonight and on purely financial terms there is no quibbling with that assessment of Robinho, for the financial hit City took is simply staggering. In all they paid out £45m in transfer fee and wages, not including the six-month loan at Santos, and received £14.9m when they sold him to Milan last summer. That £30m loss works out at £1.88m for each of the 16 goals he scored for City, or £568,000 every time he pulled on a sky-blue shirt.

Some at the club, however, do not see things quite so black and white. He had started well, with 14 goals in his first season, but then a fractured ankle and the decision to change manager from Mark Hughes to Roberto Mancini heralded a swift turn of fortune for the gifted Brazilian.

A former member of the City coaching staff said Robinho's problems were more to do with the English style of football than anything else, although he did describe the Brazilian as a "clever little beggar". The source told The Independent: "He did have a problem settling in and was homesick, but generally he was not a problem. He would turn up for training with a smile on his face and his ball tricks in the dressing room before a game were something else. He used to play head tennis with one of the kit men.

"The problems for him were the physical nature of the English game, the heavy pitches in the winter and the demands we placed on him to do his share of defensive work. He also didn't like the club's discipline, wearing a suit and tie, that sort of thing. The biggest thing was he wanted to play freely but we wanted him to do some defensive duties as well."

Following the FA Cup victory at Scunthorpe, Robinho joined Santos on a six-month loan, wanting the guarantee of regular football ahead of the World Cup in South Africa. Robinho later said of Mancini: "The manager didn't have trust in me. Then you start to lose your confidence on the pitch."

The striker, who had left Santos to join Real Madrid in 2005, made an instant impact and was more of his old self back in Sao Paulo, scoring 16 times in 21 games, and was one of Brazil's better players in last summer's failed attempt to win the World Cup for a sixth time.

The next step was a return to Europe and just before the transfer window closed he sealed a move to Milan, who were spending heavily in an attempt to recover former glories under new coach Massimiliano Allegri. Robinho was in and out of the team at first, but has become more of a fixture of late and is expected to feature tonight in the trequartista role behind a front pair of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato.

At Milan, Robinho has rediscovered the style that had prompted Pele to name him as his heir apparent some 12 years ago, with 10 goals in 25 Serie A games. He also seems to have matured, helped by the club's strong Brazilian contingent in the likes of Pato and Thiago Silva. His arrival at Milan hastened the departure of his close friend Ronaldinho back to Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro, which was probably a blessing in disguise.

Insiders in Milan say Ronaldinho's £4m villa outside the city in Varese was the party venue of choice for the Brazilian players of both Milan and Internazionale, and the hierarchy at both clubs has welcomed its closure.

Robinho said this week: "Everything is going really well – the way they treat Brazilian players in Milan is very good and every day I become more settled. The team are playing very well. We are happy we are top of the league. Of course there are still many matches left, but in my first season I feel I'm adapting well. I hope to carry on like this until the end of the season.

"I hope to become a European champion here with Milan. The Champions League is a competition I love playing in, a difficult one, the toughest in European football. We hope to win it this season. And if not, we will try to win it over the coming years. Now I am enjoying this new and exciting time in Milan, with a great team. We're in good shape and ready to be champions."

Robinho is said to be happy and relaxed now in Milan, where he is part of a new-look, adventurous side that have built up a five-point lead in Serie A. Ready, perhaps, also for a return to England and a chance to prove a point.



From Manchester misery to Milan renaissance

Robinho at Manchester City

Cost: £32.5m (signed on 1 Sept 2008)

Appearances: 53

Goals: 16

High: Nine goals in first 14 games for City including a hat-trick against Stoke.

Low: Returns to Brazil without permission from a training camp. Docked two weeks' wages (£320,000) by manager Mark Hughes, a Premier League record fine.

Quote: "Maybe if I had gone to another club it would have been better for me"

Robinho at Milan

Cost: £14.9m (signed on 31 Aug 2010)

Appearances: 31

Goals: 10

High: Scores twice in 4-0 win over Parma

Low: Little impact in the Champions League as Milan lose 1-0 to Spurs.

Quote: "I will stay with Milan for another 10 years... England isn't adapted to my characteristics."

Michael Butler

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments