'He is the best. He reminds me of me,' says Pele

Robinho's cheeky dribbling skills and similar physique inevitably led to comparisons with Pele. One opponent accused the youngster of overusing his trademark stepovers (or "pedaladas") to provoke the dismissal of a defender during Santos's win over Gremio in December 2002.

"He could end up having his leg broken," said Gremio keeper Danrlei.

Robinho hit the headlines again last November when his mother was abducted by two armed men at a barbecue in Santos. The player was out of action until the 40-day ordeal was over, but he returned to help Santos clinch their second Brazilian championship in three years.

Asked about Robinho in a recent interview Pele said: "He is already the best player in Brazil and he has all the qualities needed to be one of the best in the world." Real are confident the great man is right.