Robinho defends his City record

Brazilian insists he is 'playing well' despite lack of goals this calendar year
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The Independent Online

Robinho has done little to pacify those who have come to question his £160,000-a-week wages at Manchester City by declaring that the superior form he has been displaying for the Brazilian national team is attributable to the superior players he has around him in Dunga's side.

"I truly dedicate myself to my club," Robinho said ahead of Brazil's match with Ecuador. "Sometimes I am questioned [as to] why I play better for the national squad than my club Manchester City. I have the same will at both places, but Manchester City is one team and the national squad at Brazil is another. No disrespect to the players at Manchester City, who are very good, but here I play with Kaka, Ronaldinho, and it is totally different."

Sceptics will point to the extraordinary contribution at Eastlands this year of Stephen Ireland, an outside contender for player of the year, while Shaun Wright-Phillips has certainly offered a consistency lacking in Ronaldinho over the past few years. Robinho's insipid afternoon for City against Sunderland last weekend, including a missed penalty, seemed more attributable to a lack of self-confidence. But Robinho defended his contribution which, despite public comments to the contrary, has left Mark Hughes nursing doubts about whether the 25-year-old should feature in his plans for next season.

"Here I play well, but I believe I am playing well at Manchester City. I have scored 11 goals," Robinho said. But none of that number has come in this calendar year and there has been little these past four months to match the player's strike against Italy at the Emirates Stadium which underlined his undoubted class, Robinho dispossessing Andrea Pirlo on the edge of the Italian area and jinking around Gianluca Zambrotta before firing home Brazil's second goal in a 2-0 win.

Robinho certainly looked considerably more at home back in Brazil yesterday. Given time off ahead of Brazil's away fixture 48 hours from now and the home tie with Peru on Wednesday, he was photographed surfing and playing the tambourine with musician Dudu Nobre and friends on the seafront at Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro.

Mark Hughes indicated last week that he is prepared to drop Robinho if he must and the big question facing the Manchester City manager when City resume business at Arsenal a week tomorrow is whether to relegate Elano, far more impressive against Sunderland, to the bench, with Ireland likely to return. Robinho has scored only twice away from east Manchester all season – and one of those was a penalty at Newcastle. Martin Petrov's return from a long lay-off also provides more competition. For many City fans. a mere sense that the Brazilian is interested in contributing to the club's drive for a possible seventh place at the end of the season would make all the difference.

Robinho sought to draw a line under the comments from Pele, who had been quoted as saying the City player had taken drugs in the past. "This thing with Pele has got out of control. He said he was misunderstood," the player said.

Hughes has provided an insight into his relationship with the Arabs whose riches brought Robinho to England. In a Radio 5 Live documentary he revealed that he speaks to his chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak two or three times a week and disclosed that Khaldoon has eaten at Hughes' home and calls Hughes before games, from Abu Dhabi. The chairman does not telephone when City have lost because he "very much understands" how Hughes feels. Robinho's antennae do not seem quite so well attuned.

City's limits: How Brazil compare to Sky Blues

Richard Dunne v Daniel Alves

Reaching the top of the own goal charts represents the "high" point of Dunne's season, along with two red cards, while £25m Alves has become an integral part of the all-conquering Barça side currently on top of La Liga.

Gelson Fernandes v Ronaldinho

The marginalised Swiss midfielder's last start was a home defeat to Nottingham Forest, while Ronnie is enjoying a new lease of life at San Siro.

Ched Evans v Kaka

One's a 20-year-old Welsh trier, the other a talismanic former World Player of the Year who commanded a fee of £100m as he came close to joining Robinho earlier this year.

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