Brazil's verbal sparring with Manchester City over Robinho continued tonight with the national team manager Dunga suggesting that the club should show greater respect. The player himself said it was in his best interests to be here, even though he is not fit to play against England tomorrow.
Robinho has not played since 31 August because of a stress fracture of the ankle, but he hopes to return in a friendly against Oman on Tuesday. City had not even been optimistic about his prospects of playing in the important Premier League game away to Liverpool a week today. He flew to Doha from Abu Dhabi, where City have been playing and training in front of their new owners, with their manager Mark Hughes insisting it would be "foolhardy" to play for Brazil.
"It's my obligation to come here," was the translation of what he said in Portugese at a chaotic media conference at the Khalifa Stadium. "I came here to look after myself. I've known [Brazilian doctor] Jose Luis Runco a long time."
Dunga said of City: "They must show us respect. We are five times world champions. They can't just come to the hotel and take him away."
In more conciliatory mode, Robinho denied the quotes attributed recently to one of his advisers about how he would like to play for Barcelona: "My father represents me and he has never given an interview. He's the only one who represents me. I'm so happy at my club. It's important I do a good job with my club so that I can play for my country. My club pays me every month."
It was clear, however, how much he enjoys being with his compatriots, injured or not. "When we are together it's like being with your family and it's like being back at home," he said. "I always want to be here with the national team when they meet up and I don't want a problem with my club and the Brazilian national team. I want to be here always."
Some of the misunderstandings could be avoided if Robinho spoke English, which is what Gilberto Silva, the former Arsenal player enjoying a new lease of life with Panathinaikos, advised today. "It's normal to see rumours around big names, as he is," Gilberto said. "The biggest advice I can give him to adapt to England is to learn the language. That is one of the most important things. I think his English has improved. Kaka is another player who speaks English and we all speak together in English sometimes. He's concerned because he wants to play for Manchester City and also for Brazil, but he looks alright now. Of course, when these kind of rumours come out – are you going to stay, are you going to leave – the player tries not to get involved and to avoid this conversation. If people interpret comments, it can turn another way. So we are avoiding this topic."
The Brazilians were happier to speak about England, which they did in respectful tones. "It's a great chance to play against one of the best teams in the world," Kaka said. "We played against Portugal, we played against Italy. After this game we have a game in Oman and another in March, then the World Cup, so this test is very important. We're not thinking about winning 2-0 or 3-0. We just want to play well. But the most important thing is to win. I think the Capello characteristics are the important thing to understand in the England team, but the individual players [can] decide every game. England are a very tough team to play against."
When Kaka was asked whether he regretted turning down City and joining Real Madrid, there were giggles round the room and a smile from Robinho.
BRAZIL TEAM PROBABLE:
Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Thiago Silva, Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Josue; Daniel Alves, Kaka, Nilmar; Fabiano.