Such is the strength of the new financial muscle at Manchester City that the club not only broke the British transfer record to sign Robinho but – in a move unheard of in modern-day football – also paid his £32.5m fee in a one-off up-front payment to Real Madrid. To ensure that the deadline day deal went through in time it is also understood that a payment of £4.2m was made to Robinho's agents, led by his fellow Brazilian, Wagner Ribeiro.
The extraordinary transfer was secured to make sure that City could steal the 24-year-old from under the noses of Chelsea and appease the demands of the club's new owners, Abu Dhabi United Group, who had also scattered bids around Europe for players such as Dimitar Berbatov, Fernando Torres and David Villa, that a star signing should be secured before the transfer window closed. Once the player's wages – which could peak as high as £160,000 a week – are factored in over a four-year contract it means that, including all fees, he will cost City a cool £70m.
If Robinho had not signed for City he would have joined Chelsea on 31 August, having already agreed terms at Stamford Bridge and with Real Madrid resigned to losing him. The Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, believed he had secured the transfer in the week before the window closed for £25m and, although the club's owner Roman Abramovich later went on to sanction of fee of £29.2m being paid, he was adamant he would not go above that price which equates to €35m.
Nevertheless, it meant that the highest offer from Chelsea fell £3m below Real Madrid's asking price, although the Spanish club would have reluctantly let Robinho go given the gulf that had developed between them and the player over the summer. "If they [Abu Dhabi] had not come on the scene, then Robinho would have gone to Chelsea," said a source. "But they did and Chelsea decided not to pay. It was totally Roman Abramovich's decision."
What makes the Robinho deal so remarkable – and showed just what a lucky position Real Madrid inadvertently found themselves in, with Abu Dhabi suddenly coming into the picture on the last day – was that City's new owners were happy to pay the whole fee in a one-off payment. Usually fees, especially of such magnitude are settled over two to four years, but the new owners were determined there would be no hitches and also wanted to make a statement of intent to the rest of football. They succeeded.
The Robinho deal was certainly bewildering for a player who, up until the last minute, still believed he was heading for Stamford Bridge rather than Eastlands and who even held a press conference pleading to be allowed to leave Madrid and pursue his "dream" at Chelsea.
The last time such a tactic was heard of was when Abramovich first bought Chelsea back in 2003 and set about the biggest transfer spree ever seen in world football. Players such as Glen Johnson arrived from West Ham United with the fee being paid up front – in a move which helped secure the Hammers' financial future after they were hit with relegation. However, Chelsea paid just £6m for the defender.
Abramovich is believed to remain angry that his club lost out on Robinho, although what is also clear is that the Russian is no longer willing to pay what he believes are inflated fees for players. Abramovich is still smarting from some of the deals that he agreed in the past – such as signing Juan Sebastian Veron and Adrian Mutu – although he accepts that they had to be done at the time. He is demanding more value for money, even though he is delighted with the work of his new manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Abramovich also believes that, after five years of owning Chelsea, he now has a much clearer grasp of football and the price that should be paid for players; Abu Dhabi are, having finally completed their £210m takeover of City this week after undergoing the process of due diligence, on a similar learning curve.
Despite their new-found wealth – and that muscle will be flexed again in January – City were yesterday digesting the humiliation of being dumped out of the League Cup on Wednesday night by Brighton & Hove Albion. The League One side – on the different end of the financial scale from City – won the second-round tie on penalties, with City's manager, Mark Hughes, criticising his players afterwards. "We should have been professional enough to have seen it through to the end after taking the lead," he said.Reuse content