City flex new financial muscles to snatch Robinho for £32.6m

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A newly enriched Manchester City provided a graphic illustration of the challenge they now pose to the spending power of Chelsea and anyone else in the game last night when they agreed a record British transfer fee of £32.6m fee for the Brazilian striker Robinho.

Barely 24 hours after City's owner Thaksin Shinawatra had sold 90 per cent of his stake to a new Abu Dhabi proprietor, who represents the Gulf state's Al Nahyan royal family, Real Madrid accepted an offer which trumped the £25.5m Chelsea bid for Robinho. The deal was concluded just before the midnight deadline. Spanish sources indicated the player would treble his salary to £4.8m a season. The Real president, Ramon Calderon, said: "We have agreed to sell the player for human reasons, for footballing reasons and for an important quantity of money."

The deal shatters the £30.6m record Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, paid Milan for Andrei Shevchenko two summers ago. It also makes clear City's owners, who beat several other Gulf states to pick up Thaksin's shareholding, will redefine spending levels in British football for the second time in five years and leave City with greater purchasing power than any side in the land. The wealthiest of the Al Nayhans – Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan – has estimated personal wealth of £13.3bn, £2.3bn more than Abramovich, though the spending power of the Arab interests may dwarf the Russian's by even more.

City's audacious £34m bid to Spurs for Dimitar Berbatov yesterday further illustrated the point, along with bids for Valencia's David Villa and Stuttgart's Mario Gomez, which were sanctioned by the owner,s representative Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim – a multimillionare property tycoon in his own right. Al Fahim, who simply told the City manager, Mark Hughes, to go out and find them a superstar inside 24 hours yesterday morning, was frustrated by the limited time he was left with to buy, having been forced to rush out with his cheque book even before due diligence on the City deal had been completed. He finds himself with a potent strike force of Robinho and his £18m compatriot Jo. But he is ready to make huge moves in the next transfer window, including going back for Berbatov in January if he feels he needs to. Al Fahim also has Thierry Henry and the Brazilian Ronaldo, released by Milan at the end of last season, in his sights. "I need a good player who can provide energy. Thierry Henry and Ronaldo can also add the confidence and the experience and provide the mix with the younger players," Al Fahim said.

Hughes said he was "absolutely delighted." Robinho was "undoubtedly one of the best players in the world". Hughes should meet his new owner on Thursday, when Al Fahim arrives on a two-day trip to London. There is pressure attached: Al Fahim said he expected City to be playing Champions League football next season. He will attend City's home match on 13 September – fittingly enough, against Chelsea.