The Manchester City executive chairman Garry Cook warned Robinho's representatives against "mischief making" last night after another day of intrigue surrounding the player's future threatened to derail an important trip here to parade the club in front of its Abu Dhabi owners.
Cook's unequivocal declaration that the £32.5m Brazilian would not be leaving this January came after his representatives had contacted Abu Dhabi media outlets yesterday to indicate that he is on his way out of the club, with Barcelona – whose officials will be here for tomorrow's Club World Cup draw – ready to make a move.
Though the briefings denote that Robinho would be happy to leave City for Barcelona – that much is an open secret, since he told Spanish media last month that it would be "fun" to join the Catalans – Cook said there were "no plans" to meet Barcelona here this week to talk about the player who represented the Abu Dhabi United Group's first signing for City. "I think some people are trying to make mischief when they talk about him leaving," Cook said. "I don't know where these things are coming from. They're not coming from us. We want to talk to him this week but only about getting him fit to play for us again."
There was an element of Ealing comedy at times yesterday to the latest saga surrounding Robinho, who revealed a little of his ability with a spectacular 30-yard effort here last night in front of chairman Khaldoon Mubarak and a dozen members of the Arab fraternity on the new winter training facility which has been created for City. Robinho's representatives, staying at the same hotel as City – the seven-star Emirates Palace – contacted The National, the Abu Dhabi daily paper, with news of Robinho's determination to leave. The paper, which is owned by the emirate's royal family, subsequently contacted City for their response, alerting them to the briefings about the 25-year-old, who will make the short flight to Doha today to be assessed by Brazil ahead of Saturday's friendly with England. There was at least one unscripted encounter in a hotel corridor yesterday between the club and the player's representatives.
However much Robinho may wish to leave City, the manager Mark Hughes believes he is of value to the club in their quest for a Champions League place and has no motive for allowing him to leave in January. There is more of an acceptance that next summer may see him leaving the club. City are hoping that the player, out since August with a stress fracture of the ankle, will not be deemed fit by Brazil to face England. He is expected to be ruled out and return to Abu Dhabi but the prospects of him playing for City against a UAE invitation XI tomorrow evening seem slight.
The Brazilian's return to fitness will certainly cause Hughes headaches with Craig Bellamy, currently filling the left-wing role, City's outstanding player of the campaign.
The drama played out before an unwitting Abu Dhabi public, whose awareness of the name "Robinho" seems minimal. Many locals struggle to name any City player – a rough straw poll suggests Emmanuel Adebayor features most in local minds – and none of the large club entourage was mobbed by fans when they arrived on Monday evening. Though the 20,000 tickets on sale for tomorrow's game sold out in three weeks, Abu Dhabi's main sporting event of this week appears to be Monday's one-day cricket international between New Zealand and Pakistan.
Hughes revealed yesterday that Robinho has undertaken an initial training session with City's first team as part of his recuperation. "People have not had the opportunity to talk about his play so, for them, the next best thing is to speculate about his future," Hughes said.