The curtain finally fell on the chaotic and fleetingly brilliant Premier League career of Robinho yesterday, when Britain's most expensive player concluded a move to Milan for €18m (£14.9m), with a possible €4m (£3.3m) in appearance-related add-ons.
Reports in Italy suggested that the figure paid for the Brazilian was as low as €15m (£12.5m), a substantial loss on the player whose £32.5m signing two years ago marked the beginning of Manchester City's Abu Dhabi ownership – and Milan certainly found themselves in a strong negotiating position, with the City manager, Roberto Mancini, facing the embarrassment of having to leave a £160,000-a-week player out of his Premier League squad of 25, which will be announced today. But City, who have managed to move striker Felipe Caicedo to Spanish side Levante on a year-long loan, said that the figure was bolstered by the fact that they have saved a £2m loyalty bonus which was owing to Robinho next month.
Sources in Italy suggested that the signing almost hit a hitch early in the day when Milan, who have also brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to Italy from Barcelona, failed to ship out their striker Marco Borriello to Juventus, who would only take him on loan. But a late deal taking Borriello to Roma sealed the Robinho deal as the clock ticked down. The Milan owner and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's need to boost his popularity ahead of a possible early election also helped secure a four-year deal for Robinho, linking him with Ronaldinho and Ibrahimovic. Robinho's name was removed from the City roster of players within minutes – a sign of the delight at the departure of a player from a club who have laid out £126m in transfers this summer.
For once Robinho, who was sent on loan to Santos for the second half of last season, left nothing to chance. He was in Milan yesterday and expressed his satisfaction about joining hours before the deal was officially confirmed. "I am very happy," he said. "Milan is an excellent club. I want to make history here. I will give so much happiness to my fans."
He may struggle to hold down a first-team place, with new Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri saying he expects to play a forward trident of Ibrahimovic with Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato.
The spate of purchases has made Milan one of the favourites to challenge Internazionale for the Italian title. They have not won Serie A since 2004 and have watched Inter win the last five titles and last season's Champions League.