Brazil strikers head home ahead of World Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO - Ronaldo, Adriano, Fred and now Robinho, Brazil's four strikers at the 2006 World Cup, have returned home looking to revive their careers and earn a place at this year's finals in South Africa.

Ronaldo, still far from his best physical shape, is practically out of Brazil coach Dunga's plans, whereas his former attack partner Adriano is set to secure a berth at the World Cup after recovering his form to help Flamengo win the 2009 Brazilian championship.

Maybe inspired by Adriano's success, Robinho chose to take a drop in his millionaire's salary at Manchester City to earn less at Santos during a six-month loan - looking to be a part of Dunga's squad.

Despite being in the starting line-up for the better part of the South American qualifiers and Brazil's victory in the Confederations Cup last year, Robinho's place in the team has been questioned since he moved from Real Madrid to City for British record transfer fee of 32.5 million pounds in 2008.

In England, he has not managed to impress.

"When Robinho left Santos, he was ready to become one of the best players in the world. Why he didn't succeed, I don't know," said former Brazil goalkeeper Emerson Leao, who gave Robinho his Santos debut at 18 in 2002.

"Now Robinho arrives here with an enormous responsibility. First, the pressure of the media, not forgetting he has to give a return to those who contributed financially to bring him back and, mainly because he's a reference for all the youngsters emerging today in the Santos team," Leao told the Sportv channel.

"I think Robinho's return is a watershed in his career. Either he gets back to the times of his brilliance or he really creates a problem for himself."


Expectations for the return of yet another big name international to the domestic game were huge.

Ronaldo began the fashion of these returns at the beginning of 2009. The three-times FIFA Player of the Year, while recovering from surgery on a knee injury he suffered at AC Milan, signed a surprising deal with Corinthians after snubbing Flamengo.

Corinthians then won the Paulista (Sao Paulo state) championship and the Copa Brasil in the first half of the year but his coveted return to the national team did not happen.

Former Olympique Lyon striker Fred followed, joining Fluminense. After a long spell recovering from injury, he led on an astonishing run of 11 matches unbeaten to escape relegation and is now waiting for a new chance from Dunga.

The most successful return was Adriano's to Flamengo after saying in April that he was putting his career on hold due to his unhappiness at Inter Milan. He was the Brazilian championship's top scorer and he did find a place back in the Brazil side.

Robinho will not even have time to play in the Brazilian championship which starts in May but goes into recess for the June 11-July 11 World Cup and ends in December.

However, returning the to the club he helped win the national title twice is a chance for Robinho to enchant fans again with his dribbling and bursts of pace that caught Pele's attention when he was barely 14.

"It's a victory for Brazil because Robinho will be able to play the football that all Brazilians want to see from Robinho, something difficult with the rotation policy of (City coach Roberto) Mancini," Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro said on announcing the loan deal.