Robinho seeking return to magical times

MANCHESTER - Robinho was christened the "magic man" at Manchester City earlier this season following his British record 32.5 million pounds arrival from Real Madrid in the final minutes of the August transfer window.

But eight months on, the only magic that the Brazilian forward is seemingly producing for Mark Hughes's team is his increasingly worrying ability to disappear just when his talents are required more than ever.

The 25-year-old has endured a turbulent first season in English football with City.

From the moment he boarded a plane in Madrid on the evening of Sept. 1, apparently to complete a protracted transfer to Chelsea before discovering that his actual destination was the blue half of Manchester, Robinho has found himself to be the focal point of the incredible story at Eastlands.

Having been transformed from a Premier League also-ran into the world's richest club following the Abu Dhabi-backed takeover on the day that Robinho completed his move from Madrid, City have become huge news. And Robinho's highs and lows have mirrored the club's.


Twelve goals before the halfway stage of the season underlined the fact that Robinho had become City's key player, the man they turned to deliver that touch of magic that would turn one point into three.

But since the turn of the year, the goals have dried up and Robinho has also been forced to deal with off-field problems and reports of bust-ups with Hughes and his City team mates.

His decision to fly back to Brazil in January rather than link-up with City at their Tenerife training camp came hot on the heels of his arrest amid allegations of a serious sexual assault at a nightclub.

Prosecutors said on Monday that no charges will be brought against Robinho and City captain Richard Dunne is hopeful that the player will now be able to concentrate solely on his football.

Dunne said: "It was an awful thing to be accused of and it would affect any man in that situation.

"He has got a young family and they are his main concern, so hopefully that has lifted a bit of weight off his shoulders and he can start playing with a smile on his face again and showing what he can do.

"The players see how good he is every day in training. We all firmly believe in him and that he will return to his earlier form. That will be a real boost for us."


On the field, Robinho, who is set to face Hamburg in the UEFA Cup quarter-final, first leg in Germany on Thursday, continues to resemble a player unhappy in his present surroundings.

The carefree character that took the Premier League by storm has been replaced by a confidence-shorn player who looks as though he cannot wait for the season to end.

His dismal performances away from home have done little to justify his price tag, but Robinho remains a popular figure inside the dressing room.

Whether he remains at the club beyond this season is open to doubt. With huge resources at their disposal, City could cut their losses and focus on players more suited to the cut-and-thrust of the Premier League.

Manager Hughes insists that Robinho has been a success at Eastlands, though, and he dismisses the theory that the player has failed to deliver for the club.

He said: "This is his first season in one of the strongest and most physical leagues in the world and I haven't had the opportunity to take him out of the firing line yet because my options on the left are a bit restricted.

"Every time he goes away on international duty, it's not just a little hop into Europe. It's a trip across continents and that can have a bit of an impact as well. But he has never knocked on the door and said 'I'm tired'".