The big interview: Robinho – "Beckham was always with the Brazilians – he could speak Portuguese better than Spanish!"
FourFourTwo arrives at the training ground of Atletico Mineiro to find Robinho happily chatting away on Facetime as pre-season preparations continue for the Brazil Serie A side. After his acrimonious exits from Real Madrid and Manchester City, there’s a perception the 33-year-old is a little surly. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s not hard to see why – last season he hit 25 goals for the Roosters.
He insists, though, that’s not the main reason for his joyful demeanour. “One day without smiling is a lost day for me,” says the former Santos star. Robinho is still the same humble man that happily used public transport to get around Manchester, and that’s just as well, as FFT has a few questions to ask…
CLUBS AND COUNTRY
- 2002-05 Santos
- 2005-08 Real Madrid
- 2008-10 Manchester City
- 2010 Santos (loan)
- 2010-15 Milan
- 2014-15 Santos (loan)
- 2015 Guangzhou Evergrande
- 2016- Atletico Mineiro
- 2003- Brazil
I once watched a documentary on Falcao, the futsal player, and you turned up for a kickabout. How vital was futsal to your development?
Jamie Baker, London
I used to spend a lot of time playing; it is one of my passions. I even joked with my son and told him that if it’s possible I would play futsal in the last year of my career. It’s how I started and, to this day, the dribbles I do all come from it.
Pele bigged you up from a very young age, even comparing you to himself – did you feel pressured by his praise?
Sandro Dias, via Facebook
In the beginning it was very difficult because Pele is incomparable – there’s no way you can compare yourself to someone who hit 1,000 goals, played in four World Cups and is rated as the greatest footballer ever. I have to thank everyone that was by my side during the early years, because I was always very well guided during my time in the academy at Santos, and then when I got into the senior team I had my coach Emerson Leao taking care of me, too.
He once told me: “You are a great player. You can look like him, but Pele is Pele and Robinho is Robinho.” Of course it was nice to be compared to him, but I always had it clear in my mind that I had nothing on Pele. There will never be another footballer quite like him.
Was your signature move – the ‘pedalada’ – your own invention or did you see someone else do it first?
Jun Kaloustian, via Facebook
No, I had already seen other players doing it, such as Zinho and Denilson. I started to do it, too – not as often as them, but in almost every single game. It couldn’t have worked out better than it did in the 2002 Brazil championship final against Corinthians [which Santos won 5-2 on aggregate]. I still get called ‘Pedaladas’ because of those games. Denilson is a good friend of mine, and he always tells me that he’s the real ‘pedalada’ and I just took all the credit.
What actually happened during the ‘Shorts Dropping Crisis’ of 2004?
Victor de Souza, via Twitter
[Laughs] It was a disastrous prank I pulled because [the former Brazil midfielder] Diego was always pulling my shorts down, and I could never get revenge. I was waiting for my chance for a long time, and then it came on the day we were having our official photos taken for the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile. So while he was posing for the cameraman, I did to him what he had done to me so many times, and everyone in Brazil got to see.
All of the headlines the next day were about the photo. We thought it was hilarious, but then when we failed to qualify for the Olympics there was a lot of anger about it. That was a turning point for us – we knew we had to leave our childhood behind and become men; we then realised exactly what it means to wear the yellow shirt of the national team in a very important competition.
Is it true you made your Real Madrid debut 24 hours after landing in the city? It’s the best debut performance I have seen. What are your memories of that match and the reaction to your good performance that day?
Mark Venn, Plymouth
It was a very good debut, a wonderful one – I was anxious to get a chance to play alongside such fantastic players as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Raul. I couldn’t wait. I can even remember planning the game in my head while I was on the airplane. It was almost perfect. When I got the ball for the very first time, I lobbed the ball over a Cadiz player and then started to dribble away. It was a remarkable debut for me. I’d arrived in Madrid the day before, but I was a kid and determined to play.
Why Real Madrid and not Barcelona?
Javier Lopez, via Twitter
When you put all this together, why would I have moved to Barcelona?
It may seem like a difficult choice, but it wasn’t. Real Madrid was the team that showed more interest in me. Both of them are great clubs that have fans all around the world, but when Madrid came in for me, I saw that they had a large Brazilian group in their squad, the coaching staff was also from Brazil, and Vanderlei Luxemburgo was the coach. When you put all this together, why would I have moved to Barcelona?
What was it like walking into the Real dressing room as a 21-year-old with the likes Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo around? That can’t have been easy...
Alan Page, via Facebook
It was a dream come true to play for a big European club. I couldn't believe it when I got inside the dressing room for the first time. I was very young and I couldn’t even find my locker. But they all treated me in the best way possible. I was their kid, they looked after me.