Skip to main content

Robinho settles into supporting role at Milan

The Brazilian, whose two goals helped AC Milan to a 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal in a Champions League last 16 first leg on Wednesday, has not ended up on the scrapheap as he might have feared when he fell out of favour at City and returned to Brazil to play on loan for Santos.

He need only look at compatriot Adriano, once the so-called "Emperor" whose career has been in freefall since the 2006 World Cup and is now a bit-part player at Corinthians, to see what might have happened.

"I'm happy for Robinho," said Milan strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who set up both his goals either side of halftime. "The important thing is that he continues playing and scoring.

"Now the coach has more options on the pitch. When you have a few negative results, you get the right kind of anger needed to do better."

Ibrahimovic is very much the main man at Milan while Robinho, 28 and a veteran of two World Cups, has found himself competing with fellow Brazilian Alexandre Pato for the right to partner the volatile Swede in attack.

In the past, that situation might have provoked tantrums but coach Massimiliano Allegri appears to have convinced Robinho to accept his lot.

It is an odd turnaround for a player who was likened to Pele when he burst onto the scene with Santos as an 18-year-old and was quickly dubbed "the King of the Stepovers."

Robinho scored 14 goals league last season, his first with Milan as they won the scudetto, but this term has been more of a struggle and at one stage there was a period where the ball would not go in as he repeatedly missed gilt-edged chances.

However, Allegri stood by him, praising him for creating other chances for his team-mates.

Nevertheless, there remains a feeling that Robinho has never quite fulfilled the huge expectations created around him.

The 'new Pele' label is never easy to live up to but it appeared more justified in Robinho's case, partly because he was raised at Pele's former club Santos and partly because Pele himself predicted great things for the player.

His problems started when he left Santos in acrimonious circumstances in 2005 to join Real Madrid. Instead of being the biggest fish in the pond, he suddenly had to fight for his place in the team.

Although he scored plenty of goals, there were also injury setbacks and a spell out of the team under Fabio Capello.

He left after three seasons, publicly stating he wanted to go to Chelsea, but instead ended up at Manchester City as one of English football's most expensive signings. Again, there were plenty goals but his commitment was often questioned and he never came close to living up to the hype.

At Milan, he has finally found a place to call home.