It was the marquee signing that announced that Manchester City had money to burn and were determined to usurp the comfy old pals act at the top of the Premiership. Fans flocked to Eastlands in tea-towels to show their new Arabic allegiance and the shock that seemed to follow such a transfer. £32.5 million had brought Robinho from Real Madrid to Manchester in a matter of hours and English football was in shock.
At first, the plaudits rained down on the little Brazilian as his pace and trickery dazzled the fans and replica kits bearing his name flew out of the club shop. Sheik Mansour had offered the highest profile player he could lay his hands on as that frenetic day came to a conclusion with City making bids all over Europe. The City fans were in raptures but every silver lining has a cloud.
For some reason, Robinho’s form began to tail off and soon it became evident that he simply didn’t perform away from Eastlands. Almost anonymous for most of the away games he appeared in, it took until April last year for the player to finally turn it on in an away game. Facing a tough trip to Goodison, he was effervescent throughout the game and showed true glimpses of his undoubted skill. 9 months later, a game at the same opponents has Robinho’s critics sharpening their knives.
I don’t think anyone can honestly understand how low a player feels when you join as a substitute only to be then substituted. It sickens you to the stomach, unless injury has forced you off and that can still rankle as much. Similarly to being substituted at half time, the effect on the footballers psyche is deep and unremitting. To put it bluntly, it hurts like hell and everyone can see it. Pride and shame bubble up from deep inside you, you hope a giant hole will appear to swallow you up but it never arrives.
This event happening in a Sunday morning pub league is bad enough but in front of 37,728 fans and millions more watching around the world it’s almost catastrophic. The effect can be spirit crushing, especially for such a precocious and mentally delicate player as Robson De Souza clearly is. I appreciate that Mancini has to be strong and coming from Internazionale, he is used to dealing with the largest of ego’s but is Robinho egotistical or simply one of those players that constantly needs to be told how good he is? For me it’s the latter.
It’s difficult to explain why some players constantly need to be told how good they are, despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary. Everyone knows they’re good, so surely they must realise it also? It doesn’t work like that, inside your head, you don’t think like that, you don’t think you are that good, you don’t think you can do it every game. Think that’s infuriating for a fan? How do you think the player feels?
Away from home, opponents can figure out players like this, it’s easy. A bit of needle, a few choice words, a foot left in the tackle a little bit longer than it should be or a body check is all it takes to get the player questioning himself. At home, the fans can make you shake the cobwebs out of your head, clear your mind and get you focused back on your abilities and shut out the opposition and their fans baying for your blood.Away from home, it is a very different ball game. Robinho can be talked out of a match away from Eastlands.
Just because someone cost £32.5 million doesn’t make them immune to bouts of self doubt or a loss of confidence or form. Robinho is clearly a confidence player who needs an arm around the shoulder to keep him on side. Regardless of the image and the wages, it’s the battle inside your mind that makes you the player who you really are. Once Robinho can deal with his own self doubts and lack of confidence, then he will truly unlock all of his potential. Mancini needs to show patience and guide him, rather than chastise him.