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Robinho reflections

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A strange sense of timing perhaps that all but two years to the day that Robson de Souza arrived at the club in a blaze of publicity that capped a frenzied day, all flashing smiles and full of promise, he departed in somewhat less high profile circumstances with the anticipated move to Milan confirmed this afternoon.

The manner of his departure in comparison to his arrival of course indicates quite how far his stock fell during his time at the club. It is difficult though to overestimate quite the impact his signing had at the time - backing up the ambition that the new owners had.

The criticisms quickly followed though; with accusations that City had put the roof on before putting the foundations in place. And to an extent this was true, the side was still in transition with the ADUG money having not yet fully impacted, but how could the opportunity be rejected?

Here was a chance to sign one of the most talented footballers in the world.

During those early sunshine days it looked a good move. Confidence was high and results were by and large positive. Robinho provided moments of quality and fitted into the side quickly, linking well in particular with Stephen Ireland. However, as the dark days of winter arrived the initial shine wore off. As the side stuttered, so did Robinho's form. In a bid to arrest the slide, Mark Hughes brought in the likes of Shay Given, Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy - who fast became a direct replacement for the Brazilian, and in many ways everything Robinho wasn't. 

The following season began little better, with Robinho omitted from the side that began the season well. Clearly a lack of trust had developed for Hughes, but if his sacking initially indicated a fresh start it wasn't to be. Under Roberto Mancini the nadir of his time at City came at Goodison Park, when after being introduced as a substitute, he suffered the ignominy of later being substituted himself.

A loan deal then materialised and Robinho headed back to Brazil, to the bosom of Santos and on the back of this he turned in a positive performance at the World Cup. It was inevitable however that his days at the club were numbered, and in that sense the World Cup (as expected) was a showcase to illustrate his undeniable talent.

Reports of a move to Turkey were suggested but quickly shot down by the player, leaving Milan as the front runners and with just a couple of hours remaining on deadline day his two year spell at the club came to an end.

So what did £32 million plus a reported £150,000 per week bring (the £2 million a goal man as Mark Ogden referred to him as)? Almost criminally, his time in Blue was limited to just forty-eight starts and sixteen goals, scant return for such an outlay. 

There were flashes of course, with the debut free kick at Chelsea and exquisite chip against Arsenal living long in the memory, but these were overshadowed by a petulant and selfish streak from a player who (like many Brazilians before him) struggled to fit into the more rigid structure and formation that the Premier League demands. The problem for Robinho was that he wasn't willing to adapt his game to that demanded of him, thrown into a side that in trying to rapidly better itself from that entrenched in mid-table mediocrity, had little purpose for a flashy, dazzling Brazilian - stepovers and all.

So here some blame must lie with the club and management for failing to utilise such a player in a manner that would have consistently drawn the best out of him, and see him follow through on the potential he showed over the first half of the 2008/09 season when (and don't let recent memories diminish it) very good indeed.

The overriding feeling though as the sun sets on Robinho is that the two years have been such a waste. A waste for Robinho who effectively frittered away two years of his career. A waste for the club, who despite the riches lavished are left counting the cost of what was ultimately little more than an expensive trinket. And a waste for the fans, whose hopes of a Robinho-led march to glory never materialised.

The fee from Milan is reported to be £22 million (£18 million initially with £2 million in add-ons and Robinho forgoing £2 million in loyalty payments), which - although at a loss of £10 million - is far higher than expected given it had seemed the fee was dropping closer to the £10 million mark.

Little consolation though when attempting to salvage the wreckage of a time that could, and should, have been so different.