Robinho’s move to Manchester City was – in the short-term at least – neatly summed up in yesterday’s defeat to Chelsea. It is a well-known fact that the Brazilian could easily have been playing for the opposition in the Saturday evening match, but he chose Eastlands ahead of Stamford Bridge (Didn’t Madrid refuse to sell to Chelsea the moment City made their offer? – Ed).
And in the space of 90 minutes it was easy to see the pros and cons of his decision to shun Chelsea. First, as the big fish in a relatively small pond he was able to pull rank to claim the set-pieces on his debut, and scored from a free-kick. At Chelsea he would have had Deco and the sizable obstruction of Frank Lampard in his way, and would probably not have been entrusted with a 20-yard free-kick in the first 15 minutes of his first game.
Having nestled his free-kick in the back of the net, he most likely activated a hefty goal bonus on top of his £160,000-a-week wages. This was a timely reminder of arguably the biggest reason behind Robinho’s Manchester City move – they can afford to pay him more than Chelsea could.
The reaction of the Manchester City players and fans after the goal showed another positive side to his move. There is no doubt he will be idolised by colleagues and supporters alike during his time in Manchester in a way that he would not have been afforded by Chelsea’s star-studded squad. There was a genuine outpouring of emotion from his teammates as he celebrated his goal, although the ex-Real Madrid man’s badge-pointing celebration looked a little more stage-managed.
But there must have been downsides for the debutant too. Having given City the lead, there was nothing Robinho could do to prevent Chelsea going on to dominate the match. They were simply too good for Manchester City. No doubt Robinho will be the difference between City and many teams this season, but when it comes to games against the top clubs one man cannot do it all by himself. If Robinho wanted the title this season then yesterday’s match will have shown him the gulf that currently exists between the big four and the chasing pack.
The fact that he played the full 90 minutes was probably also a telltale sign of the comparative lack of depth in the Manchester City squad. Whereas Didier Drogba or Salomon Kalou would probably have relieved him from the Chelsea bench with 20 minutes to go, Mark Hughes decided the considerably less glamorous option of Ched Evans was not a suitable replacement for City.
Robinho will have seen by now that his new club has its upsides and its downsides. But the bottom line of his payslip remains the bottom line.