The slums of Sao Vincente: Robinho’s story

Manchester City’s former, erm, star, Robinho was lambasted by millions of armchair pundits following limp performances in the Premier League, after three years with Real Madrid in Spain. The Brazilian was unable to consistently perform in England and eventually found himself shipped out to AC Milan in 2010, leaving no tangible legacy with the club. 

While it was not quite the perfect switch to English football for Robinho, the forward should be commended for his incredible journey in football, one which does not match up to the average footballer of today.

For many modern footballers, they will begin their journey as part of a local team. If they are good enough, they will be accepted onto a schoolboys scheme for a club, before ascending the ladder with each year of experience. If they are successful and talented, this will see them get their chance, either with the youth squad of that team, or on loan at another side. However, this was a path that Robinho did not tread.

His beginnings can be traced back to the slums of Sao Vincente in Brazil. Like many of Brazil’s greatest talents, the forward began by kicking the ball not on a pitch, but on the streets. He became a player with an incredible amount of flair and ability on the ball, with his skill mesmerising more than one defender throughout his career.

Just look at this little snippet! Cue questionable commentary:

This time on the streets taught him his skills, his quick feet and his ability to beat a man and keep the ball, after all, if the children were playing on the street, it is highly unlikely they would have had a referee to keep things clean, therefore it would have been all against all.

While he became a player of undeniable talent, his end product would remain missing. For Manchester City, he struggled to add goals to his tricks, something that may have been remedied had he have had the chance that many young players have these days.

However, this did not stop the praise that poured in for Robinho in his earlier years. In fact, Pele, the man many tout as the greatest ever footballer, believed Robinho could succeed him.

Robinho can surpass my own achievements and we have to thank God that another Pele has landed on Santos


High praise indeed from the game’s greatest son. The two are very reminiscent of one another in their play styles too. Both men are blessed with extreme pace, skill and flair, but Robinho was not ever able to replicate anything close to the player that every Brazilian boy dreams of being, with Pele’s incredible scoring ability the main difference between the two.

Perhaps the praise from Pele was premature then, with the young man elevated above every other footballer in the world following his words.

However, this was not the toughest test the Brazilian was to face. His mother, Marina, was kidnapped at gunpoint in their homeland of Brazil in 2004. She was later released unharmed following the payment of a ransom, but this would have been more than adequate reason for the family orientated Robinho to decide to move away from Brazil.

This prompted a move to long time admirers Real Madrid, a team that would turn Robinho from a star in the making to a Galactico, or so the forward, and the entirety of Brazil, hoped. However, Pele-esque displays did not materialise, with the forward still struggling to add an end product to his game, scoring just 25 goals in 101 appearances.

Since his four-year spell in Spain, Robinho has never bee able to settle at a club. He spent two years at City, before a loan spell with Santos, a transfer to Milan, and then another loan spell with Santos. The forward is currently with Atletico Mineiro, back in his native Brazil, a country which had so much expectation, but was let down.

It is interesting to note then, that Brazil’s current poster boy, Neymar, is in the exact same position as Robinho was, only the Barcelona man has improved year on year, something that Robinho can only look back and dream of doing. Perhaps this shows that even Pele, the greatest footballer, can sometimes score an own goal.

The Brazilian’s fairy tale has followed anything but the path that many assumed it would, with not even the Chinese League wanting his services following his exit from Guangzhou Evergrande, and they want just about anyone. Even after all his troubles both on and off the pitch, he remains a very talented individual that faced a very difficult journey to becoming a footballer.

However, it is likely that the skills compilations that crop up every so often will be his legacy, and not, as Brazil had hoped, another World Cup.

With this failure aside, can anyone ask for more than Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos and Robinho doing keepy-ups in the dressing room? We think not:

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