Robinho, widely considered an
expensive failure when he left Manchester City 18 months ago,
has successfully relaunched his career at AC Milan where he
appears happy to accept a supporting role.
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.
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