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Robinho transfer talk restarts

December 18, 2004 12:15 IST

Speculation over the future of 20-year-old Brazilian forward Robinho was quickly revived on Friday with new reports appearing just hours after the end of his mother's 40-day kidnapping ordeal.

The transfer talk was put on hold after Marina de Souza, 43, was snatched by two armed men from a barbecue she was attending in the Santos neighbourhood of Praia Grande on November 6.

She was released on Friday morning and had barely been reunited with her son Robinho before the Estado News Agency reported that Spanish giants Barcelona wanted to sign him.

European clubs, with Real Madrid almost inevitably heading the pack, had been falling over themselves to get their hands on the 20-year-old forward, who is regarded as the best player left in his homeland, until the kidnapping.

His agent Wagner Ribeiro has suspended all negotiations, which, according to media reports, have also at various stages included Atletico Madrid, PSV Eindhoven, Benfica and Chelsea.

Earlier this week, Ribeiro was quoted as saying the kidnapping was likely to speed up Robinho's departure for Europe.

"We can see that Robinho's not going to be comfortable staying in Brazil. I'm jealous of the Spanish, who live so peacefully. In Brazil, I'm afraid of everything," he told Brazilian media.

NOT PLAYED

Robinho has not played since the kidnapping but has been training regularly and is being considered by coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo for the decisive Brazilian championship match against Vasco da Gama on Sunday, the last game of the season.

Santos lead the competition by one point from Atletico Paranaense and will win the title for the second time in three years if they beat Vasco.

The kidnapping came at a time when Robinho, full name Robson de Souza, had rediscovered the touch that made him the sensation of Brazilian football two years ago.

He burst on to the scene as an 18-year-old during the 2002 season and, along with 17-year-old team mate Diego, who is now with European champions Porto, inspired Santos to the first Brazilian championship title since it began in 1971.

Robinho's cheeky dribbling skills delighted admirers and infuriated opponents in equal measure.

Pele, who spent 17 years of his career at Santos, said he was reminded of himself when he first saw Robinho as a 15-year-old playing in the Santos junior teams.

"This lad takes me back to the start of my career," he said.

PUBLIC WARNING

Gremio goalkeeper Danrlei, on the other hand, publicly warned the teenager that he risked getting his leg broken if continued to humiliate older defenders.

"Players get angry when they get dribbled (past) all the time," said Danrlei after his team lost 3-0 to a Robinho-inspired Santos. "He could end up having his leg broken."

Robinho took no heed and quickly made the "pedalada", or stepover, his trademark.

Brazilian television endlessly replayed a move in that year's Brazilian championship final against Corinthians when Robinho performed eight stepovers as he provoked an opponent into giving away a penalty against him.

Two months later, Robinho was given a standing ovation by a rival crowd in the Colombian city of Cali after leading Santos to a 5-1 win over local side America in the Libertadores Cup.

Almost inevitably, however, the publicity caught up with him and problems followed.

At the start of this year, Robinho was in the Brazilian under-23 team that astonishingly failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Athens.

A 1-0 defeat by Paraguay in Brazil's final match sent their smaller neighbours to Athens instead along with Argentina.

Robinho and Diego were accused of overconfidence, especially after the former was photographed dropping his shorts at the team hotel before the start of the tournament.

Brazil slunk home and Robinho went through a quiet patch.

However, as this year's Brazilian championship has progressed, Robinho has rediscovered his touch.

His dribbling is slightly less cheeky than it was but he has become much sharper in front of goal and, despite six weeks out of action, he is still Santos's joint top scorer with 21 goals.
Brian Homewood
Source:
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