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Abductors free Robinho's mother

Camila Moreiro | December 17, 2004 21:22 IST

Kidnappers freed the mother of one of Brazil's most exciting young soccer talents, Santos forward Robinho, 40 days after they seized her at gunpoint from a party, the player's agent said on Friday.

Marina de Souza was found in Perus, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, agent Wagner Ribeiro said. She is undergoing medical checks before heading back to the city of Santos.

"She has already spoken to Robinho and we have people in Sao Paulo picking her up," he said.

Brazilian media said a ransom had been paid.

Two gunmen abducted Souza, 43, from a barbecue party with friends in the Santos neighborhood of Praia Grande on November 6.

At the time European clubs, with Real Madrid heading the pack, were queuing up to sign the 20-year-old Robinho, but talks were suspended following the kidnapping.

The negotiations have at various stages included Atletico Madrid, PSV Eindhoven, Benfica and Chelsea, according to media reports.

Robinho, whose full name is Robson de Souza, is one of Brazil's brightest young stars. He has been out of action since has mother was seized, although he took part in training, but Ribeiro said he wanted to play in Sunday's crucial Brazilian championship match against Vasco da Gama.

Police worked on a theory that Robinho was the victim of an extortion attempt. Kidnappings for ransom are rife in crime-plagued Brazil. The families of rich businessmen are frequent victims but it was unusual that one of the country's beloved soccer stars should be targeted.

Two days after the abduction, Robinho appealed to the media to leave the family in peace and little news emerged until now.

Robinho burst on to the scene as an 18-year-old during the 2002 season and, along with teenage teammate Diego, who is now with European champions Porto, inspired Santos to the first Brazilian championship title in their history.

Robinho's cheeky dribbling skills delighted his admirers and infuriated his opponents in equal measure. He has won two full caps for Brazil.

Pele, who spent most of his career at Santos, said that he was reminded of himself when he first saw Robinho playing.

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