Robinho: Will he stay or will he go?

This week has seen the clearest indication yet that Robinho wouldn’t say no to a move to Barcelona. Hardly a revelation, but what are the chances of it happening, and would City really be better off? Here we take a look at the possibilities.

Do Barcelona really want him?

It was claimed in the Summer that Barca were looking to sign Ribery as a replacement for the ageing Henry. Robinho, who likes to play in the same position as the Frenchman was one of the back-up players on their wishlist as Guardiola rated the Brazilian. This would make sense for Barca’s formation, but they left it to late to make any proper bid for Robinho.

With Robinho being eligible for Champions League this season and Barca having to endure an arduous campaign, there is clearly scope for a deal to be resurrected in January. As with Real Madrid, what Barca want they first announce via the Spanish press.

They have a presidential election next Summer and the candidates will doubtless be making promises of who they’re going to bring to the club. Needless to say, Fabregas is the man here, rather than our Brazilian so at least we can be spared that level of speculation.

Talk of a loan deal may suit Barca’s finances, with a new president in the Summer picking up the tab for actually signing him, but it is of no benefit to City.

What does Robinho give us?

It should be remembered that Robinho was our top scorer last season, and will always expect his goal tally to get well into double figures. For someone who doesn’t play as an out and out striker, or take penalties, this gives him an edge on most others who play in his position. By comparison, look how many goals Wright-Phillips comes up with.

Have a look at this compilation of last season’s goals and the quality of Robinho shines through.

At 25, he’s a player entering his prime, rather than one on the slide like Henry. In addition he’s had a season to adapt to the physical demands of the English game and should be more effective with better players elsewhere on the pitch – the opposition will be less able to double up on him.

There’s time yet before January for him to show what he can do in the new-look team. On paper it could be breathtaking, with both the Brazilian’s creative and finishing abilities combining with those of Tevez, Adebayor, etc. to create some of the best football City fans have ever seen. On the other hand, his lack of tracking back may see him on the periphery of games against more demanding opponents.

Bellamy is in great form at the moment but there’s no guarantee, with his injury record, that he can keep that up for a whole season. Likewise, Petrov’s fitness is questionable. It would be a risk to rely on their continued form and fitness when any dip in performances might cost us a champions league place in what promises to be a close-run season. That’s a risk that Hughes would be unlikely to take.

Off the pitch, he’s arguably even more valuable to the club. Having one of Brazil’s key attackers in our ranks gives kudos to the City that Garry Cook and Sheikh Mansour seek to promote globally. To adapt one of Cook’s more controversial statements: No offence, but Martin Petrov doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue in Beijing.

Letting go of our biggest signing after just over one season doesn’t look great, and would provide ammunition for City’s critics.

Who would replace him?

It’s been reported that Hughes is an admirer of Thierry Henry, and the Frenchman is an obvious candidate to be linked with City by speculative journalists. But is he what City need? Clearly there are doubts about his fitness, and whether, at 32, he still has the pace to be a threat in the Premier League.

Recently I watched some highlights of Henry in his prime at Arsenal. If anything he was even better than I remembered, but that player isn’t the one who was turning out for Barcelona last season. The old Henry would have revelled in City’s game at Villa last week; the current Henry would have been huffing and puffing.

Having Henry, Bellamy and Petrov would give City three injury prone players the wrong side of 30 all vying for the left side of attack. A bizarre scenario that I can’t see Hughes going for, particularly given his usual meticulous transfer planning.

The word is that Hughes would countenance the sale of Robinho if a suitable replacement is available. His ideal candidate is said to be Frank Ribery.

Fair enough, but Bayern made it abundantly clear in the Summer that they didn’t want to sell him, and they’re much less likely to in the middle of the season. The player himself has said he’d like to go to Spain. Added to that, if he were for sale, both Madrid and Barca would be in for him. Possibly United as well if they’re ready to spend the Ronaldo money. The chances of him coming to City in January are Kaka remote.

A more feasible target might be David Silva of Valencia. Otherwise it’s hard to see any other players who come close to Robinho’s quality being available in January. Silva has the ability to play on the right hand side, and some additional competition for Wright-Phillips may appeal to Hughes.

Yaya Toure is another mooted as part of a possible swap deal. Toure is a player Hughes admires and may be persuaded to link up with his brother. However, there’s a big doubt over whether Barcelona would want to lose a defensive midfielder given they’ve already been linked with Vincent Kompany – unless they were to secure Mascherano? Who knows.

In conclusion, selling a world class player in his prime for ageing thirtysomethings like Henry, Adibol or Puyol would not appear to be good business. Bringing in Yaya Toure and David Silva would be a better way of lessening the blow.

Three factors in a possible move are: Firstly the determination of Barcelona to have Robinho this season. Secondly, the commitment and performances of Robinho between now and the end of January. Thirdly, just how much does Hughes want to keep the Brazilian, which may be tied to the availability of replacements (even if the manager won’t say so in public).

Personally I hope the new-look City side brings out the best in our talented Robi, and Barcelona cast their eyes elsewhere in January. It would be great to have a City player at the heart of a Brazil side in next Summer’s World Cup, but one thing’s for sure, even if he does stay, the speculation will always be there.

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