Robinho: 6 Months to Earn a Place at Brazil 2014 and Secure His Legacy
It is now just over 10 years since the King of Stepovers came to public attention. Then just 18 years old, Robinho's seven goals in 24 matches helped Santos to a memorable 2002 Brasileirão title win. It was supposed to be the start of a glorious career for the man already earning comparisons to Pelé.
Robinho would spend a further three years in Brazil before then joining Real Madrid in 2005. Now in his eighth season in Europe, though, he has broken the modest mark of 10 league-goal mark on just three occasions—once at each club he has represented.
Two La Liga titles and a Serie A title, with Real Madrid and AC Milan respectively, is not a bad haul by any means. However, whether it was through initial overhype or that he has since failed to develop as hoped, Robinho has not quite matched initial expectations.
Having been a regular with the Brazil national team throughout his time in Europe, Robinho has not been selected since the summer of 2011. A poor Copa América campaign led to his omission, while his status as a key member of the previous Dunga regime didn't help. Either way, Mano Menezes didn't fancy him.
The rise to prominence of a new generation of talents—Neymar, Lucas Moura and Oscar—has meant that, for now, his omission has not raised too many eyebrows. However, in theory, the return of Luiz Felipe Scolari offers a fresh opportunity for the superstar.
It appears it will be with Milan that he must earn that opportunity. January enquiries from former side Santos and Atlético Mineiro failed to see a move materialise and thus, until the summer at least, Robinho remains to ply his trade on the Old Continent.
In 2014, at the time of the World Cup, Robinho will be just 30. In theory, given his close relationship with young stars Neymar and Ganso, he is ideally placed to be a guiding figure to what threatens to be a young and inexperienced Brazil side.
It is a role that he, Kaká and Ronaldinho will all hope to audition for and, maybe, more than one will ultimately be utilised.
A return to Brazil in the next 12 months would likely mean a return to Santos, where he also triumphed during a 2010 loan spell.
Should a recall to Scolari's plans fail to materialise ahead of the Confederations Cup this summer, then it may prompt the player to push further for a return to his homeland and surely call time on his European adventure.
In that case, Robinho is a talent that European football may never, truly, see the best of. There were flashes at Real Madrid, while his start to life at Manchester City was phenomenal. However, it has only been in the Brazilian game that he has produced consistent performances to help inspire a side to glory.
Can Robinho star at Brazil 2014?
The one-time wunderkind therefore has a massive opportunity—a chance to leave a lasting impression on European and, he will hope, international football.
Milan's league season needs rescuing and Robinho, in truth, is yet to really contribute in 2012-13. A Champions League tie with also Barcelona awaits.
There is no doubt that the Brazil's first home World Cup in 64 years will provide special motivation for the forward, as it will for all of his compatriots. But, he must first prove himself worthy of inclusion.
Talent has never been the issue, nor a lack of media support. Instead, he must prove to his doubters that he is a world-class footballer, not simply a great entertainer.
He has proved himself in the Brasileirão, but will surely harbour deep regret if he fails to truly make an impact at the top of the game before his career is done.
The stage is now his and it would be a massive shame to see someone of his talents exit the scene before even his 30th birthday. His performances over the next six months will decide his international future and with it, his footballing legacy.
It's now or never time for one of football's greatest talents of recent years.
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