Last November, Milan forward Robinho, once the focal point of the Selecao attack, was handed his first international call-up in two years. Brazil played two friendlies, against Honduras and Chile, and the 30-year-old played a decisive role in the second.
Coming off the bench, he netted the winner in a 2-1 win over their South American rivals. Following a positive reintegration into the national setup—he had led the line at the previous World Cup in South Africa—he remains on the periphery just six days before Luiz Felipe Scolari is scheduled to name his 23-man squad for the tournament.
The player's versatility could be a massive asset for Brazil. Scolari himself has acknowledged the various roles Robinho could fulfil within the team.
“He can be a false 9, number 7, number 11 – Robinho is versatile and he can be quality in any position from midfield forwards,” Felipao told a press conference before those two friendlies late last year, as reported by Reuters.
His abundance of talent has never been in question. Applying that on the football pitch is what has sometimes been lacking and which ultimately led former Selecao head Mano Menezes to dispense with his services.
Nor did Scolari rush to welcome Robinho back into the fold. Having taken over from Menezes in November 2012, it was exactly a year before the forward made his international return.
Absent from the friendly against South Africa in March, the former fans' favourite may nevertheless be one of the names included on May 7, when Big Phil's final World Cup squad is named.
The Milan player has one vital advantage over those among Scolari's favour in the attacking sector: Experience. Whilst Brazil's defensive backbone is packed with air miles, the likes of Julio Cesar, Daniel Alves and Thiago Silva leading the way, the attack is filled with relative novices.
Even Brazil's first-choice No. 9, Fred, at 30 years of age, could be considered a rookie at international level. A squad member for the 2006 World Cup, where he netted once against Australia, he was omitted completely by Dunga four years later, the 1994 World Cup-winning captain preferring Grafite and Julio Baptista as back-ups to the front pairing of Luis Fabiano and Robinho.
Fred has been ever-present since February last year, but it is his only regular playing time in the yellow of Brazil. The three behind him, Hulk, Oscar and Neymar, are all appearing at their first World Cup finals.
Robinho has been in this situation before. A peripheral figure in Germany in 2006, a tournament in which he started only one game, he was one of the principal players in 2010, on whose shoulders, alongside Kaka, Brazilian hopes rested.
He can surely be of assistance in what is likely to be the most highly charged atmosphere the majority of players have ever witnessed. In terms of past experience and dealing with the demanding rigours of a World Cup, Robinho is someone others, Fred included, could turn to in times of need.
And if the former prodigy is to make the cut, it may take experience to get him there. From a strictly performance point of view, the past season has been far from impressive for the Brazilian international.
Marco Mugnaioli, an Italian sports journalist who has kept a close eye on Milan, says Robinho's performances have left much to be desired for the Rossoneri faithful this term.
“This year Robinho has barely shown up for Milan. It's hard for him to justify his high salary.
“For me, there is no chance of him going to the World Cup. He has been unfit for most of the season and looks overweight.”
Should Robinho go to the World Cup?
A far cry from a player making a late dash for that plane to Brazil. He played and made a difference last November, but that was over five months ago.
Now, a week from Scolari's final decision, the odds appear to be against Robinho. But the amount of variety he offers the side and his history in tournaments of this magnitude means there is a little hope pulling in his direction.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.